UK film and television executives hail return of transatlantic travel but warn of environmental implications

Actress-turned-director 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 US ban on flights from UK

The ban, introduced by the Donald Trump administration in March 2020, meant passengers could not fly directly from the UK to the US

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Britons wishing to enter the United States had to spend two weeks in a third country that was not subject to a restraining order, such as Mexico, before flying to America – an option that was not just not viable for most people.

Although she requested an exemption three times and even hired a lawyer to help her with the process, Morgan was unable to get permission to travel to the United States for the premiere of her film About a Pig. factory farming. “I tried so hard to appeal the decision, and the stress of waiting and trying to organize meetings with the uncertainty of waiting was overwhelming,” she told Variety. “I couldn’t eat or sleep, although I knew it was a very privileged problem.

After nearly two years, the ban was finally lifted on November 8, allowing passengers fully vaccinated and with the proper documentation (such as a visa or visa waiver) to fly directly from the UK to the US without have to quarantine on arrival. – provided they perform a PCR or antigen test up to 72 hours before boarding. Unvaccinated travelers with valid exemptions may also travel but face additional requirements.

(Passengers returning to England will also need to submit to a test within 48 hours of arrival; rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vary slightly.)

“Mercy” Director Wendy Morgan (top) and All3Media CEO Jane Turton both traveled to the US from the UK just as the ban was lifted.  Argonon CEO James Burstall immediately got the green light for a show to be shot in the US - Credit: Morgan: Anna Lukala;  Burst: Andrew Sillett;  Turton: Karl Attard

“Mercy” director Wendy Morgan (top) and All3Media CEO Jane Turton both traveled to the United States from the United Kingdom just as the ban was lifted. Argonon CEO James Burstall immediately got the green light for a show to be shot in the US – Credit: Morgan: Anna Lukala; Burst: Andrew Sillett; Turton: Karl Attard

Morgan: Anna Lukala; Burst: Andrew Sillett; Turton: Karl Attard

On November 9, the day after the travel corridor reopened, Morgan boarded one of the first flights to the United States to attend a screening of “Mercy” in Santa Monica. She had arranged meetings with advertisers and distributors. “It was very, very, very helpful,” she says of her trip.

As Britain experiences its own production boom, the United States continues to be a major hub for the British audiovisual industry, and the travel corridor remains essential for making deals.

“We have always had an incredibly close connection with the United States”, James Burstall, CEO of the “Masked Singer UK” production plant Argonon, recount Variety. “It’s actually very painful to be torn apart, if you will, for such a long time.”

Argonon, which is made up of eight production companies, has offices in New York and Los Angeles, and days after the ban was lifted, one of its subsidiaries was given the green light for a show that is slated to be touring the United States (Burstall was unable to provide more details on the show or broadcaster for confidentiality reasons.) “[Half] of what we do is produced in the United States or outside the United States, ”he explains.

The end of the ban, says Burstall, marks “a major turning point.” While industry leaders have recognized that virtual meetings through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other platforms have proven invaluable during the pandemic, allowing people to work remotely and even democratize the pitch process to some extent. extent, the lack of face-to-face contact has been palpable.

“We have all learned that there is no substitute for this in-person session; this conversation is very different, ”said Jane Turton, CEO of All3Media, who flew from London to Los Angeles on November 8 for two weeks. Her flight, she said, was full.

Burstall agrees. “There is nothing quite like face to face,” he says. “It makes a difference.”

Yet working remotely over the past 18 months has inevitably had a lasting effect on the industry. Burstall says that while he welcomes the lifting of the ban, he is aware of the negative effects of air travel 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 possible to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce theft, and we will never go back” to frequent transatlantic travel.

Going forward, says Burstall, he will “choose very carefully” the occasions that justify making the 11-hour flight from London to Los Angeles.

Likewise, Turton says she will be making the trip less often for environmental reasons, and when a trip is needed, she will likely stay longer to maximize what can be accomplished.

“The benefit of the almost two-year hiatus in terms of international travel is that we have learned to reduce the number of in-person contacts we need, [and] it certainly helps, ”says Turton. “But from time to time, nothing replaces the most informal, the most spontaneous and the most nuanced meeting of a face to face.

“We can’t go back to the days when we all traveled maybe too much,” she adds. “And I think there will hopefully be a more conscious and intelligent use of international travel.”

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