COVID insurance fund set to open Friday

Updated: Telefilm also fleshed out details of the $50-million Short-Term Compensation Fund, while the CMPA has made the case that projects already in production should be eligible to apply to the fund.

The $50-million Short-Term Compensation Fund for Canadian Audiovisual Productions (STCF) will open Friday, Oct. 30, the federal government confirmed.

For projects without insurance against COVID-related delays or stoppages, the fund will offer up to $1.5 million per-project in the case of a temporary interruption and $3 million in the case of a complete shutdown of production.

In the case of temporary interruptions, a deductible equal to the lesser of $100,00 or 15% of the eligible costs will be applied. For projects that are permanently abandoned, a deductible equal to the lesser of $350,000 or 15% of the eligible costs will be applied.

The fund’s administrator, Telefilm Canada, also fleshed out other details of the fund, which represents a lifeline for as many as 200 projects unable to return to production due to a lack of insurance against COVID-19.

In an advisory issued yesterday (Oct. 28), the funder said the STCF will cover “costs directly caused by an interruption of more than one day in filming or the producer’s abandonment of the production prior to the end of filming due to a confirmed diagnosis (COVID-19) of an actor or director declared on the insurance policy covering the project or any confirmed outbreak (COVID-19) on set that requires a complete production shutdown in accordance with current standards required by the applicable authorities.”

Telefilm added that applications will be processed “on a first come, first served basis, incumbent on earliest date of start of principal photography,” as well as noting that it “reserves the right to apply its discretionary judgment to ensure a portfolio that reflects the many perspectives of the audiovisual industry.” The STCF cannot be accessed by projects that have already gone into production.

Telefilm also said that because the STCF is intended for a broader clientele, and many eligible companies will not be Telefilm clients, a guide will soon be made available to further assist applicants. The organization encouraged companies to register for its online platform, Dialogue, if they do not have an account.

In order to be eligible for the STCF, applicants must: be a Canadian corporation eligible for the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit; be an independent production company, and not affiliated with a broadcaster; hold all the copyrights in the project necessary for its development, production and exploitation, as well as the control of the project; or, in the case of a coproduction, the applicant must hold these rights and control the project in proportion to its participation in it.

The program involves two phases. The first is a pre-eligibility phase, in which applicants must complete an agreement prior to the start of principal photography. The second, in the case of a production delay or stoppage, will require applicants to notify Telefilm in writing no later than 24 hours after an interruption in filming of more than one day.

Assuming the fund does not run dry, it will close on March 31, 2021, according to the advisory.

CMPA welcomes the opening of the fund, but raises questions 

The CMPA issued a statement today (Oct. 29) welcoming the news that the fund will open shortly. However, it did raise a question about the eligibility of projects that are already in production.

“With application details released yesterday by Telefilm, the program may potentially benefit hundreds of productions that have yet to start filming,” said president and CEO Reynolds Mastin. “That said, it remains unclear whether coverage will also be extended to projects that have already started production. The producers behind such projects took significant financial risk in resuming their productions, and they too should have access to the program.”

When asked for clarification, a Telefilm spokesperson told Playback Daily that “for the moment, the productions that have already started principal photography are ineligible.”

As well, the producers association said the government may need to consider extending the program beyond March 31, 2021 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.

COVID insurance has been one of the foremost discussions during the pandemic, with a plethora of projects being postponed indefinitely as a result. According to CMPA data released last month, 62% of producers feared they could lose their 2020 slate entirely if a solution wasn’t found soon.