Actress Wendy Morgan was devastated when she was forced to miss the West Coast premiere of her directorial debut, “Mercy,” last month at the Los Angeles Awareness Festival due to the America’s ban on flights from the UK.
The ban, introduced by the Donald Trump administration in March 2020, meant that passengers could not fly directly from the United Kingdom to the United States.
The British who wanted to enter the states had to spend two weeks in a third-party nation that was not subject to a ban order, such as Mexico, before flying to America, an option that was simply not viable for most the people.
Although she applied for an exemption three times and even hired a lawyer to help with the process, Morgan was unable to obtain permission to fly to the U.S. for the release of her film about a factory-raised pig. “I tried to appeal the decision and the stress of waiting and trying to arrange meetings with the uncertainty of waiting was overwhelming,” she tells Variety. “I couldn’t eat or sleep, even though I knew it was a very privileged problem.”
After nearly two years, the ban was finally lifted on November 8, allowing fully vaccinated passengers with the proper documentation (such as a visa or visa waiver) to fly directly from the UK to the US without having to board. in quarantine on arrival. – as long as they complete a PCR or antigen test up to 72 hours before boarding. Unvaccinated travelers with valid exemptions can also make the trip, but have additional requirements.
(Passengers returning to England will also be required to take a test within 48 hours of arrival; rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vary slightly).
“Mercy” director Wendy Morgan (above) and All3Media CEO Jane Turton were traveling to the U.S. from the UK at the time the ban was lifted. Argonon CEO James Burstall immediately got the green light for a show to be filmed in the United States
Morgan: Anna Lukala; Burstall: Andrew Sillett; Turton: Karl Attard
On November 9, the day after the reopening of the travel corridor, Morgan embarked on one of the first flights to the United States to attend the screening of “Mercy” in Santa Monica. She had arranged meetings with advertisers and distributors. “It’s been very, very, very valuable,” she says of her trip.
While Britain enjoys its own boom in production, the US remains a major hub for the British audiovisual industry and the travel corridor remains essential to making deals.
“We’ve always had an incredibly close bond with the United States,” James Burstall, general manager of Maked Singer UK’s production power, Argonon, tells Variety. “In fact, it’s been very painful to be divided, if you will, for such a long period of time.”
Argonon, which is made up of eight producers, has offices in both New York and Los Angeles, and a few days after the ban was lifted, one of its subsidiaries was given the green light for a program to be filmed in the U.S. (Burstall was unable to provide further details about the program or broadcaster for reasons of confidentiality.) “[Half] what we do is produced inside or outside the US, ”he explains.
The end of the ban, Burstall says, marks “an important starting point.” Although industry leaders acknowledged that virtual meetings through Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other platforms proved invaluable during the pandemic, allowing people to work remotely and even democratize the presentation process to some extent. point, the lack of face-to-face contact has been palpable.
“We have all learned that there is no substitute for this face-to-face session; this conversation is very different, ”says Jane Turton, CEO of All3Media, who flew from London to Los Angeles on November 8 for two weeks. His flight, he says, was full.
Burstall agrees. “There’s nothing like face-to-face,” he says. “It makes a difference.”
However, working remotely over the last 18 months has inevitably had a lasting effect on the sector. Burstall says that while he welcomes the lifting of the ban, he is aware of the detrimental effect air travel has on the environment. “The climate emergency is very real to us and we take it very, very seriously,” he says. “It is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprints and reduce flights, and we will never go back” to frequent transatlantic voyages.
In the future, Burstall says, he will “choose very carefully” the occasions that justify making the 11-hour flight from London to Los Angeles.
Similarly, Turton says he will make the trip less often for environmental reasons and, when necessary, will probably stay longer to maximize what can be achieved.
“The advantage of almost two years of pause when it comes to international travel is that we’ve learned how to reduce the amount of in-person contacts we need, [and] it’s certainly helpful, ”Turton says.“ But from time to time, there’s no substitute for the more informal, more spontaneous, more nuanced meeting you come face to face with.
“We can’t go back to those days when we all traveled possibly too much,” he adds. “And I think hopefully there will be a more conscious and intelligent use of international travel.”