SPA pushes for TIF extension as government starts ‘winding down’ COVID measures

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Screen Producers Australia (SPA) is urging the government to further extend the Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) scheme past this month in order to provide cover for productions in a post-lockdown climate.

Announced as part of the Federal Government’s $250 million arts rescue package in June 2020, the $50 million fund is set to expire on December 31 after the initial mid-year deadline was pushed back six months.

The contingency measure was introduced to assist producers in getting their projects up and financed in the wake of coronavirus being excluded 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.

The government reports that, as of December 17, 77 applications have been approved for coverage under the fund, supporting on average 346 people and 162 businesses on each production. To date, there have been no claims made under TIF, for which only local production or official co-productions are eligible.

SPA is now pushing for the scheme to remain in place into 2022, as will be the case with the UK’s Film & TV Restart scheme and Canada’s Short-Term Compensation Fund (STCF).

“The TIF has played an important part in ensuring ongoing activity in the Australian production sector in 2020 and 2021, and we are strong supporters of the government’s decision to roll it out and provide an initial extension through to 31 December 2021,” SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said.

“SPA has requested a further six-month extension of the TIF to reflect ongoing difficulties in the insurance market and noting extensions were in place in the UK and Canada for similar schemes.

“We remain hopeful the government is open to reconsidering should market conditions begin to deteriorate again.”

However, the government is remaining firm on its position to roll back the fund, despite no alternative insurance mechanisms in place.

“As businesses begin to resume normal operations, the government is winding down emergency COVID-19 measures, to be replaced by support at the state and territory level and other industry measures,” a spokesperson told IF.

Screen Australia, through whom the fund is administered, did not have any further information as to what the industry measures may consist of when approached by IF, saying it had “nothing more” to add.

In an online chat with Deaner last month, CEO Graeme Mason said the organisation had begun conversations with lenders and insurance companies in the event of TIF not being renewed.

“We’ve had really great conversations with a lot of the lenders, because no one wants production to stop,” he said.

“Realistically for Screen Australia and other entities like us… we would take on more risk. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to fill financial holes. It just might be moving our money around.”