In an unfortunate twist of fate, Dave Johns, who shot to fame as the star of Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or and BAFTA-winning social realist drama I, Daniel Blake, says he has been told to claim employment benefits due to coronavirus disrupting his work.
The actor and comedian made his film debut as the titular character in Loach’s 2016 film, playing a man who, after suffering a heart attack, can’t return to work and has to navigate the UK’s employment support allowance system.
Since then, Johns has had roles in UK box office smash Fisherman’s Friends, and soccer biography The Keeper. Upcoming he has comedy Blithe Spirit, starring with Judi Dench and Isla Fisher, which is dated for release in September, and he is set to film the Fisherman’s Friends sequel in Cornwall this summer.
“I’ve just been told to claim employment and support allowance, this is going to be a laugh when I walk into the job centre,” Johns wrote on Twitter, adding in an earlier post, “Because of coronavirus all work cancelled, life imitating art!” He didn’t disclose the specific work that has been disrupted, but film and TV shoots across the UK have been put on hiatus indefinitely as the country scrambles to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
For many in the biz, it’s a troubling time due to the freelance nature of their work. Stories have been circulating about people receiving two or three weeks’ worth of pay during the delays, but there is no timeframe in place yet for when production might resume.
The UK government has issued policies to financially support businesses in this disrupted time, but is yet to specifically address how it might help freelancers. Lobbying bodies including Bectu and Directors UK have been pressuring the government to outline how it will help, with the latter suggesting “proportional income support that would guarantee an income to them [freelance workers] that is proportional to their recent average income” as a solution.
Here’s John’s tweet: