Where in the World Has Production Resumed? Part 1 of Our Complete Guide (EXCLUSIVE)

Where in the World Has Production Resumed? Part 1 of Our Complete Guide (EXCLUSIVE)

The coronavirus pandemic crippled production around the world across many months, enforcing an unavoidable hiatus in business that has wreaked havoc on film and TV production schedules. The summer saw a number of troubling flare-ups in certain countries as borders began reopening, but overall, the pandemic has stabilized enough in some nations to allow specific industries to resume — albeit very cautiously. Here, Variety’s international team breaks down what you need to know about how film and TV production is faring in key markets as the industry slows comes back to life.

Coming Sept. 9: Variety’s “Location Update: The Big Restart,” produced in collaboration with the Association of Film Commissioners International.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday, which focuses entirely on the state of affairs in Europe.

CANADA

Open for business?

Before the pandemic hit, Ontario production was coming off a record-breaking year ($2.16 billion in direct spending) and was on track for another; Surrey, British Columbia, was on pace to set a record year for film permits issued; and production budgets in Quebec had reached more than $2 billion in the 2018-19 season, up from $1.78 billion the previous year. Then, COVID-19 hit and everything shuttered across the country, with production only recently ramping back up across the board this past month or so.

COVID-19 status

At press time, Canada had 129,000 active COVID-19 cases. In total, 114,000 have recovered and there have been 9,129 deaths. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 80% of those deaths have come through long-term care homes.

Insurance coverage

Domestic film and TV projects that had production insurance in place before the pandemic hit have been able to proceed with cautionary measures and protocols in place. However, new productions have been unable to secure such insurance and have either postponed, relied on in-house policies (in the event of large production houses), or rolled the dice while adhering to strict policies and depopulating the set.

Several organizations, spearheaded by the Canadian Media Producers Association, are in talks with the Canadian government to secure a CAD$100 million ($76 million) backstop that would help safeguard the industry. Although no policy needs to be passed in order for this to happen, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau stepped down in mid-August following pressure from the opposition in the wake of a charity scandal. The country’s first female Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, was named to the position a day later and the government was prorogued until Sept. 23; it is predicted that Freeland will take some time to adjust to the new portfolio before making any major decisions.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, a fund has been in place since July 15 and productions are currently cued up for that safety net. As one production ends, funds are freed up and transferred to the next available production or productions.

Travel restrictions

Travel to Canada is on a for-business basis only, as borders have remained closed since the end of March. Anyone coming into the country is required to self-isolate for two weeks before interacting with others, and depending on the province, actors entering Canada are required to obtain a non-objection letter that will be granted after production protocols are approved.

What’s shooting?

“The Good Doctor”; “Van Helsing”; “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”; “Riverdale”; “A Million Little Things”; “The Mighty Ducks”; “Midnight Mass”; “Lost in Space”; “Supernatural”; “Murdoch Mysteries”; “Lady Dicks”; Movies of the Week (MOWs) including “Too Close for Christmas,” “A Bright and Merry Christmas” and “One Kind of Love.” Amber Dowling

ICELAND

Open for business?

Iceland is open for business, albeit with a gatherings ban for groups over 100 and a mandatory two-meter social distancing measure. The local film and TV industry was mostly spared from major coronavirus-related filming delays. Baltasar Kormákur’s “Katla,” an eight-part supernatural volcano drama for Netflix, was the first Icelandic production to restart in May, followed by “Black Port” and “Sisterhood.”

COVID-19 status

Iceland contained the local wave of COVID-19 infections and only saw a slight rise of local transmissions this summer. As of Sept. 1, there were 5 new cases of coronavirus infections.

Insurance coverage

Local productions are all covered by insurance policies.

Travel restrictions

After imposing mandatory two-week quarantine in the early stages of the pandemic, the country started easing travel restrictions in June. But since Aug. 19, anyone traveling to Iceland has to get tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and quarantine for 4-5 days before being tested again.

What’s shooting?

“Chicken Boy”; “Reply to a Letter by Helga”; “Wolka.” Will Smith is also reportedly shooting in Iceland with local line production banner Truenorth. “Trapped 3,” the third season of Kormákur’s series, will start shooting soon. Elsa Keslassy

CHINA

Open for business?

