Insurers have largely stopped covering independent film and television productions against the risk of COVID-19 illness, a shift that threatens the supply of new entertainment in 2021, Hollywood producers, insurers and industry experts said.
Thousands of shoots around the world shut down abruptly in March as the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread and governments imposed lockdowns.
Now as filmmakers try to get back to work they are finding insurers have largely stopped providing the COVID-19 coverage they need to secure financing.
Some insurers are even adding exclusions for COVID-19 or communicable diseases to existing policies when cast members get medical exams, insurance lawyer Kirk Pasich told Reuters.
Without coverage, many producers cannot get the completion bond, or guarantee, that banks require to lend to productions.
Until crews can work safely again and insurance covers COVID-related costs, “there will be less content of the calibre that we’re used to,” independent film producer Robert Salerno told Reuters.
Insurers, already reeling from other pandemic claims, say they cannot offer the coverage because it is unclear how the pandemic will play out.
Although some countries have controlled or eliminated the virus, cases have resurged elsewhere, including the United States.
“It is not a risk you can even price,” a senior insurance executive, who was not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters.
Only a handful of insurers offer film and TV policies worldwide. Chubb Ltd and Allianz SE, two major insurers no longer providing such coverage, declined to comment.
Media Guarantors Insurance Solutions, which provides bonding, has seen business fall 80 per cent during the pandemic, said Chief Executive Fred Milstein.
Producers are watching the new rise in United States COVID-19 cases closely as they consider rescheduling.
“Everybody’s taking a beat to see if the rates go down again,” he said.
While big studios can self-insure, independent producers, who turn out 70 per cent of new films and numerous TV shows in the United States each year, are looking for alternatives, said Jean Prewitt, chief executive of the Independent Film & Television Alliance.
Budgets are up 10 per cent to 30 per cent as producers add safety measures on set and rewrite scripts to reduce infection risk, Prewitt said.
Nicolas Chartier, producer of the Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker, is feeling the effects.
His Voltage Pictures production company planned to film sequels to the romantic drama “After” in September.
Both are on hold because insurance is unavailable, he told Reuters.
“You cannot get a completion bond because right now insurance doesn’t cover COVID,” he said. “Everybody is worried about the movie being abandoned.”
Projects costing $1 million or less can be financed with cash, but still face health risks, especially for plots with romance or fight scenes.
“So you need to shoot two people in a room, two people talking outside on a bench,” Chartier said. “Not exactly the most exciting movie.”
Independent producers are also looking for private investors to provide insurance, or moving to countries that have government backing for pandemic risk, said Brian O’Shea, chief executive of The Exchange, a movie sales, financing and production company.
He hopes the United States will provide similar support.
O’Shea sold two movies – one starring Bruce Willis and the other Olivia Munn – last month at “virtual Cannes,” an online version of the famous Côte d’Azur film festival.
With $10 million in financial commitments for each film, he wants to shoot this year, and says government backing would help.
“Now I need to find a bond company and insurance or an equity investor that will guarantee the delivery of the picture given the risks caused by COVID,” he said.
“We’re trying to figure it out.”
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)
Nadal to skip United States Open due to COVID-19 concerns, as organisers announce entries
World number two Rafa Nadal confirmed on Tuesday that he would not defend his United States Open crown this year at Flushing Meadows.
His announcement came as organisers released the singles entry list for the Grand Slam.
“After many thoughts I have decided not to play (at) this year’s United States Open,” Nadal said on Twitter.
”The situation is very complicated worldwide, and the COVID-19 cases are increasing. It looks like we still don’t have control of it.
“We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play.
”I understand and thank (everyone) for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year.
“This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.”
The United States has the highest tally in the world with more than 4.7 million confirmed novel coronavirus cases and nearly 156,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
World number one Novak Djokovic, a three-times champion in New York, headlines the men’s list along with last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev.
There are other top 10 players, including Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
Swiss Roger Federer, a five-times United States Open champion, will also be absent after the 38-year-old was forced to undergo knee surgery in June which prematurely ended his 2020 season.
Nine of the top 10 women’s players, including 23-times Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and holder Bianca Andreescu, are on the entry list along with 2018 champion Naomi Osaka.
As many as 13 Grand Slam champions are in the women’s draw.
These include Romania’s Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion and 2018 French Open winner, and this year’s Australian Open champion American Sofia Kenin.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said eight additional wildcard entries would be selected in both the men’s and women’s fields.
Organisers said the seedings would be announced closer to the start of the tournament which is scheduled for Aug. 31.
