The Federal Government has announced a further six-month extension of the $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) as the screen industry faces the reality of ‘living with COVID’.
Having previously been slated to end on December 31, 2021, the fund will now expire on June 30, offering security for productions amidst the latest spike in cases.
It’s the second time the deadline has been pushed back for the contingency measure, which was introduced to assist producers in getting their projects up and financed in the absence of COVID from insurance cover.
Under TIF, up to 60 per cent of the total budget of a project, or $4 million (whichever is less), will be available should a COVID-19 event occur in either the last two weeks of pre-production or during principal photography.
While 77 applications for coverage have been approved under the TIF to date, none of the relevant projects have been delayed as a result of key personnel contracting COVID, meaning the quantum in the fund is still $50 million.
Screen Producers Australia (SPA) lobbied for the fund to remain available into 2022, citing extensions to similar schemes in the UK and Canada.
In welcoming the announcement, CEO Matthew Deaner said the organisation was grateful for the strong support the government has shown the sector through the creation and extension of the fund.
“The TIF has been instrumental in ensuring continuity of activity in the sector during the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated challenges in the financing market,” he said.
“Our advice to government has been that the challenges arising from COVID-19 associated with the confidence in the market associated with the financing of Australian content are persistent and will continue.
“This means that the underlying market gaps which justified the creation of the TIF are still in place, and are likely to be for some time.“
In a statement made to IF at the end of last year, a spokesman for the government said the emergency COVID measures would be “winding down” as businesses resumed normal operation, and would be replaced by “support at the state and territory level and other industry measures”.
The weeks since have been characterised by a sharp rise in COVID cases, with the country recording nearly 100,000 new infections in the latest 24-hour testing period.
Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said the government was pleased to provide assistance to productions navigating the uncertain climate.
“Since the launch of the TIF in August 2020, the Morrison Government has played a vital role in providing confidence to the sector that COVID-19 related roadblocks would not derail the production of quality Australian film and television,” he said.
“Through the fund, the Morrison Government has allowed for productions to secure financing so that local casts and crews can continue to work, and business associated with these productions can continue to operate.
“The screen sector is a key driver of economic growth, and this kind of surety supports recovery and investment. Our continued support has allowed the Australian screen industry to keep thousands of people employed and continue to produce high quality local content.”