COVID-19 SPECIAL

$40k Covid-19 fund to help hard-hit film, TV freelancers

Those working in the local film and TV industry have been hit by the various measures to stem the spread of Covid-19, with a poll by the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals finding that over 60 per cent of the industry's freelancers
Those working in the local film and TV industry have been hit by the various measures to stem the spread of Covid-19, with a poll by the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals finding that over 60 per cent of the industry's freelancers worked five days at most last month.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MELVIN WONG

Film and TV media freelancers are hit hard by the various measures to stem the spread of Covid-19, said an association representing them.

An ongoing survey by the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals (SAMPP) found that, as of Wednesday, more than 60 per cent of these freelancers worked five days at most last month.

Also, 60 per cent of the 360 or so respondents are still owed fees for work done before March.

SAMPP said many of them will be unable to work during the four-week circuit breaker period that began on Tuesday and ends on May 4.

SAMPP president Jasmine Ng, who is herself a freelance executive producer and director, said: "In February, many of the television commercial and corporate video shoots were already getting cancelled. But at least there was still IMDA-supported public service broadcast work like previously commissioned dramas.

"Then in March, there were restrictions on the number of people who could gather, and people had to scramble to reconfigure work as most dramas have more than 10 people when cast and crew are included.

"Now in April, no one is permitted to work, apart from government-commissioned critical content work, and the few lucky enough to have projects planned for April have now had to scrap those shoots too."

The survey also shows more than 70 per cent of respondents had no work lined up for this month.

About one-quarter of the respondents said they are seeking alternatives that can be done from home, such as pre-and post-production work.

More than 70 per cent also said they had no work lined up for next month, when the restriction on non-essential services is expected to be lifted.

The association said that while the restriction on non-essential services during the circuit breaker period is necessary for public health and safety, the impact on media practitioners will be the most severe yet.

To soften the blow, the association is launching today a Covid-19 relief fund of $40,000. Half of it will be contributed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and the rest by the association.

The fund will offer grants of between $300 and $500 to its hardest-hit members who have lost their jobs and income as a result of the pandemic.

Applicants have to be members, and SAMPP has waived its membership fees for the current year in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

An external panel will decide who will get the grants based on individual needs.

Mr Howie Lau, chief of industry development at IMDA, applauded the initiative, saying: "We are heartened by the camaraderie of our media sector and the display of the bond among our practitioners."

He added: "While we continue to recognise the ongoing challenges our media industry is experiencing during this challenging period, we will work hard to listen for feedback while refining our schemes to support both companies and individuals.

"We will continue to enhance our support through various prongs in providing job continuity - we can overcome this together if we stay united."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2020, with the headline '$40k Covid-19 fund to help hard-hit film, TV freelancers'. Print Edition | Subscribe