SPI Industry Survey | Covid-19 and the Economic Impact on the Irish Independent Production Sector

SPI News
In order to fully understand the immediate impact of the public health measures on the creative screen industry, Screen Producers Ireland, the national representative body for independent film, television and animation companies undertook a survey of Irish independent production companies.
The survey aimed to capture information relating to:
  • funding
  • economic impact on current productions/DACs
  • economic impact on production companies
  • economic impact on workers
The survey was conducted online between 26th March and 3rd of April 2020 and captures a snapshot in time of the independent production sector, showing the immediate impact of Covid-19 on production companies.
69 production companies responded to the survey. This survey was open to all independent production companies operating in the Republic of Ireland.
Companies completing the survey were asked to provide detail where possible. Not all questions applied to all companies, therefore there is some variation in the number of responses per question and detail provided. 
You can read the surey here.
Headline results are:
  1. 24 productions were stood down.
  2. There was an estimated loss of work/lay-off for 800 individuals working directly on productions.
  3. The estimated monetary impact of this is €20M in wages and third-party costs not being paid.  
  4. 59 companies reported having to delay the start of production and many projects have been delayed in post/ distribution.
  5. A number of respondents have highlighted that the full brunt of the economic impact of this will not be felt by many in the industry until months down the line. Our industry is a highly skilled and specialised industry which supports a large ecosystem of businesses and workers and the impact of the crisis will be much greater than what is presented in this snapshot survey.
Some of the direct responses we received from producers on the impact included:
  • The real effect of how Covid-19 impacts our survival will not be overtly evident for a number of months.  How dramatic that impact will be depends on each and every week that passes under lockdown. However, already development offers paused (more than likely will not go ahead now) on 2 productions, which would have led to contracts of up to 600k.
  • If/when things get back to normal there will be a huge bottleneck of productions with not enough crew/facilities to service them. So it’s important to realise that the effect of this 3 or maybe 6-month cessation of activity will last a lot longer that the cessation itself.
  • We were in development with projects and had funded the development ourselves. We are now in a position that we are not liable for any support from the state agencies as we are not officially a client.
  • The additional cost to the project for an 8 week postponement is roughly €2,000,000. Further weekly delays beyond this 8 week period will cost approximately €150,000 p/w.
  • Unsure how sustainable it is to have a production company. Huge concerns for the industry.
We making the following recommendations to Government and other state agencies on how to deal with this situation:
  • Supplemental annual funding for bodies such as RTÉ, TG4, Screen Ireland, BAI Sound and Vision Fund, for the production by the independent sector of innovative content during the COVID19 crisis and the development of projects that will come on stream later in the year and in 2021.
  • Additional resources are provided to the Revenue Commissioners to process Section 481 applications that are currently experiencing severe delays in the compliance process (more than a year in the case of some productions).
  • Targeted sectoral stimulus for businesses and those working in the sector including additional Government income support measures for both employees and the self- employed.
  • Continued strong messaging to FDI and co-production partners that the Irish Government places great value on the creative screen sector and is committed to sustaining it beyond this crisis.
  • A resolution to the impasse with insurance. A number of productions have had to stand down 15th March and are facing severe difficulties in determining if their insurance will cover them in these circumstances. Without this the production companies are exposed to large costs and many will not recover if they must pay these costs out of pocket.  
  • Appropriate mental health supports put in place for those working in the screen industry via a confidential service
  • Establishment of an interagency task force to identify the issues and challenges in rebooting the industry and developing solutions, this could include, but is not limited to necessary public health restrictions, financing, project resourcing and streamlining processes.