$2b damage tipped for screen industry

Screen Producers Australia  have released the preliminary results of its Effect of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Screen Production industry survey.

In just four days the survey has already captured over 60 affected productions, ranging from feature films, to television drama, light entertainment, online series and even immersive and interactive media.

19% were scheduled to begin production this year but have yet to commence, 24% have been delayed until a set date and 37% have been delayed indefinitely.

SPA estimates this at $387 million. When adding in the likelihood of business failures and flow on effects, an early estimate of damage to sector is greater than $2 billion, effecting over 20,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors.

Impacted productions (Film, TV, Online) include:

Deviator + Blackmarket (2 Projects)
AIYAI :WRATHFUL SOUL
Poor Boy
The Usual Suspects
Super Cars
Elvis Biopic
MaveriX
Australian Survivor
The Greenhouse
Back to Nature
Australia’s Got Talent
Neighbours
Holey Moley
The Voice
The Bureau of Magical Things S2
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
RHOM5
Clickbait
Little J & Big Cuz S2
Around the World in 80 Days
Space Nova
Perspective Shift Season Two
Home and Away
Who Dares Wins

There are also others which have not yet been disclosed.

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner stated, “The responses so far highlight that the underlying theme is one of uncertainty, with many respondents stating it is too soon to tell the full financial impact COVID-19 will have on their business and personal livelihood, while reporting what they know to date and can accurately foresee. We thank every person and business who has taken the time to share information with us during this difficult and confusing time.

“With the situation changing so rapidly we encourage all screen professionals and productions to continue filling out the survey over the coming weeks as additional costs come to light to help us present an accurate picture of the pandemic’s economic impact to Government.”

SPA also addressed the Government’s latest measures, which include a wage subsidy for Small to Mid-size Enterprises to save jobs and a guarantee on loans to SME’s so they can keep in business.

“SPA fully supports Government priorities for the health and security of Australians and efforts to ensure that the economy keeps working in these difficult times.

“As SME’s are the backbone of the Australian independent production industry, we are of course very supportive of the Government’s announcement yesterday and encourage eligible screen professionals to make use of the assistance to keep our workforce employed, so that we can continue entertaining and informing the nation.

“We look forward to maintaining our constructive dialogue with Government as we develop together effective and targeted employment strategies for one of Australia’s most important cultural and economic assets in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

Of the productions captured, 19% were scheduled to begin production this year but have yet to commence, 24% have been delayed until a set date and 37% have been delayed indefinitely. With budgets for each production ranging from $50,000 to $50 million, if production is unable to recommence in a timely fashion this means a combined budgetary figure of almost $387 million is on the line (comprised of $195 million in actuals and $192 million in estimates). This number is likely the tip of the iceberg as data continues to be collected and as more productions shut down or delay.

When adding in the likelihood of business failures and flow on effects, an early estimate of damage to sector is greater than $2 billion, effecting over 20,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors.

This will come as a huge blow to the employees, contractors and freelancers engaged on the productions, with each affected production that has reported to date engaging anywhere from 3 to 1,150 workers. Given that the main expenditure in production budgets are on wages, this is already having a devastating effect on cast and crew across Australia, as well as the many businesses these productions support.

Other cost implications include an estimated $77 million in lost export revenue to date, in addition to the cost of lengthy renegotiations, delayed releases and lost sales.

No distribution platform has been immune from the effects of this pandemic, with the survey revealing affected productions were intended for release across festivals, theatrical distributors (including Transmission Films, Universal Pictures, Disney, Umbrella Entertainment, StudioCanal), domestic and international broadcasters (including ABC, BBC, UKTV, NBCUniversal, Seven Network, Nine Network, NITV, SBS, Nickelodeon), SVODs (including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Stan) and online.

The damage is not restricted to producers, with services and facilities businesses, crew members, cast, publicists, sales agents, editors, cinematographers and casting directors all taking part in the survey to help estimate the true cost of shutdowns and delays.

The results also hint at the long-term impact the virus will have on spreading Australian stories and shaping our nation’s cultural identity, with affected productions set to be filmed in every Australian state and territory and several rural and regional areas, including the Hunter Valley, Flinders Range, Ballarat and remote Indigenous communities. All of these regions also stand to lose economically from the lost production expenditure.

MEAA statement:

Employers in the media, entertainment and arts industries must ensure that cash payments set to flow to deal with the impact of the coronavirus crisis are used to keep people on their payroll – and that obligation must extend to any freelancers and contractors on their books.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance is concerned that yesterday’s economic stimulus package places no obligations on businesses to use payments to boost their cashflow to retain their workforce.

As a result, Centrelink is today being inundated with applications for the new Job Seekers Allowance from workers in the sector.

MEAA is calling on all employers to explore creative ways to keep people in work rather than pushing them onto the welfare system.

“We are concerned that no conditions requiring employers to keep workers in jobs have been attached to the money set to flow to businesses,” said MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy.

“The over-riding objective must be to keep people in work, not push them onto the welfare system. All businesses that are receiving government support must do all they can to ensure that the money is used to keep people on the payroll.

“Given the lack of conditions attached by the government to business cashflow payments, MEAA is putting all employers in the arts and entertainment sectors on notice that we will be watching them very closely to ensure that money coming their way is used to keep people in jobs.

“Everyone has to play their part during this unprecedented time, and employers have a moral obligation to do all they can to keep people in the workforce.

“But this message also needs to be conveyed by the government – otherwise we will see a mass exodus of workers from this industry, some of them forever.

“The obligation of businesses to keep people in work needs to include freelancers and contractors who make up a large part of the workforce in most theatrical and screen productions.

“The simple fact is that if producers want these professionals to be available for work in the future once the crisis is over, they need to be looking after them as well as their employees on salaries and wages.”

Mr Murphy reiterated that MEAA is also working with other peak bodies in the sector – including Live Performance Australia and Screen Producers Australia – to obtain from the federal government a targeted and specific rescue package for the arts.

One Comment:

  1. And the AFL (which Seven and Foxtel are partners) are reportedly tipped to lose around $500m (or half a billion dollars!) alone. That’s regardless of a season resume I believe.

    Devastating times for the entire Australian cohort.

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