A whopping 250-400 films have bitten the dust due to lack of pandemic insurance, said Jean Prewitt, president and CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, speaking Thursday at a roundtable organized by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to discuss the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, or PRIA.
Maloney introduced the bill in May in response to the economic devastation of COVID-19 across industries. Insurers, starting in March as they faced an ocean of claims, uniformly discontinued pandemic insurance on new policies.
This year has been “disastrous” for indie content producers with production and cinemas shut down around the world, Prewitt said at the virtual meet, noting costs have accrued as companies, cast and crews wait for month after month wondering when, if ever, production can start up again. “The U.S. is seeing 250 to 400 films lost this year that would have been produced and will not be,” she said.
Prewitt was joined by representatives of over a dozen companies and trade groups from retailers to small business associations to insurers and reinsurers from Chubb to Swiss Re, all stakeholders in the effort to develop some form of government-led pandemic coverage. Without that insurance, Prewitt said, independent projects can’t get bonds or bank financing. Just about any current U.S. production underway is either so tiny that risk can be self-insured or it has a policy that was written before March.
IFTA reps indies but Prewitt noted that even the major studios are in a position where it’s difficult to take on the risk of a high-budget production — to insure it against not only a government shutdown but the possibility of a star getting sick. She cited The Batman, which shut down recently when Robert Pattison tested positive for COVID-19.
“This has to be addressed for our industry to advance,” she said.
A few firms have started to offer pandemic or COVID coverage to productions but the policies are still very expensive and limited. Early on, in fact, the entertainment industry had set its hopes on a government solution but hearings on PRIA dragged, being postponed several times over the summer. The bill also lacked a Republican co-sponsor. Today’s event, especially given the broad group of stakeholders present, represents a step forward. It featured some insurers who said they were willing to work with Maloney on a public–private solution — which PRIA is — but also others that still fundamentally don’t consider pandemics an insurable risk.
Maloney said she is in close conversations with several Republicans and working hard to move the bill forward. She recalled how difficult it was after 9-11 to pass TRIA — the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act that PRIA is modeled on. It was passed, and just renewed again last year with bipartisan support.
PRIA would have the government cover 95% of pandemic-related claims with the insurance industry handling the remaining 5%.