Coronavirus hits more events as European producers call for support

Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the international TV industry with shows and events cancelled around the world, while unions and European producer organisations have called for more government support.

Hot Docs joins growing list of cancelled events

Canada’s factual-focused Hot Docs, due to run 30 April-10 May in Toronto, is among the latest events to have been postponed, with organisers confirming they will look to re-arrange the annual get-together at “a later date”.

Officials said the recent declaration by the World Health Organization of COVID-19 as a pandemic had contributed to the decision, while the Canadian state of Ontario has called for the immediate suspension of gatherings with more than 250 people.

“We remain committed to bringing these outstanding documentary films to our audiences and are currently investigating ways that we can do so at a later date,” organisers said.

“Plans are currently underway to bring together filmmakers, producers and industry decision makers in an online environment and to virtually deliver the event’s valuable pitch presentations and one-on-one meetings.”

Almost all TV-related events in the next month have been axed, with US studios Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, ViacomCBS and Warner Bros last week cancelling LA Screenings, the annual US-based sales event.

The Upfronts, the advertising-focused week of events which take place in New York the week prior to Screenings, is also off, joining the likes of MIPTV in Cannes, the 2020 edition of Series Mania in Lille, Austin-based SXSW, Cabsat in Dubai, and kids events such as Cartoons on the Bay.

Industry launches have also been affected, with Disney calling off its European event for Disney+ and Quibi scrapping plans for its April 5 launch party in California. The streamer is due to go live on 6 April.

Suburra

Unions, European Producers Club call for employee protection

Meanwhile, the European Producers Club (EPC) – made up of 100 independent film and TV drama production companies – has published a 10-point plan to limit the impact of the Coronavirus on the continent’s audiovisual industry.

It has called for national governments to create emergency funds and offer interest free loans to cober the costs of crew and suppliers on shows in production and pre-production.

The organisation, whose members include Midnight Sun outfit Atlantique Productions, Suburra prodco Cattleya and Piv Bernth & Lars Hermann’s Apple Tree Productions, added that financiers, broadcasters and platforms should release producers from contractual deadlines and called on authorities to delay tax, social security and other direct or indirect taxes.

​The EPC also called for public funding systems to be used “to maintain business as usual” for shows in development and said broadcasters and OTT outfits should “continue and increase development activities in solidarity with the industry to be ready for a quick and efficient getting back on track”

The group cautioned that without a coordinated approach, Europea’s audiovisual industry could be severely affected.

“The spreading lockdown has resulted in closing of cinemas and shootings cancelled or interrupted across all of Europe. This lockdown results in immediate cancellation of hundreds of productions in shootings phases, disruption in cashflow and the to-be-expected bankruptcies of production companies.

John McVay

“As a domino effect, it will impact the industry as a whole: all creators-freelancers with no job tomorrow nor any social security: technical suppliers, advertisement agencies, publicity agents, theatres, altogether millions of employees.

​”All this will happen very fast and will cause an irreversible breach in European audiovisual creativity with dramatic consequences that are difficult to overestimate, especially since the duration of the suspension period is yet unknown.”

In the UK, John McVay of production body Pact, told TBI the industry had to ensure it focused on supporting the public health response to help get the pandemic under control.

“Everyone is calling for more government support, it’s not just impacting on our sector. We are giving as much guidance as we can as the situation develops,” he said.

“I’m more worried about small producers who will be impacted by cash flow issues as shows are cancelled or postpone and for their employees. This is where broadcasters can help. But everything is on a case by case basis as each production is different.”

Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Lord Of The Rings paused as productions hit

Hundreds of series have now been impacted by the global spread of the virus, with Amazon’s production of the big budget Lord Of The Rings adaptation paused for two weeks in New Zealand.

Marvel Studios has halted production on its Disney+ originals including Loki and WandaVision, joining fellow Mouse House series such as the Winter Soldier, while work on the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale has also been halted.

Studio-based talkshows have also been paused with CBS’s The Late Late Show With James Corden among those to have its production temporarily stopped, joining others such as NBCU’s talkshow The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Corden, who hosts the show, tweeted that the CBS Television Studios team had “really explored every option to try and put a show on for you, but right now feel the safest thing to do is to stop for a moment and take advice further down the line.”

A swathe of programming from NBCUniversal. Its Universal Television, Universal Cable Productions and Universal Television Alternative Studios have paused operations, with shows such as Chicago Fire and Law & Order: SVU affected.

CBS has already temporarily halted The Amazing Race in the US – and the Australian series will now not take contestants abroad – while Studio Lambert has postponed production on the celeb travel show Race Across The World, which is due to air on the BBC in the UK.

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