March 17, 2020

COVID-19: What to Do When Your Production Is Cancelled

The Wrapbook Team
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From franchises like Mission Impossible to indie photoshoots, productions across the entertainment industry have shut down due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

As isolation policies continue to be rolled out, producers are trying to calculate how cancellations and postponements will affect their production company, crew, and bottom line.

While the situation continues to develop, there are a few measures that production companies and artists can take to brace for the economic impact.

For Production Companies

When things go wrong on a film set, producers often turn to their production insurance policy. Usually covering things like equipment damage, crew injury, and stolen IP, an insurance policy can greatly reduce risk, depending on what you negotiate with your broker.

But how many policies include coverage for global pandemics?

While every insurance policy is different, there are a few clauses to be aware of, which you can talk about with your film insurance broker.

General Liability

A staple of most DICE policies, General Liability covers bodily injury and property damage to third parties during filming. Even if you purchase short term production insurance, there’s a high chance it was included in your policy–it’s mandatory if you’re working with SAG actors.

However, when it comes to the spread of disease, not all General Liability policies offer coverage. Some DICE policies have a Communicable Disease Exclusion, which means any damages stemming from crew spreading disease on your set are excluded.

When it comes to coronavirus shutdowns, carefully review the terms of your insurance policy.

Inland Marine

A typical Inland Marine insurance policy covers your production’s specialized equipment and cargo. However, in the wake of COVID-19, it could also protect you against damages if it has a Civil Authority or Imminent Peril clauses.

Civil Authority coverage protects your insured interest in the event of a civil authority barring you from engaging in production activities. As both state and federal governments continue to ban groups of 50 or more, you may be able to make a claim on your Inland insurance policy.

Please note that some Civil Authority claims may still result in a denial if an underlying peril like, Communicable Disease, is excluded.

Imminent Peril coverage protects you in case of a production shutdown due to imminent peril. And what’s a better example of imminent peril than coronavirus? If your production is eligible, most of these clauses would trigger a payment to cover start-up costs due to production shut down.

What is important to note with any Imminent Peril clause is the timeframe. While annual DICE policies are typically more lenient, most short term policies don’t always have the luxury of an expanded timeframe to utilize this coverage.

Overall, it may be in your best interest to submit a claim and receive a formal acceptance or denial of your claim — ultimately your insurance provider will make the judgment based on your own unique policy forms and conditions.

For Cast & Crew

As anyone in the entertainment industry knows: you always have to line up your next gig. With the coronavirus shutting down most major productions and film events, the job pool has drained significantly.

While some actors can find remote voice work on casting websites and some post-production artists can work from home, a large number of entertainment professionals will find themselves out of work.

However, there are some steps you should take.

Follow Your Union

If you’re a member of SAG-AFTRA or IATSE, you should have already gotten several emails about the steps your guild is taking in response.

By going to your respective site, you can find updates on the status of your pension and benefits, as well as, the best practices to follow on set, assuming that your production is unaffected.

File for State Benefits

If you can’t work due to the coronavirus, then you may be eligible for state benefits. However, the benefits and eligibility requirements vary greatly by state.

Your status may also be subject to if you work as a freelancer or employee of a production.

While not an exhaustive list, you should inquire about the following state programs during the pandemic. And, again, be sure to check the specific requirements for the state you’re in.

Disability Insurance

Disability insurance covers you if you’re unable to work due to a medical quarantine or illness related to COVID-19. You will likely need to be certified by a medical professional.

If you’re approved, you can expect to receive short term payments. In California, for instance, you can get 60 to 70% of wages for up to 52 weeks.

Paid Family Leave

Are you unable to work because you have to take care of a family member who has COVID-19?

In some states, you could get paid 60 to 70% of your wages for six weeks if you can get a medical professional to certify.

Unemployment Insurance

If you lose your job or have your hours cut down as a result of the coronavirus, then you could receive partial wage replacement.

Most programs payout anywhere from $40 to $450 a week depending on your salary. In order to file a claim, you’ll need to go to your state’s labor department website.

Luckily, we put together a comprehensive guide on how to file for unemployment in every state.

Paid Sick Leave

If you or a family member get sick, then you may qualify for paid sick leave. Paid sick leave is paid to you at your regular pay rate or an average based on the last 90 days of work.

Since so many in the entertainment industry work as freelancers, you may see more likely this benefit in the form of a tax credit.

Workers' Compensation

Workers compensation covers you when you get sick or injured as a direct result from your work. However, when it comes to coronavirus, then you are probably not eligible for workers’ compensation.

Currently, most states are not considering COVID-19 a valid claim for workers’ compensation, because exposure to the virus is likely incidental to your work on a specific shoot.

If you are able to get approved for workers’ comp, you can usually collect two-thirds of your compensation for up to 104 weeks. But this is not likely.

File for State Health Insurance

Did you miss the open enrollment deadline for health insurance? Did your previous health insurance plan fall through due to coronavirus-induced layoff?

Some states are now offering a special open enrollment period to help people who didn’t get health insurance during the regular cycle.

In California, for instance, Covered California is offering a special enrollment. Follow this link to the marketplace if you need coverage.

Keep Up to Date

Just as the coronavirus situation continues to develop, so does the government’s economic response.

At the time of this article’s publishing, three bills have already been set forth on to the House’s floor to provide relief to all the industries affected by the pandemic.

Subscribe to our newsletter below to get the latest updates on how COVID-19 will continue to affect the entertainment industry.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re dealing with world pandemics or hanging a reflector, safety should always come first.

While the immediate future may seem uncertain, we hope this article gives you some proactive steps you can take after your production has been put on hold. Be sure to check out our Covid-19 Waivers and Forms post to download everything you need to get back on set.

Last Updated 
March 17, 2020


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
The Wrapbook Team

The Wrapbook Team consists of individuals who are thrilled about building modern software tools for creators. We’re a team of compassionate and curious people dedicated to solving complex problems with sophisticated solutions. You can find us across the U.S. and Canada.

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