Lights, camera, quarantine: Manitoba film industry taking cautious approach to reopening

Manitoba's film industry is preparing to reopen.
Manitoba's film industry is preparing to reopen. Getty Images

While Manitoba’s film industry has been included in the province’s upcoming second phase of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the local film development corporation’s CEO and film commissioner says local movie-makers will take a cautious approach to back-to-work.

Manitoba Film and Music’s Rachel Rusen told 680 CJOB she applauds the government for recognizing the industry’s role as an economic driver, and that a reopening of local movie and TV sets won’t take place without the proper precautions.

“We’re looking to do it safely, and although everybody’s excited to get back to work, until we feel as an industry that our health and safety protocols can implemented to guarantee safety for Manitobans and those coming in, we’re pausing to do it.”

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

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Rusen said the time away from the cameras doesn’t mean the industry has been sitting on its thumbs. Producers, she said, have been working right through the pandemic on developing content, and studios from at home and abroad have reached out about potential productions in Manitoba — once the coronavirus threat is over.

It’s an ever-changing conversation,” Rusen said.  “Right now, we are very fortunate in Manitoba that our COVID-positive cases are as low as they are, and we want to be very thoughtful about it.

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“We as an industry have been collaborating on health and safety protocols with our stakeholders, and we’ve presented that to government, to make sure that our protocols are accepted. Once that happens, whether it’s June 1 or shortly after, production will resume in the new normal.”

Curtain hasn’t dropped on Manitoba’s film industry
Curtain hasn’t dropped on Manitoba’s film industry

Rusen said people coming in to Manitoba to work on films will be subject to quarantine regulations, which creates a challenge for producers trying to bring movies in on time and on budget, but the goal is to make sure everyone involved is safe and comfortable, first and foremost.

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“At Manitoba Film and Music, we’ve been incredibly busy with requests from studios and foreign producers to break down script locations and provide packages,” she said.

“People want to come and film here. As much as we’re anxious and look forward to receiving them, it’s not something we’re looking to do without being responsible and doing it in a safe manner.”

“We have to plan for it and be able to pivot. We’re working not just with our local Manitobans, but the industry worldwide is having those exact same conversations, and Manitoba has a seat at the table.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Draft plan of Phase 2 released for Manitoba, but no date confirmed

Manitoba’s chief public health official, Dr. Brent Roussin, said last week that the province’s ‘phase two’ of reopening — which also includes increases to capacity for restaurants and bars, as well as public pools and gyms operating within limitations — is based on the province’s success in ‘flattening the curve’ thus far.

“We look at a number of key factors when making these recommendations including how the spread of the virus has been controlled, the stability of the health system’s capacity, public health capacity and the number of outbreaks in vulnerable settings,” said Roussin.

“There’s still very strict restrictions, but that was the thought there, to be a bit more broad but restrictive within those.”

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