Joe Lo Surdo.
Apart from the cancellation of MIPTV and Canneseries, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t affected the screen industry in Australia yet.
Unlike global insurers which have excluded the virus from their policies, Australia’s SURA Film and Entertainment has not taken that step or raised premiums.
“As far as I am aware, we are the only film insurance company in Australia that still provides cover for the coronavirus,” SURA’s managing director Joe Lo Surdo tells IF.
“That’s under the traditional film package policy, which is for cast insurance, as well as extensions under civil authority-type cover.
“I am mindful of the exposure but I am trying to instil calm and to show producers, many of whom we have worked with for many years, they have our support.
“Our government has done a pretty good job. Until they start cancelling concerts or big sporting events, I would still be looking at providing some sort of cover.”
According to Lo Surdo, policies would cover productions if, for example, the lead actor was infected. Producers usually buy cover for extra expenses which would be incurred in events like a bushfire or flood.
So if a government body ordered a lockdown or quarantine on locations where a film wanted to shoot, the production could claim for the cost of delays or alternate arrangements up to a set limit which usually ranges from $250,000 – $1 million.
Unaffected by the virus, Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been shooting for more than a month at Fox Studios, employing a large Australian crew.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Simu Liu, Tony Leung and Crazy Rich Asians’ Awkwafina, the production was lured to Australia by a $24 million grant from the Federal Government’s Location Incentive Program.
Asked at Senate Estimates last week if the virus posed any risks to the screen industry, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “Our local onshore is totally fine. I think obviously everyone is doing a watch-and-see.
“We are also the certifying body for international co-productions. I don’t think you would expect to see any Chinese crew come here for a little while till this calms down, and that can knock on. So we are not obviously in the same predicament that tourism—or airlines and those people—is.”