A number of players are also set to take part in the Aug. 20 to Aug. 28 Western & Southern Open in New York, which serves as a warm-up event for the United States Open.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)
Food sufficiency: Osun commissioner inaugurates ‘Wave City’ project
Osun Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Adewole Adedayo, on Tuesday inaugurated an agricultural project, ‘Wave City,’ sited by FarmKonnect Agribusiness Nigeria Ltd at Wasimi to promote food sufficiency.
Speaking at the inauguration, Adedayo, who described the project as the first of its kind in the state and the South-West region, said it was aimed at promoting food sufficiency, national development and agricultural inclusion.
According to him, every responsible government must create an enabling environment for farmers.
“Today, I believe FarmKonnect is now realising a dream that started in 2017. Today, having FarmKonnect in Osun State is another dream.
“Today, having these facilities on ground to develop agriculture in the south-west is a dream realised. So FarmKonnect has realised a dream.
“Like I keep saying, agriculture has the highest potentials to create jobs, both for skilled and unskilled labour. So, I will like to thank FarmKonnect for bringing this project to Osun State,” he said.
According to the commissioner, agriculture is top on the agenda of the state government.
The commissioner, who highlighted the various initiatives of the government to support agricultural development, pledged the administration’s readiness to welcome investors like FarmKonnect to the state.
“We are looking for investors like this, people who will empower our youths and also create jobs for farmers,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that FarmKonnect was founded by Lt.-Col. Oluwole Azeez who voluntarily resigned from the Nigerian Army to invest in agriculture real estate business.
Azeez said that his organisation’s mission was to take agriculture beyond just planting crops and making money to a business which promotes food sufficiency, national development and agricultural inclusion.
“In FarmKonnect, we run a model we call agricultural real estate and we are the first to do that. This allows multiple people to own a portion of the farm and they don’t necessarily have to step on the farm.
“All they just need to do is engage their money and we take all the performances around. The greenhouses you are seeing here are specifically designed for the tropics.
“The vision is to build one million square metres of greenhouses, a controlled farming environment technology using greenhouses and net houses to produce fruits and leafy vegetables from tomatoes to pepper.
“This is the first of its kind in Nigeria. This is specifically designed for minimal electricity as well as to expand our yield,” he said.
Azeez said he was grateful to the Osun government for its tremendous support to the project and assured it of greater benefits in terms of food sufficiency and job creation.
Also speaking, Dr Bosade Ogunlana, the Founder of Entrepreneurship Initiative, commended FarmKonnect for the project, saying it would help in empowering the youths.
According to her, Africa has more youths to engage in land cultivation in order to boost food sufficiency and security.
“Africa is the biggest gun of the world because over 60 per cent of arable land in the entire world resides in Africa. I know with something like this happening here today, there is hope for Nigeria.
“It can help us to engage the youths. It can help us to ensure there is no scarcity of food,” she said.
Ogunlana thanked the Osun government for its support to FarmKonnect, urging it to ensure adequate security for the project.
The event was also attended by Mr Yemi Lawal, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Osun, as well as representatives of the various partners of FarmKonnect.
Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)
Resumption: Unity schools’ Principals in Lagos assure parents, guardians of students’ safety
The Principals of King’s College, Lagos, Mr Andrew Agada, and Queen’s College, Lagos, Dr Tokunbo Yakubu-Oyinloye, have assured parents and guardians of safety of their children and wards as they resumed.
Agada and Yakubu-Oyinloye gave the assurance in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, on the resumption of schools by the exiting students of the 104 Unity Colleges across the country.
NAN also reports that the schools had been shut following the directive from the Federal Ministry of Education since March, as a result of the ravaging pandemic.
The Federal Government after due consultations with other key stakeholders, agreed to reopen the schools only for the existing classes of the Senior Secondary School 3 and the Junior Secondary School 3.
Agada said: “First and foremost, I want to thank God for sparing our lives, the children, our parents and all other stakeholders. We have also been looking forward to receiving them.
”I also want to seize this opportunity to thank the Federal Ministry of Education for the assistance rendered so far in order to make this resumption possible.
”Yesterday, the entire college was decontaminated, ranging from the classrooms, hostels the laboratories, everywhere, by the Federal Ministry of the Environment.
”We want to assure our parents that there is no need to panic, as our lives are in God’s hands but we will do our best and God will continue to protect us.”
According to him, the college has set up a committee called the “COVID-19 Guidelines Enforcement Committee”.
He said that the committee was made up of dedicated teachers that would be going round during the classes, the dinning halls and hostels to ensure that the students maintain the safety protocols.
Agada added that already, messages had also been sent to the parents and guardians to also advice their children and wards against any form of gatherings or contact activities such as playing of football or games that would bring them together.
“They have come, let them concentrate on their examination as there is barely no time left, and so, we have put a committee in place whose responsibility is also to monitor the students.