China was the first country in to the coronavirus chaos, and the first one out. Amazingly, China’s economy is forecast to achieve positive GDP growth this year, but recovery is not evenly spread. Film and TV production restarted in March, but cinemas remained closed until late July. That was enough of a hiatus to cause new content shortages at some networks and streamers.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards using high-profile overseas crew in certain key areas (VFX, production design, etc.) but this is currently problematic due to international travel issues. Numerous small companies have been badly damaged or collapsed because of recent changes to the tax codes, as well as the coronavirus. And, directed by top-down policies, there is a growing trend towards patriotic films celebrating China’s history, military prowess, sporting success and social cohesion. All of these factors are making co-productions largely irrelevant, and they suggest that few foreign films will be coming to shoot in any of China’s major studio complexes. Animation remains the one bright spot.

COVID-19 status

90,000 confirmed cases across China, with 4,718 deaths. The last local infection was Aug. 16.

Insurance coverage

Insurance barely applies in the Western sense. Companies bear most of the risk themselves, and it helps if they are backed by a larger entity. Completion bonds do not exist except on foreign-originated projects.

Travel restrictions

Foreigners are only slowly being allowed to enter China. Visas were suspended, meaning that even current visa holders need to have a letter of invitation. In recent days, nationals from 17 Asian countries and 36 European countries have been told they can re-apply. Scheduled flights from the U.S. have now doubled to eight per week, and charters are adding to that, but there remains a reported 200,000 visa holders currently unable to return to their homes and workplaces in China. Hong Kong cast and crew have been reported as exceptions, but even they cannot escape two weeks of quarantine.

What’s shooting?

Thriller “Door Lock” started filming this week; Korean war film “Jin Gang Chuan” is in post-production; 40-part Korean war TV series “Going Across the Yalu River”; “The Three Body Problem” (live action); “1921”; “One Blade of Heaven”; “My People, My Homeland,” which was among the first to return to production post-coronavirus, and is now in post-production and gearing up for an Oct. 1 National Day release. Patrick Frater & Rebecca Davis

INDIA

Open for business?

India began shutting down productions in March. The country published COVID-19 guidelines at the end of August, but production remains almost at a standstill as the world epicenter of the pandemic is now in India.

COVID-19 status

India has a total of 3,759,515 cases, of which 797,221 are active. The country’s young population, however, has displayed a high rate of recovery, with 2,895,846 recovered. There have been 66,448 fatalities, and there are 75,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths daily.

Insurance coverage

India currently has no film insurance coverage tailored for COVID-19.

Travel restrictions

Foreign business executives, healthcare professionals and technical specialists are permitted to travel to India, with a valid visa. There is no directive on film professionals at the moment. All are expected to self-isolate for two weeks. Each of India’s 36 states and union territories have different entry requirements.

What’s shooting?

Some TV shows like Viacom18’s “Shakti Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki” and the Zee Group’s “Ek Mahanayak Dr. B.R. Ambedkar” have resumed shooting with COVID-19 restrictions. One of the highest-profile shows, Sony’s “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, newly recovered from coronavirus, will begin shortly. Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s “Laal Singh Chadha,” the Viacom18 remake of “Forrest Gump,” has relocated to Turkey, while “Bellbottom,” starring Akshay Kumar, Denzil Smith (“Tenet”) and Adil Hussain (“Life of Pi”) is shooting in Glasgow. Naman Ramachandran

NEW ZEALAND

Open for business?

Following a nationwide lockdown in March, productions including “Avatar” and “Power of the Dog” resumed in June with very few restrictions and the screen sector has been booming since. A new outbreak of the virus in August, however, saw Auckland entering a level three lockdown (level four being the strictest) in August, though key international projects based in the city (such as “Power Rangers” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings”) were in pre-production and staff continued to work from home. During that period, the rest of New Zealand entered level two, which is now where the entire nation remains until at least Sept. 6. With ScreenSafe health and safety protocols largely allowing filming to continue at various alert levels, productions like Wellington-based “Avatar” have been permitted to continue without significant disruption since June.

Foreign production applications have surged thanks to the country’s strong filming infrastructure and effective virus management, and the industry looks set to thrive further thanks to a newly announced 10-year screen sector growth strategy, government funding to aid COVID-19-recovery and proposed new production studios in Christchurch, Hawke’s Bay and Upper Hutt.

Restrictions in place

ScreenSafe thoroughly sets out guidelines for each alert level. Under the current level two, large-scale productions can operate under restrictions such as health declarations for those undergoing close interaction, strict screening of extras and contactless food service. Crew are encouraged to maintain a one-meter distance.

