Canada’s multi-billion-dollar television and film industry is well on its way to recovery despite coronavirus challenges.
Productions in British Columbia, where the largest number of television and film shoots in Canada take place, have been picking up since June.
Before the pandemic hit, the City of Surrey in British Columbia was on its way to setting a record this year for the number of film permits issued.
The pandemic has put a brake on this momentum, but the situation seems to be improving rapidly. Today, Surrey reportedly has between 40 and 50 productions underway.
U.S. TV and film productions are coming back to Canada. The high risks that coronavirus poses to film professionals in the U.S. and the lack of testing for coronavirus has even led studios to choose to relocate their shoots to Canada. Hypnotic— an upcoming film starring Ben Affleck— will now be shot in Vancouver instead of California.
Elsewhere in Canada, positive trends have also emerged.
The province of Manitoba allowed TV and film productions to resume in the first week of June, followed by Quebec a week later. Similarly, in Ontario, all regions, including Toronto, were given permission to resume production around mid-June.
CBC News reported last week that Netflix has now resumed shooting one of their series in Toronto and that the movie Nightmare Alley, starring Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper, will resume shooting in the megacity starting this week. According to CBC News, the City of Toronto has already issued nearly 400 film permits.
In Canada, federal and provincial governments have decided to step in to help revive film production activities.
On September 25, Canada announced that it was setting up a temporary fund called “The Short-Term Compensation Fund.” This fund will make up to $50 million available to the audiovisual production sector in Canada. This temporary measure “will fill the void left by the lack of insurance coverage for filming and production interruptions due to COVID-19,” according to a news release from Canadian Heritage.
Quebec recently unveiled a $400 million stimulus package for the arts and culture sector. The province had also previously announced a $51 million program to help Canadian TV and film companies who are unable to resume filming due to a lack of insurance coverage for COVID-19.
July and August are known as the busiest months for filming in Canada, but this peak period has been delayed by a few months and many industry professionals now expect it to continue into the fall and winter.
Ontario and Quebec production industries were on track to have a record-breaking year this past year, with more than $2 billion in direct spending each before the pandemic. A large proportion of the activity in the Canadian film industry is directly attributable to work on foreign productions.
How the Canadian film industry is responding to COVID-19
Production companies have been working with guilds and unions, medical professionals, and provincial governments to set things up so crews and casts could be kept safe during filming.
Most film and television projects can now proceed with filming using appropriate precautionary measures and protocols. The precautionary measures are strict and include scaling down the number of people on set, shooting outdoors whenever possible, and spreading out the crews working on the set.
Borders have been closed since the end of March in Canada. Actors and film and television professionals can enter Canada from abroad but are required to isolate themselves for two weeks before making contact with others.
Foreign television and film personnel coming to work on a production in Canada, including film and television shoots or advertising campaigns, may qualify for the following facilitated work permit options:
- Film and television crew members, actors and other workers may be able to benefit from the Significant Benefit Work Permit. This permit does not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment because film crews working in Canada bring a significant cultural and economic benefit to the country.
- Producers, on the other hand, may qualify to apply as business investors.