British Columbia

Hollywood North shows no sign of stopping as pandemic drags on

The B.C. film industry continues to stay busy, despite increased COVID-19 restrictions.

Amid surging cases in the U.S., many American film productions moved north

Film crew stages on a Gastown street during the production of The Mysterious Benedict Society in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

After a busy production season because of COVID-19, an industry insider says Hollywood North is likely going to continue booming. 

Phil Klapwyk, the business representative of IATSE, Local 891 —  the labour union that represents the technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, says the industry has done well despite COVID-19 restrictions.

"I think we're going to be booming," said Klapwyk. "Productions are still up and I hope that trend continues on."

Earlier in the pandemic, surging coronavirus rates shut down production in California. It led to a massive influx of American productions into both British Columbia and Ontario.

In B.C., after a dip in March 2020 following the first shutdown, productions came back with a roar in September 2020. There were between 40 and 50 productions that were either in pre-production or are about to go into production in the province.

A film crew works on a production in downtown Toronto on Sept. 28, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Productions followed new WorkSafeBC guidelines, a 14-day quarantine for incoming cast and crew and relied on thousands of daily coronavirus tests to screen film industry workers for the virus and keep productions rolling. 

Klapwyk said the 14-day quarantine rule did not have the impact many feared it would. 

"We were trembling for a little bit," he said. "We thought that would have a huge impact on production, but it really hasn't materialized to be as big a concern as we thought it might.

"The larger productions that choose Vancouver as their production bases seem to be able to work it into their schedule so that the cast and crew aren't flying in and out as much as they would."

Even commercials which are frequently shot in the Lower Mainland were able to find a way to work around the constraints, Klapwyk said. 

"They came out with some creative solutions which actually gave opportunities for Canadians to step up and to practise their craft, with people working remotely and key creatives being isolated and having people articulate their vision on set," he said. 

Nevertheless, Klapwyk says he's looking forward to the end of  pandemic regulations and an opening up of film production. 

"We've been suffering just like everyone else through excessive protocols and attempting to wear masks while doing all the hot, sweaty work that we do and try to keep up with all the demands," he said. 

"Opening up would sure be nice."

Listen to the segment on CBC's On The Coast:

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced earlier in the month that the state could fully open up again as early as June 15th. That even conventions and other large-scale indoor events could be permitted. And it could see many film, TV and commercial productions back in play. What impact could that have on the industry here in Hollywood North. Hear Phil Klapwyk, the business representative of IATSE, Local 891. 6:27

With files from On The Coast


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