Government and Industry give green light to British Film Commission Production Guidance for Film and High-End TV Drama, kick-starting UK screen sector’s recovery

Monday June 1 2020


The UK Government has today welcomed the comprehensive ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’, published today by the British Film Commission and produced as part of wider BFI Screen Sector COVID-19 Task Force recovery initiatives. The support from UK Government for this industry-led Guidance signals confidence in the UK screen sector to safely restart production and help support UK economic recovery.


Publication of the Guidance follows detailed industry consultation – possibly the most comprehensive conducted on COVID-19 recovery guidelines in the sector – reflecting the views of UK and US organisations involved in the full gamut of production, from large international franchises to independent production; studios; streamers; unions; and UK-wide industry bodies. The close cooperation and input from lead production industry bodies such as Pact and the Production Guild, and unions such as BECTU, have been central to the shaping of the Guidance. BECTU alone represents the views of over 20,000 screen sector employees.


Senior representatives from the UK’s National and Regional Screen Agencies – Creative England, Film London, Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Creative Wales, part of Welsh Government – played a crucial role in promoting and managing the consultation in every part of the UK. They also provided additional expertise and co-ordination in formulating the guidance on location filming. ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen industries, participated and also provided secretariat support for the production of the Guidance.


UK Screen Alliance has also today published its COVID-19 Guidance for safe working for the Visual Effects (VFX) and Post-Production community, documenting best working practices already in use, as Post and VFX have remained open for business during the pandemic. This guidance aims to provide a framework for companies as they transition back to on-premises working, whilst ensuring the safety of their employees, contractors and clients.


Applying the Guidance

The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance has been developed to help the physical production industry to protect crew and cast by adopting a safe working environment and practices in light of COVID-19 related risks, as well as the latest Government advice; and to be able to factor in changes to their current health and safety assessments to achieve this.

It includes considerations for filmmakers at every level of budget, and is intended to be scalable, allowing each production to apply the guidance to their specific project’s needs.

Further support to apply the Guidance will be provided in coming weeks. ScreenSkills is working with Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation already delivering COVID-19 crisis training for the NHS, among others, and First Option, industry safety consultants, to develop standards for training to support the safe return to work in film and HETV. Basic level training, delivered free and online, will be rolled out next month.

The work is being supported by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund, with contributions from high-end television productions, and the BFI through its National Lottery-funded Future Film Skills strategy.


Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden said:

“The UK is recognised around the globe as a brilliant place to make films, and is home to the world’s best film and high-end TV talent. We’ve worked hard to support the industry through these difficult times, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree this step forward towards getting the cameras rolling safely again.”


Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said:

“We believe this to be the most comprehensive, extensively-consulted on COVID-19 recovery production guidance in the world. It reflects a phenomenal collective effort, for which we must thank the British Film Commission Recovery Group and BFC staff team, alongside the BFI, DCMS and the whole range of organisations, public and private, who contributed.

“The industry is extremely keen to restart production as soon as possible, but not without a comprehensive road map for how to do it safely while the threat of COVID-19 still looms large. Today’s Guidance provides that reassurance, reflecting the latest Government, technical and medical advice available. We will also update it on a regular basis, giving clarity on the latest measures recommended to ensure a safe shoot for cast, crew and the wider public.

“This is a vital step to getting our world class film and high-end TV sector back up and running, giving the world confidence we have the most rigorous safety measures in place, and signaling that our sector is ready to return to full strength, and to making its important contribution to the UK Exchequer.”


Iain Smith OBE, Chair of British Film Commission Advisory Board, and Producer (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Killing Fields, Children of Men, The Fifth Element)

“This Guidance represents the most comprehensive assessment of methodologies that industry will need to apply. It’s been an ambitious and large-scale operation to gather, synthesise and publish the range of views from across our industry. I believe this guidance will be a helpful, practical framework as we prepare our risk assessments and schedules to restart suspended production.”


Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, said:

“Our film and TV industry has been growing faster than other any other sector, generating over £7.9 billion a year in GVA to the UK economy and employing 166,200 people — so creating scaleable guidance to help restart film and high-end TV production as safely and as quickly as possible has been paramount.

“There is still work to done to address the cost of recovery and business insurance as a result of COVID-19, but Government support has been crucial in getting us to this point.”


