Written by Shona Smith on Apr 9, 2020. Posted in General Interest

UK Film Industry spring into action in response to Covid-19

The UK film and TV industry have sprung into action to aid the national fight against coronavirus. Nearly nine in ten industry freelancers are no longer working due to the crisis, and many have adapting their usual roles to aid the national effort.

With each department having valuable material or skills needed in the fight against coronavirus many are keen to do what they can during the crisis. A network has formed linking those in need, such as NHS trusts to the film industry network.

Location manager Georgette Turner is acting as the coordinator in the East of the UK, in charge of reaching out to NHS trusts and being a filter for what is needed, from Personally Protective Equipment (PPE) to electricians, carpenters or security.

“You find in these situations in a film dynamic, it is the location managers and production managers who do this kind of stuff, because it is so close to what our roles are in the film world. Just how we would crew up an additional photography day for the next day, it’s the same sort of format. We are the ones that go to the public, and everyone falls in lines with what they do” says Turner.

The regional networks are able to activate quickly to need, and have built up a database of those who have no health issues and are willing to volunteer. Donations are coming in from many location managers and suppliers including Rachel Rosser, Jessica Wright, Spotless h20 limited, On the QT limited and Location One.

“We are currently collecting for another drop so any donations please email Georgie locations@gmail.com we will happily collect from doorsteps, garages or lockup’s. PPE is currently being distributed and collected by Ross Monaghan, a location Manager who has just finished on Walt Disney’s the Little Mermaid”.

“It is not so labour intensive, and if you are at home with two kids you do feel like you can do something to help. Everybody is working behind the scenes and probably not getting the recognition” says Turner.

One of the biggest issues facing those on the front line is the lack of PPE available. The costume department behind His Dark Materials have raised more than GBP12,000 to buy materials for making scrubs and distributing to designers and tailors who are working for free to make scrubs for local hospitals. Construction managers too have donated a huge amount of PPE.

The electrical branch of BECTU are putting out any calls for volunteers to the national network, and security firms are able to provide support, such as guarding medical equipment to prevent looting.

All of this is being done voluntarily by freelancers in an industry which has largely been left without government financial support.

Helen Lenszner Co-chair of the BECTU Location Branch Committee notes that the union are working tirelessly to change the governments current financial support. “There are many thousands are still not covered so we are very very very busy putting out appeals. There have been a few MPS really good at lobbying on our behalf, which has particularly revved up. Bectu committees work quite independently for each department. We usually have joint meetings every couple of months but we are connecting up each branch much more to try and coordinate the information we are asking for our members, and the letters we are forwarding up the chain. There really is force in numbers and making sure that no member of any branch is left struggling, not knowing who they can go to whether it is for mental health issues or financial support”.

According to the Film and TV Charity survey, more than nine in ten industry freelancers are no longer working due to the crisis; three-quarters are not expected to receive any support since they are either ineligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme or have not been furloughed as PAYE freelancers under the Job Retention Scheme. Three-quarters of respondents said they were very or extremely worried about their income in coming months while nearly half said they were worried about meeting basic living costs (food, medicine, accommodation).

The UK Covid-19 fund from The Film and TV Charity launched on Tuesday 8 April, and applications are open for two weeks.

A Go Fund Me for UK based locations, security and utility personnel is being run by Georgette Turner, Vinnie Jassal and Charlie Pigram. Donations have passed the halfway point for its GBP5000 target, and will go towards those unsupported by the government - “we can help with weekly shop, it makes a massive difference” says Turner.

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