Coronavirus: British Film Institute Convenes Task Force In Face Of “Unprecedented Challenge”, Calls On UK Industry To Get In Touch With Concerns

The British Film Institute, the UK’s lead organization for film, is convening its Screen Sector Taskforce to help deal with the huge impact of the coronavirus.

In a lengthy missive to industry this evening UK time (scroll down for letter in full), BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts acknowledged the “huge” and “unprecedented challenge to our business” and said that the BFI was in regular conversation with the government about how to mitigate the significant ramifications for companies and individuals.

The BFI said it is focused “on ensuring the resilience of the industry and on tackling the huge range of short to mid-term financial, cultural and societal challenges – not least to the exhibition and freelance sectors who are likely to be hit hardest most immediately by the crisis.”

The BFI’s task force, which was already in existence, is a “pan industry group, representing the breadth of the screen industries, from production to distribution and bodies representing animation, VFX, skills and studios from across the UK”.

A number of major film and TV shows shut down in the UK today and businesses such as Regal-owner Cineworld were rocked by the volatile trading markets. The UK box office took a significant hit over the weekend but much harder will be to come following new social distancing measures introduced today.

The UK government escalated its approach to coronavirus this evening by urging significantly more distancing and by calling on the population to avoid pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues. The measures are set to last weeks if not months.

More than 1,500 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK, but according to the BBC the actual number of cases is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. 53 people have died.

Here’s the BFI’s letter in full:

Covid-19 presents us with an unprecedented challenge to our business.

We are keenly aware that the wide ranging and damaging impact of the virus is being felt across the entire industry and at every possible level.

As the lead organisation for film, we will support our many industry colleagues during this fast moving and rapidly evolving situation, and we are in discussion with key partners, stakeholders and Government to urgently assess the scale of the short and longer term impact on business.

We are focused on ensuring the resilience of the industry and on tackling the huge range of short to mid-term financial, cultural and societal challenges – not least to the exhibition and freelance sectors who are likely to be hit hardest most immediately by the crisis.

The BFI is in constant communication with colleagues in Government and with other funders across the sector, to ensure we all fully understand the ramifications of the most critical issues, and help shape measures to address them.

We have an already established Screen Sector Taskforce which will be convening to coordinate our conversation with Government and discuss the potential mitigations. We also urge practitioners across the industry and cultural sector to contact us with their key concerns and have set up an email address as a centralised point for all enquires [email protected] to feed into our impact response recommendations.

As a funder, we will be as supportive and flexible as possible across existing funding arrangements, including the ability of those organisations and projects to meet contractual requirements.

As a production financier, we are obviously supporting our filmmakers with advice on a case by case basis. They are all different projects, each case is different and complex with completely different variables, so there isn’t one size fits all guidance, and we are advising them through these very particular challenges as best we can.

The BFI is working hard to support everyone across the sector during this extremely challenging time and we will update you with more news and information when we can.

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive, BFI

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