By Jill Goldsmith

July 16, 2020 12:41pm

A group of production companies, distributors, sales agents and completion bond guarantors have created a new tasks force to push for government funding and support to independent production threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Coalition for Independent Content Production (ACICP) said its aim is to help the industry avoid permanent loss of productions and jobs. It ncludes 25 organizations including; A24, Alcon Entertainment, Amblin Partners, Annapurna Pictures, Avalon, Bron Studios, Endeavor Content, Endless Media, Endurance Media, Film Finances, FilmNation, Gaumont, Le Grisbi, Madrona Drive, Media Guarantors Insurance Solutions, Origin Entertainment, Picturestart, Platonic Systems, Skydance Media, UniFi Completion Guarantors, Valence Media, Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, wiip, and XYZ Films.

Film and television production halted in March in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak as the country went into lockdown. The pandemic has had a devastating economic impact on the industry as a whole but independent production is particularly hard hit. Big entertainment companies have been lobbying Congress, asking the leaders of the House and Senate to move forward on pandemic insuranceThat’s not expected until year end at the soonest however and meanwhile smaller productions are having difficulty getting insurance coverage then need for completion bonds. They also have to absorb the steep cost increases of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The presence of big completion bond companies in the mix along with producers shows just how stumped the industry is.

IFTA, Independent Film & Television Alliance, has been actively engaged on the pandemic insurance front as it evolves and relief for the indie sector.

IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt said, “It’s always good to have many voices urging decision-makers to take effective action. IFTA has not been invited to participate in this coalition specifically – which seems to be comprised of individual companies with strong economic stakes in our sector – but we would hope the coalition leadership coordinates with us and others on the efforts well underway.”

ACICP’s call to government includes solutions and support for current and longer-term challenges including:

-Liability protection that will provide companies with the legal certainty required if they are going to resume production successfully

-Government assistance that will support business continuity during pandemic emergencies that lead to  suspension or abandonment of projects in this very fast-moving volatile industry

-Grants and long-term low interest loans to get the domestic industry back on its feet

-Relief through federal tax incentives to provide more capital to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 shut down, along with incentives to bring productions back to the U.S.

“Production companies have been incredibly innovative and collaborative in establishing new protocols to safely produce film and television projects. However, despite these great efforts to provide a safe working environment, there are still several liability, financing and insurance issues hindering the resumption of production in any meaningful way. We are hopeful that Congress can provide the necessary support, as is being developed in other countries, to get the business functioning again and get people back to work,” said Gregory Trattner, President of completion bond company Film Finances.

“We need a collaborative solution that involves the players in the industry and the government,” added Media Guarantors’ CEO and President Fred Milstein.

According to FilmLA, overall production declined 97.8% last quarter compared to last year. A staggering number of cast and crew have lost their jobs or been furloughed, with a projected loss of $30 billion across a large number of small businesses and peripheral industries in the U.S. that productions support.

To date there has been at least a 58% drop-off in television pilot orders from 2018 and 2019 along with numerous film and television productions that are unable to complete production this year. Projections indicate that over the next five years there will be an additional loss of more than $160 billion of growth within the sector.

The group said the film and television industry will play a pivotal role in contributing to the worldwide economic recovery- the industry supports approximately 2.5 million jobs annually in the U.S., including approximately 900,000 direct jobs, and pays out approximately $181 billion in total wages.