Tim Phillips.

Screen Australia has approved applications from the producers of 11 projects – a mix of feature films and TV dramas – for the $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF).

Another 10 or so applications are still being considered for the contingency fund designed to help producers get projects up and financed despite the exclusion of coronavirus from insurance cover.

“Applications are at the level we expected, driven by production dates,” Screen Australia’s head of business affairs Tim Phillips tells IF. “We had a flurry of applications for productions that wanted to get started now that restrictions have been lifted, except in Victoria.”

TIF’s exposure is capped at 60 per cent of the total budget or $4 million (whichever is less) and is available if a COVID-19 event occurs in the last two weeks of pre-production or during principal photography.

Specifically, the cover is triggered in the case of COVID-19-related death, injury or illness of up to 10 named individuals, limited to key cast, directors, producers and heads of department.

Phillips says: “TIF covers the biggest and most disastrous risk, which is that one of named 10 people who is indispensable to the film or series, gets COVID and the project is abandoned in, say, week four.”

When the initiative was announced, the Federal Government said it expected to support up to 50 projects which financiers are not prepared to back without insurance cover.

Phillips said the eventual number will hinge on the ratio between big budget and lower budget productions.

There has not been much push back from producers on the fee of 1 per cent of the sum covered, which Screen Australia is charging, except from a few productions which were in late stage pre-production and had not budgeted for a fee.

The fund will not pay the first $50,000 of any loss caused by a named individual contracting COVID-19, a similar excess to that which applies to producers’ professional indemnity insurance.

Looking ahead, even without a vaccine, Phillips says: “It’s possible that suppression policies might bring down the infection numbers so low the market is happy to step back in and cover productions for COVID-related events.”

Screen Australia aims to stretch the funding as far as possible over the 12 months of its operation. Productions that don’t intend to start in the near future will probably go on a waiting list.

“Our preference is to get projects in and out,” Phillips says. “Coverage finishes on the last day of the shoot, so assuming there is no claim we can quickly move that cover onto a new project. That’s the way to try to get as many projects covered as possible.”

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