Uncertainty remains for the film industry as it reopens in British Columbia.
On June 24, Premier John Horgan announced the province can move into its next phase of reopening, which includes film production.
Four productions were scheduled at Mastermind Studios in Kamloops between March and July of this year, all of which cancelled at the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The studio closed and staff were laid off, with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars lost, company CEO Peter Cameron-Inglis said.
“This was our breakout year,” he told KTW. “We’ve been working steadily to grow the film industry, really get things going here with the buildout of the studios and everything for the last 10 years. Lots of money invested, lots of time and energy and building up the crew base here in Kamloops."
Economic reopening plans brought good news and Cameron-Inglis is working to reopen the studio and putting into place COVID-19 protocols. On June 27, he announced that a movie initially set to be shot in Alberta has relocated to Kamloops, with Mastermind helping to cast local actors in the production at its Laval Crescent studios.
Meanwhile, Thompson-Nicola Regional District film commissioner Vicci Weller was showcasing locations late last week. The Van Helsing television series crew was scheduled to arrive in the Kamloops area this weekend for about two weeks of filming. Another production will begin shooting locally in about two weeks.
“Now with the [economic reopening] stage three, we are seeing some interest with shows coming up here,” Weller said.
Weller said safety plans are required, with productions required to navigate myriad regulations and guidelines put in place by WorkSafeBC, in addition to union rules and any orders specific to a community. According to Cameron-Inglis, maintaining physical distancing for reduced crew numbers is workable, but he noted those guidelines are not practical when it comes to actors. Consider love or fight scenes. He said if actors feel uncomfortable, production will be halted, which is another hurdle for the industry amid the pandemic.
“You’ve got a situation where film has been financed and you’ve got potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent a day in production costs, and a production can grind to a halt because an actor is not comfortable with the scenario,” Cameron-Inglis said.
“It’s hard enough to get financing for film these days as it is. Now, with the additional risks for financing films that we have no way of mitigating at this point, it presents a challenge for filmmaking in the traditional genres.”
Weller also pointed out the challenge of COVID-19 testing for businesses, required by the Screen Actor’s Guild union. Hollywood North attracts productions from the United States, due to the strong U.S. dollar and proximity to California. She said a minimal amount of Americans in the industry travel across the border to work with immigration permits and a quarantine plan. She is working to find locations for that purpose.
Weller said the future of the industry is uncertain and Cameron-Inglis agreed.
Meanwhile, demand for safe entertainment options, like television and movies, is higher than ever.
“The demand for media is huge,” Weller said. “That won’t go away.”
The provincial government noted changes in the film industry may include:
• Staggering work schedules to reduce the number of workers present at one time;
• Limiting or restricting visitors to set;
• Eliminating open calls for performers and assigning arrival times;
• Offering pre-packaged or wrapped meals and snacks;
• Assigning individual hairstylists and makeup artists to one performer at a time;
• Reducing the number of cast and crew at filming areas and video village.