COVID-19 status

After 102 days of no new community cases of COVID-19, a new outbreak was confirmed in Auckland in August. As of Wednesday, 149 infections have been linked to the new cluster, with 93 still active and being managed in quarantine. Cases continue to trickle in at the border, where they’re also quarantined.

Insurance coverage

A representative for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment tells Variety that the government is aware of concerns regarding insurance for screen productions and is currently “exploring options” to assist. The government has also previously announced recovery funds to aid projects that were impacted by COVID-19.

Travel restrictions

All foreigners must apply for border exemptions, which are being granted to those involved with large-scale productions injecting significant money and jobs into the country, such as “Avatar.” All who enter must complete (and pay for) two weeks of hotel quarantine and test negative for COVID-19 before commencing work. Domestic travel is operating normally under level two.

What’s shooting?

“Avatar” has been in production in Wellington since June. “Lord of the Rings” and “Power Rangers” are in pre-production in Auckland, as well as two Netflix projects – Robert Downey Jr’s “Sweet Tooth” and anime adaptation “Cowboy Bebop.” Peter Farrelly-helmed film, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” is in pre-production in Auckland and Dunedin, but looking at shifting filming to 2021. The New Zealand Film Commission confirms a new, yet-to-be announced international production has also just been confirmed for Wellington. Leena Tailor

AUSTRALIA

Open for business?

The world sat up and took notice in March when Tom Hanks was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Brisbane, Australia, while prepping Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic. At least 119 productions had to shut down or cancel since then, and the damage to the sector was estimated to be $2 billion, according to Screen Producers Australia. The country published COVID-19 safety guidelines at the end of May.

COVID-19 stats

Australia has a total of 26,049 cases, of which 3,687 are active. There have been 678 fatalities.

Insurance coverage

The government has announced a $36.3 million Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) intended to provide support for productions in the absence of insurance cover for interruptions caused by COVID-19. TIF will provide coverage to productions for specific events relating to COVID-19 that occur during the last two weeks of pre-production and the period of principal photography. TIF coverage for an individual production is capped at 60% of the total budget, or $2.9 million, whichever is less.

Travel restrictions

Australia’s borders are closed. Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia. However, for delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery, including film, media and television production, where no Australian worker is available, travel is allowed. Applications for an exemption from international (inbound/outbound) travel restrictions to work on screen productions will be dealt with separately by the government. Productions can apply for the exemption based on ‘critical skills.’

What’s shooting?

Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has resumed production in Sydney, as has “The Bachelor Australia,” and work has resumed at the Warner Bros. Village Roadshow facilities in Coomera, Queensland, on the Elvis project. Long running show “Neighbours” resumed as early as April after a three-week hiatus. Though “Thor: Love and Thunder” will not resume until early 2021, the Australian government’s recent $291 million incentive that complements the existing 30% budget offset, is bound to attract high end film and TV productions. Naman Ramachandran 

SOUTH AFRICA

Open for business?

International productions are yet to resume in South Africa, whose borders are still closed to foreign travelers. Industry insiders expect international flights to resume by October, allowing them to begin prepping for shoots during the typically busy summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Production of local soaps and drama series were restarted in May, allowing the industry to test its COVID-19 safety protocols before foreign production resumes. Leading production services companies have also bolstered their measures to conform with the protocols observed by Hollywood trade unions, such as SAG and the DGA.

COVID-19 status

South Africa ranks among the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and currently has the world’s sixth-highest number of COVID-19 cases, behind the U.S., Brazil, India, Russia and Peru. The country has recorded nearly 630,000 cases and more than 14,000 deaths, with 64,000 cases still active.

Insurance coverage

International productions in South Africa typically use the same insurers that underwrite cast insurance and other common policies globally. Thus far, there has been no clarity as to whether they will rewrite old polices, or draft new ones, to cover claims related to COVID-19. The South African government has not formally proposed an indemnity fund, similar to backstops in the U.K. and France, to cover coronavirus-related insurance claims.

Travel restrictions

After the government recently began allowing domestic flights for the first time since the start of South Africa’s lockdown in March, industry players are poised for international travel to resume by October. But as of press time, no formal announcement has been made.

What’s shooting?

“Around the World in 80 Days,” an adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, was forced to halt production in March, but it’s still unclear when it will resume. South Africa’s production community has remained tight-lipped about when, and if, production can restart anytime soon. Christopher Vourlias

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