No light, no camera: UK TV producers face equipment shortage

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UK premium film and television producers face a shortage of cameras and other key equipment as the industry struggles to meet unprecedented demand for new shows caused by the dramatic crises induced by the locking.

The seemingly insatiable public desire for new content to watch – and a backlog of filming that has been delayed due to the pandemic – has led to a chronic shortage of trained crew members and the kit they need, along with global giants such as Amazon and Netflix capable of outbidding its independent rivals.

“There is a massive shortage of equipment,” said Guy Heeley, producer of Stephen Daldry’s upcoming BBC film Together. “At one point, we were looking to bring our electric set from Eastern Europe, because there wasn’t a single lamp or generator in or near London. “

The UK’s already booming film and television industry was boosted last year by a government-backed insurance scheme to insure against the financial impact of an outbreak of production shutdown of Covid-19 – as happened last week on the set of the upcoming Mission: Impossible movie, which is being shot nationwide.

The guarantee has made Britain a relative haven for companies wishing to shoot material at a time when global streaming companies are also looking to take advantage of the UK’s generous tax credits.

“It’s a perfect storm – you’ve got a production that was supposed to happen that’s finally happening, you have soaring demand, and the UK is a fantastic place to create content,” Kaye Elliott said. , director of upscale. television at ScreenSkills, the industry training organization.

The UK film industry relies heavily on self-employed workers, who were hit hard when Covid shut down all productions last March. Many people in the industry have seen their incomes plummet as they realized they did not have access to government leave plans or self-employment support plans.

However, Heeley said the industry has already rebounded. This, combined with the continued investment in high-end drama series by wealthy streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, has left small filmmakers struggling to find staff for certain roles.

“Wages are skyrocketing. It is a labor market. If you find someone who is able to start a project tomorrow, they will be able to quote their price because they have several options.

Despite billions of pounds invested in building new film studios across the UK, finding a location for filming is also a challenge, according to Rory Aitken, founding partner of the production company 42.

“It was busier than ever before the pandemic, and now it’s twice as busy as that,” he said. “The big deal for most productions and our biggest problem is the studio space which is just at an absolute premium. “

Aitken said the films had to delay filming because they couldn’t secure the crew, studio space and equipment they needed. “It would have been unthinkable just ten years ago. “

Equipment used to shoot high-end movies and TV shows, such as expensive cameras, is typically rented by production crews, but some crews have said there have been shortages in key supplies.

Jannine van Wyk, of the film rental company ARRI, said there was an “unprecedented” demand for resources in the UK film industry as manufacturers struggled to keep up with the demand.

He said the lack of kit and studio space had prompted his company to invest in new technology during the pandemic. “One of these innovations has seen the creation of virtual studios where multiple scenes can be shot using LED screens behind, above and in front of the camera and computer game software is used to create locations around the camera. which production would have previously stolen as part of production. “

Yet while it’s easy to imagine problems caused by a shortage of teams to work on sets, voices across the industry have also raised concerns about a desperate shortage of accountants to monitor budgets. production and manage wages. The problem became so serious that Netflix was forced to set up its own accounting training program to provide behind-the-scenes staff for its UK productions.

Elliott said that making TV shows like The Crown look really succulent on screen involved ever-growing multi-million pound budgets – and that required a lot of people to keep track of spending. She implored people working in finance to quit their jobs and move on to the film industry: “All these wages and payments for places need to be sorted out. It’s exciting but also full. Come on, accountants!

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