Neil Hatton, Chief Executive of the UK Screen Alliance, said:

“The combined launch of two sets of detailed guidance for filming and for post-production is a significant indication that the UK’s film and TV industry is proactively making itself open for business; in fact, post and VFX never closed. The UK Screen Alliance guidance will be a living document that draws inspiration from the resourcefulness of our post and VFX companies in finding innovative solutions, which is a strength the UK is renowned for.”


Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive of ScreenSkills, said:

“It will be important that this guidance is understood at every level of film and high-end television and ScreenSkills is committed to supporting industry to interpret the guidance clearly and effectively for all scales of production.

“We are working with expert input to develop basic training so that film and TV workers know how to keep themselves, their colleagues and their equipment and environment safer and sanitised in the context of Covid-19. We will also do everything we can to work with practitioners as well as the BFC and BFI on making the guidance itself accessible and useful so productions can tailor it to their own needs.”


The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance has been drawn together by the British Film Commission’s Inward Investment Recovery Group, as a partner in the BFI-led COVID-19 Screen Sector Task Force. The recommendations will be incorporated into the BFI COVID-19 Taskforce’s Sector-wide recommendations to Government.

Both the BFC’s Production Guidance and the guidance from UK Screen Alliance complement the current UK Broadcasters’ Television Production Guidelines coordinated by the UK’s leading broadcasters and Pact, and published last week.

The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance can be found here.


For further press information, please contact:

Lauren Preteceille, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, British Film Commission


M: 07778 607 855


** a list of additional spokespeople, and comments, is attached at the Appendix **



Notes to Editors:

  1. About the British Film Commission

The British Film Commission (BFC) is the UK Government’s national organisation responsible for international film and television production in the UK. Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for International Trade and the BFI, the BFC leads on:

The BFC has industry sponsors who form the membership of the agency’s innovative public/private partnership: Angels, Disney, Harbottle & Lewis, HBO, Movie Makers, Netflix, Pinewood Studios, Saffery Champness, Warner Bros, 3 Mills, BBC Studios, Double Negative, Elstree Studios, Framestore, MPC, The Bottle Yard and Working Title.


The BFC is the national division of Film London.


  1. About the BFI

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

The BFI COVID-19 Screen Sector Task Force, which has cross-sector partners, is looking specifically at recovery plans for UK film including inward investment and independent UK film, distribution and exhibition, video games, and the broadcast sectors.


  1. About the UK Screen Alliance

UK Screen Alliance in partnership with Animation UK is the trade association that represents Visual Effects (VFX), TV & Film Studios, Post-Production and Animation in the UK. It is the membership organisation for over 100 leading employers in this sector and its primary purpose is advocacy for its member companies and the wider screen industries.


  1. About ScreenSkills

ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen industries – animation, film, games, television including children’s TV, unscripted and high-end, and VFX. We work across the whole of the country to ensure that UK screen has access now, and in the future, to the skills and talent needed for continued success.

ScreenSkills’ work in finding, developing and retaining a skilled workforce for the UK’s screen industries includes: providing careers information; finding and supporting new entrants; investing in skills and training for the existing workforce, including programmes to help professionals return to the industry after a career break for caring or parenting responsibilities, to support progression into more senior roles across the industry and to further diversify the workforce; the ScreenSkills Mentoring Network; and skills forecasting. All programmes have diversity and inclusivity targets.

We are supported by industry contributions to skills funds for film, high-end television, children’s television, television and animation, and by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funding. We currently receive Arts Council England funding to share good practice from the screen industries with the arts.


  1. The UK Film and Television sector is a world-wide economic and cultural success story. Prior to COVID-19, the sector, and its benefits, were growing faster than any other part of the UK economy:








Additional Industry Comments on the Film and High-End TV Drama Production Guidance (Coronavirus COVID-19)


Head of Bectu, Philippa Childs:

“It is a phenomenal achievement that the industry has joined together to create guidance to ensure that the UK’s world-leading production community has the structure to get back to work.

“Bectu’s place in the conversations that have developed this guidance has been crucial as freelancers need to have confidence that they can return to work safely and won’t be unnecessarily exposed to coronavirus if they don’t have to be.

“This joined up approach must continue as productions return to work and people adjust to working with additional precautions because of coronavirus.”


