Leading figures in the U.K. film production sector told Variety Friday that they continue to have absolute faith in the measures being taken to keep cast and crew safe from COVID-19 on British sets. Production on “The Batman” has reportedly resumed at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, U.K., albeit without star Robert Pattinson’s presence, according to the Daily Mail. On Thursday, Pattinson was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Mail’s report claims that director Matt Reeves is trying to finish as much of the shoot as he can without Pattinson, including scenes with the actor’s body double. Variety has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.
On Thursday, Ann Sarnoff, head of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, declined to comment on specifics, citing privacy concerns.
Meanwhile, the U.K. industry is confident that crews are observing COVID-19 protocols that were published by the British Film Commission at the end of May. “We know that productions in the U.K. are rigorously following BFC Guidance with robust health and safety procedures in place, including stringent testing regimes, which is why any case of coronavirus can be rapidly identified and appropriate self-isolating procedures implemented,” Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, told Variety.
“We’re confident that with all measures in place, any production will resume filming as soon as it’s safe to do so. We also believe this will not impact production overall continuing in U.K., precisely because we have such robust health and safety measures operating, enabling our world-class film and high-end TV sector to get back up and running.”
“The behavior of U.K. cast and crew have been exemplary,” Lyndsay Duthie, CEO of the Production Guild of Great Britain, told Variety. “Wanting to return to work, everyone has embraced the comprehensive measures required of them and as a result many productions have been back on set and filming safely for weeks already. Where we have seen productions abroad where a cast or crew member has tested positive, precautions have been taken as required to enable them to start filming again as soon as they had the all clear.”
U.K. crew have also had access to free training modules offering practical advice on staying safe in the context of the pandemic provided by ScreenSkills, and some 20,000 people have already made use of this. “Productions have been taking this issue extremely seriously and we know everyone is working hard to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks during filming,” ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar told Variety. “We collaborated with industry and health and safety experts to develop free online coronavirus basic awareness on production training to support the available guidance.”
In addition, the Production Guild is working on a bespoke program targeted at senior production staff who are taking on a COVID supervisor role, that will be announced next week. “This will be a definitive guide to standardize this new vital area on production to world-class standards,” said Duthie.
ScreenSkills is also running safe return to set seminars to share the experience of those already back in pre-production or production and are developing more advanced training. “None of this removes the threat of people falling ill but it acknowledges that everyone can play their part in trying to prevent outbreaks on set or location,” said Kumar.
There is also the question of crew morale being affected when a high-profile member of the team, like Pattinson, is diagnosed with the virus, so soon after resuming the stalled production. “Production teams are resilient as already proven and will always find innovative ways to keep moving forwards,” says Duthie. “I think it is more of a sense of frustration, when all have worked so hard to comply to comprehensive measures.”
Though it is not immediately clear what kind of insurance that “The Batman” has, COVID-19 is unlikely to be covered under any existing policies. “What we are seeing is that all insurers are making sure that there is specific wording to exclude COVID cover,” Kris Barnfather, senior account executive at Eggar Forrester Insurance, told Variety.
“The Batman” production does have recourse to the U.K. government $647 million film and TV insurance fund that was announced in July. The fund is available to all productions where at least 50% of the budget is spent in the U.K. Eligible productions will get compensation for costs caused by coronavirus delays up to a value of 20% of the production budget. Productions abandoned due to coronavirus will be covered up to 70% of the production budget. There is a total cap on claims per production of $6.65 million.
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