”By tomorrow, full lecture will commence. We are fully prepared. The timetable is out and the teachers are very ready more than ever before to hit the ground running,” he said.
On the part of the management, the principal said that they have also put certain things in place.
“First, since it is only the SS3 students that are coming back, we have prepared hostels and spread them to all the hostels that hitherto, accommodated SS1, 2, 3 in the college.
”So, currently, we are not having more than 12 students in a room.
“Secondly, on the issue of classrooms, we have 30 of it at our main campus here, for the senior school.
“The SS3 students are coming in soon and these ones will be occupying 19 classrooms at the JSS section of the college, as against the 10 they used to occupy before now.
”All these are means of ensuring strict adherence to social distancing and also we have sanitisers, even customised ones, that is the pedal one.
“And graciously, where we procured some of these equipment from, the company is also coming in to assist us by giving us automated dispensers, like you see at the airports and other places,” Agada said.
He added that the college would also be mounting about 15 of such at the main campus and another 15 at the annex for the Junior Secondary School.
”We have also worked on our water, as we recently dug another borehole to expand our water reticulation system.
“The hostels too, we have worked on the hostels, the bunks, the broken down ones have been repaired, the classroom desks, we have also refurbished them.
”So, as the students are coming, we are sure that there is enough desks, bunks, space and water and all other necessary facilities that would ensure their safety and comfort.
“They have come, let them concentrate on their examination as there is barely no time left and so we have put a committee in place whose responsibility is also to monitor the students.
“Again, another measure we adopted to reduce the crowd is to allow the borders in two houses, to be checked in first. We have four houses. By tomorrow borders in the other two remaining houses will be checked in,” he said.
The principal added that for now, only the borders were being checked in.
He said parents of some day students were also applying to be accommodated as boarding students.
The principal cited difficulty of accessing the roads to the college, following the closure of the 3rd Mainland bridge as a huge challenge.
”We have considered them, because we have the space.
”Our advice, therefore, to our parents is to remain hopeful and assuring that God who has kept us all these while, is still fully in control, and we must look unto Him and have faith in Him.
Also, at the Queen’s College, Lagos, its Principal, Dr Tokumbo Yakubu-Oyinloye, took NAN Correspondent round the college premises.
Yakubu-Oyinloye said: “We have put all the guidelines and protocols in place to ensure that our students are safe when they resume and all through the period of their stay here.
“You can see the sitting arrangements in our classes. We do not have more than 20 students per class with their seats placed two metres apart from each other.
“Names of students per class have been pasted by the entrance of each of the respective classes.
”We have also fixed automated hand sanitisers in all the classes, including the foot pedal sanitiser at the gate.”
According to her, instead of using the 12 classes that were designated before now for SS3 students, 34 more classrooms, including those for the SS1 and SS2 have now been converted for tluse of SS3 students to ensure social distancing.
Yakubu-Oyinloye added that the same measures also applied to the hostels.
The principal said that the school management, in collaboration with the PTA had fumigated the hostels and all other sections of the college.
She said that already, the Federal Ministry of Education, also in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, had decontaminated and disinfected the entire college.
”We have also serviced our water treatment plant as well as wash our tanks. In addition to keeping social distancing, we will also be staggering our break periods as well as our meal time.
”We have also designated a building as an isolation centre in the college, should there be any case of high temperature, before contacting the appropriate authorities.
“On the part of the teachers, they have been fully sensitised and equipped.
“In fact, teachers who will have no business on campus are not allowed to come around. They can do their jobs at home.
“In the same vein, all returning SS3 students must also come with at least five masks and must wear their masks before they can be checked in.
“They must also ensure that they come with their personal effects including cutleries as sharing is not allowed,” Yakubu-Oyinloye said.
The principal commended a set of the Old Girls of the college for donating 68 white boards for each of the classrooms in the college, adding that already another set of the old girls are set to donate four interactive boards to facilitate teaching and learning.
She pleaded with parents to impress it on their children and wards to ensure that they always adhere strictly to the safety guidelines.
Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
New York’s health commissioner resigns over COVID-19 handling
New York’s Commissioner for Health, Dr Oxiris Barbot, has resigned over alleged under-utilisation of the department’s “incomparable disease control expertise.”
“I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been.
“Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work.
“The city would be well served by having them at the strategic centre of the response not in the background,” Barbot said in her letter of resignation.
This confirms speculation of disagreement between the Department of Health and the city administration over alleged handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This triggered complaints from officials of the department who felt the mayor made a wrong call by relieving them of their traditional responsibility.
Barbot’s replacement was immediately named as Dr Dave Chokshi, who was the Principal Health Adviser to former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Reports say New York’s Coronavirus contract tracing programme has come under criticism in recent weeks over complaints by contact tracers about lack of coordination and poor working conditions.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)