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B.C.’s film and TV industry looks to safely return to work amid COVID-19

‘Hollywood North’ film industry working on ways to go back to work
The B.C. film and television industry is trying to come up with ways to safely go back to work. Ted Chernecki reports.

British Columbia’s film and television industry is hoping to re-open for business soon and lure productions from south of the border.

The industry, which employs more than 70,000 people, is looking at making changes in order to comply with restrictions the province is expected to unveil on Wednesday.

How the film industry can get back to work in British Columbia
How the film industry can get back to work in British Columbia

“The studios will work together to keep hygiene in mind, safety, and at the end of the day delivering some great content,” Creative BC CEO Prem Gill said.

“We are the creative industry so when it comes to scripts and storytelling I’m certain that whatever the parameters are, we are going to see some creative storytelling that is contemporary and of our time.”

Premier John Horgan has said the provincial government hopes to encourage production companies to shift to B.C. considering the province is ahead of the curve with regards to the novel coronavirus pandemic compared to places like California.

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READ MORE: Number of new COVID-19 cases should hit zero by mid-June if we remain at home: B.C. officials

The industry is also focusing on getting already scheduled productions back to work in the province.

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“We have a film and television industry that can, I believe, come back more quickly than in other places because of the good work of British Columbians and and keeping our curve from growing,” Horgan said last week.

“These are the types of things that investors look at when they’re looking at now freeing up their dollars, when we look at recovery and stimulus into the late summer and early fall. That’s where we’re focusing our efforts.”

READ MORE: Manitoba film productions shuttered amid COVID-19 pandemic, but industry group points to future

One of the biggest challenges for the industry will be the current restrictions at the border.

Most workers arriving to B.C. from the United States or other countries are required to have a 14-day self-isolation plan in place after crossing the border.

“There is a lot of talent that goes across the border in the sector,” Gill said. “So, I know our different levels of government are looking at this. It would really be looking at how we make the guidelines work. This is all about adaptability.”

One of the options the industry is looking at is providing boxed catering for crews to replace the standard buffet. The industry is also looking at hygiene areas, hand sanitizer stations and handwashing stations.

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Forty-two productions were halted in mid-March. Concerns are being raised a closure into June could cost the B.C. economy $2.5 billion.

“We’re really going to have to take our direction from Worksafe BC,” Thunderbird Entertainment President Mark Miller said. “We’re going to have to work with the unions. We’re going to have do it in a way that’s safe and that people feel comfortable with.”

— With files from Ted Chernecki