Paul Fletcher and Scott Morrison.

Financial support from the Federal Government for the hundreds of thousands of screen industry practitioners who lost their jobs during the pandemic could be imminent.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has confirmed the government is looking to assist the arts and entertainment and screen sectors “which might need longer term support.”

Fletcher also reiterated that the government is consulting with Screen Australia and the film and TV industry on the major stumbling block facing new productions: mitigating the COVID-19 insurance risk.

“The government is very focused on stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and getting people back at work safely,” a spokesperson for the Minister tells IF.

“As the Prime Minister has said, work is being done beyond the broad strokes of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, with the government looking closely at a range of sectors – including the arts and entertainment and screen sectors – which might need longer term support.

“Minister Fletcher has been in regular dialogue with the arts, entertainment and screen sectors, to build the government’s understanding of the specific hurdles these sectors may face and pathways for restarting these businesses. The Prime Minister is taking a close interest as he has indicated publicly.

“Many practical suggestions have been made to the government by sector leaders during these discussions, and this is helpful as we work on these things.”

Fletcher acknowledges many businesses and organisations in the arts and entertainment sectors have drawn down on their capital reserves, with no performances and no revenue.

That shortage of capital will make it hard to put on a new production, festival or exhibition, he said, while noting the re-opening the industry will mean jobs for crew, people in ticketing, front-of-house, security, marketing and promotion as well as for artists.

As IF reported, CJZ MD Nick Murray and See-Saw Films’ Emile Sherman made a detailed submission urging the Federal Government to underwrite the risk of productions having to shut down or replace the director or key cast due to the pandemic.

Following the release of COVID-Safe Guidelines last week, Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner warned: “Without some form of assistance, production activity will stall, despite the best efforts and innovation of production businesses.”

Today Fletcher welcomed the agreement on the guidelines and the plans to restart production, observing: “The film and television industry is engaging constructively with the government and Screen Australia about pathways for productions to get back up and running.

“The government is aware that there are a number of barriers to productions restarting, with insurance potentially being one of them, and is continuing to consult on these issues.”

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