Andrew M. Smith, Corporate Affairs Director, Pinewood Group:

“The framework provided in this guidance is the product of the collaborative and exhaustive efforts of a number of organisations. It is more important than ever to ensure that safety procedures are implemented so the industry can resume. These guidelines provide comprehensive advice on how that can be achieved, incorporating the most up to date Government procedures, technical approaches and medical research available.”


Sir William Sargent, CEO Framestore

“This document, by the British filmmaking community, is a major contribution to getting all of us back to work in a safe and productive environment. The speed and contribution from all parts of our sector shows commitment and solidarity at the same scale as the world class standards we all operate at.”


Alex Hope OBE, DNEG Co-Founder

“The BFC’s COVID-19 recovery Production Guidance and UK Screen Alliances’s Post and VFX Guidance provide the industry with a framework under which it can re-open for business. The speed and thoroughness with which these guidelines have been produced demonstrates the extraordinary level of cohesion and integration found in the UK’s Screen sector.”


Isabel Davis, Screen Scotland Executive Director: 

“Scotland’s film and TV sector is looking forward to getting safely back into production once Scottish Government guidance allows.

“Alongside newly published protocols for the Visual Effects (VFX) and Post-Production community, and for Broadcasters, today’s announcement is another important step towards ensuring that everyone working across the sector, including our fantastic crews, facilities providers and studio operators can confidently return to doing what they do best – making and facilitating world class content.”


Sara Putt, Sara Putt Associates (Below the line agent and BAFTA Board Member)

“This Guidance has been a mammoth but essential task, with many people consulted. Being able to reflect the variety of perspectives provided by the hundreds of BAFTA members, our clients and industry contacts I worked with has helped ensure a rigorous and comprehensive final document. I know I join many in the industry in thanking the BFC Recovery Group and all those who contributed to helping get our sector back up and running safely and soon.”



Simon Emanuel, Producer (Netflix ‘The Witcher’ Season 1; Solo: A Star Wars Story; Star Wars: Rogue One)

“This guidance, created by the BFC and their colleagues, forms the cornerstone for allowing productions to get back up and running in the UK. The resumption of filming means that thousands of people can return to work, most importantly, with safety being paramount.”


Zorana Piggott, 011 Productions  (Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Make Up, Perfect 10)

“One size doesn’t fit all. Every production needs to be approached individually, using the guidelines as a manual with which to tailor protection measures, generating safe working environments suitable for different budgets, crew sizes and production conditions.”


Nicky Earnshaw, Head of Production, See-Saw Films (Widows, The Day Shall Come, Lion)

“The BFC’s guidelines enable us to take tentative steps to return to set, providing a promising breakthrough after this painfully fallow production period. They are designed to be translatable to projects of all budget levels and needs, which is a welcome concept for the independent sector particularly.  These guidelines cannot stand alone, so it is crucial that they are seen as just part of the measures needed to help get the production sector back to work and sit alongside the other proposals being presented to government by the various bodies and individuals comprising the Screen Sector Task Force.”


Bennett McGhee, Silvertown Films (Mogul Mowgli, VS, Brooklyn)

“The importance of the UK grassroots independent film community in nurturing talent, taking risks and attracting both UK and international business is paramount to the whole ecosystem of the British film industry. It’s crucial that we’ve been part of the process in informing the BFC guidelines, which aren’t designed to be a panacea but are very helpful in paving the way. There are still challenges to be surmounted, but as a community, independent producers will always find a way.”


Mike Elliott, EMU Films (Benediction, The Show, Dirty God)

“It’s great to have a framework, and crucial that we’re able to adapt these guidelines according to the scale of each production. This approach will make them fit for purpose for independent UK film, which may well be the first to shoot due to shorter schedules, less International travel, fewer crowd scenes and a more flexible approach to production. It’s also a chance to show the creative ingenuity that underpins Independent film, adapting production, pushing creative boundaries whilst still observing a safe workplace for cast and crew.”


Kevin Loader, Free Range Films (The Personal History of David Copperfield, My Cousin Rachel, The Lady in the Van)

“All of us in the UK’s film and television sector are keen to get our immensely talented crews and actors back to work. The industry has come together to make these guidelines workable – keeping everyone safe is our first priority. Our second is to continue to connect the work of the UK’s rich creative community to audiences worldwide. We’re looking forward to bringing new films and television programmes to them as soon as we can.”




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