Production on John Michael McDonagh’s high-profile new feature The Forgiven in Morocco has been abruptly shut down as of today (March 16).
Following severe disruption to air travel in Morocco because of the coronavirus pandemic, the producers have had to charter planes at short notice to fly the cast and crew home. Jessica Chastain flew out last night, with co-star Ralph Fiennes and McDonagh flying out today.
As recently as yesterday, it had been thought the film, due to wrap at the end of the week, would successfully finish its shoot. However, with most regular flights cancelled, the producers have taken drastic measures to get their team out of Morocco.
The closure of the production was confirmed to Screen by Phil Hunt, the managing director of financier/producer Head Gear Films. “We will have to reset when the travel ban is lifted,” Hunt told Screen. “It looks like our insurance is covered for us to go back and reshoot.”
The news comes as Head Gear continues to fight to keep some of its other projects going. Hunt acknowledged Head Gear has had to halt some of its new productions because “we’ve got big insurance issues. They [the insurers] are not going to insure for the virus. No financier is going to go into production and have the risk of it shutting down.”
But Hunt confirmed that SpectreVision, the Elijah Wood-led production company behind A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is moving forward on a new feature on which Head Gear is partnering, with shooting altered to adapt to social distancing standards. Hunt wouldn’t disclose the title.
At least two films supported by Head Gear are expected to go into production in spite of the global pandemic. Hunt describes both as “small budgets, contained, one in LA for two weeks and the other in Palm Springs for two weeks. So the message is: keep everything small or micro budget, contained, within easy reach of all cast and crew’s homes.”
Cash flow impact
As far as the UK is concerned, Hunt voiced concern that small film companies in every sector of the industry will now face intense cash flow problems, and joined those calling for public support for the industry.
“It is going to be devastating out there because people need a monthly cheque. In this business, cash flow is terrible anyway. I think there are going to be come companies that go under,” he claimed.
“It would be devastating to see some of those [companies] go under. If the public purse, the BFI and Screen Ireland and others, step in somehow to keep some companies buoyant, I think in the long run that is going to be good for UK plc.”
Another prominent UK producer, Ben Pugh of 42 – whose recent titles include Military Wives – has confirmed to Screen that the company is postponing one of its independent productions and putting another on full hiatus.
“We were nine weeks out and about to embark on full pre-production. As the situation has developed, we have circled up with our partners, crew and cast and explained that given the shifting situation it is not sensible to go into full pre-production on a new project,” Pugh said, declining to mention the titles.
“First and foremost we’re thinking about our cast, crew and production team, their health and safety and alongside that responsible financial planning to complete the movie when it does move forward. We do not want to begin a new production until the picture is clear.”
42 has projects in post-production on which it faces similar problems, but on a smaller scale.
“You have to make sure that you’re working in a safe and appropriate manner. Remote working plans are being put together on all the projects we have in post production,” Pugh said of the efforts the company is making to put contingency plans in place while abiding by government regulations.
42’s current slate includes Dominic Cooke’s Ironbark, which premiered in Sundance, and TV mini-series The English Game.