Multiple B.C. film and television productions paused amid COVID-19 testing crunch

Click to play video: 'COVID testing delays force pause in Hollywood North re-start'
COVID testing delays force pause in Hollywood North re-start
WATCH: COVID-19 testing delays force pause in Hollywood North re-start. – Oct 1, 2020

Work on close to a dozen film and TV productions in British Columbia has ground to a halt due to a lack of COVID-19 testing capacity in the province.

“The larger series and things like that from the U.S. studios were affected by the fact that they couldn’t get the test results back,” said Ron French, president of Unity Pictures.

According to Variety, the stalled productions include big name television titles like Riverdale, Batwoman, The Flash and Supergirl.

It’s a major hiccup for one of B.C.’s big money industries that has only begun to find its stride again, after being shut down in the spring due to the pandemic.

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B.C. based production manager Ian Burkett told Global News there are as many as 70 major productions underway in the province.

But as more of the estimated 24,000 people who work in the industry head back to work, it has provided the testing system with a test of its own.

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“When we were up and running and doing testing on a weekly basis, and more frequently for cast, we were not running into delays. In some cases we had results within 24 hours,” Burkett said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. film industry hoping to bounce back after coronavirus closure'
B.C. film industry hoping to bounce back after coronavirus closure

“But as more and more shows have started up … it is putting a strain on the testing capacity. If you can’t get test results back, in many cases the only option is to suspend production temporarily.”

The major snag has been with LifeLabs, a private company that contracts heavily to provincial health officials.

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The company has since gone on a hiring frenzy, and says it should have the backlog cleared soon.

READ MORE: ‘Hollywood North’ workers from outside Canada will be required to quarantine for 14 days once back in B.C.

“We are making additional investments to expand our testing capacity and anticipate returning to our standard turnaround times by the end of the week,” the company said in a statement.

Kendrie Upton, executive director of the Directors Guild of B.C. said Creative BC and the B.C. film commission have been in close contact with the company.

But she said the delay in filming, while unfortunate for the industry, is itself a sign that the public system is working.

“When capacity became an issue, productions went on hold … public testing takes full priority, obviously, and any industry that are doing testing with people without symptoms does so after people who are showing signs of illness,” she said.

B.C. film production resumed in July under the government’s Phase 3 guidelines.

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