(File photo)

B.C. film industry given go-ahead to restart productions halted due to COVID-19

The industry will likely look very different than it was before the pandemic

British Columbia’s film industry has been given the go-ahead to restart production after WorkSafeBC released new health and safety guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The guidelines will ensure social distancing during film and TV production and they cover everything from costumes and makeup to transportation and catering.

Film production companies are allowed to start working once they have a COVID-19 safety plan that meets both their protocols and the provincial health officer orders, WorkSafe said.

The WorkSafe protocols call for work such as casting and location scouting to be done remotely, if possible.

More than 30 films and television shows stopped production across B.C. when the province imposed a lockdown due to COVID-19 in March.

Pete Mitchell, the president of Vancouver Film Studios, said he views the protocols as a ”good first step.”

“What’s great about it is it’s not overly prescriptive,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s saying ‘here’s another health and safety issue you have to deal with.’ “

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The film industry was operating over capacity before the novel coronavirus forced productions to stop work, Mitchell said.

He said the industry will look very different than it was before the pandemic.

“There will be changes over time. In the short term, I don’t think you’ll see any crowd scenes in productions around the world,” he said. “The film industry is nothing if not adaptive.”

He estimates 40,000 jobs were lost due to the pandemic but said he hopes British Columbia’s reputation as a safe destination will lure business back.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the province’s total to 2,669.

The province saw no deaths from the virus for the fourth day in a row.

ALSO READ: Nine new positive COVID-19 tests in B.C., no new outbreaks

Henry said she hasn’t seen the WorkSafe guidance for the film and TV industry but noted that the issue of non-essential workers looking to travel to Canada will need to be addressed.

In B.C.’s four-phase restart plan, film and TV production were listed alongside hotels, resorts, parks and theatres as part of Phase 3 reopenings.

Henry said COVID-19 is still a major problem around the world and the virus “recognizes no borders.”

“And just yesterday was the highest single day for new cases globally since this pandemic started with more than 136,000 people being affected,” she said.

Creative B.C., a provincial organization that supports a range of creative industries, is leading a group that will release a guide in mid-June for film for production companies to follow.

It has estimated that film and TV production contributes more than $3 billion annually to the provincial economy.

The Canadian Media Producers Association, a national trade association for English-language media producers, estimated in April that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to job losses of up to 172,000 workers and a $2.5 billion loss in production volume.

Nick Wells , The Canadian Press


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