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

Film and television industry struggles with surge in demand for high-end shows fuelled by lockdown binge viewing


Britain’s high-end film and television producers are facing a shortage of cameras and other key equipment as the industry struggles to keep up with unprecedented demand for new shows caused by lockdown-induced drama binges.

The public’s seemingly insatiable desire for new content to watch – and a backlog of filming that was delayed because of the pandemic – has led to a chronic lack of trained crew members and the kit they require, with global giants such as Amazon and Netflix able to outbid independent rivals.

“There’s a massive shortage of equipment,” said Guy Heeley, the producer of Stephen Daldry’s forthcoming BBC film Together. “At one point we were looking to bring in our electrical package from eastern Europe because there was not a single lamp or generator in London or anywhere near London.”

The UK’s already booming film and television industry was boosted last year by a government-backed insurance scheme to guarantee against the financial impact of production being shut down by a Covid-19 outbreak – as happened last week on the set of the forthcoming Mission: Impossible film, which is being shot around the country.

This guarantee has turned Britain into a relative haven for companies wanting 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 production that was supposed to happen that’s now finally happening, you’ve got demand skyrocketing, and the UK is a fantastic place to make content,” said Kaye Elliott, the director of high-end television at ScreenSkills, the industry training organisation.

The British film industry relies heavily on freelance employees, who were hit hard when Covid shut down all productions last March. Many people in the industry saw their income collapse as they found they were unable to access government furlough schemes or self-employed support schemes.

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