Hamilton

Ontario has a stay-at-home order, so why are 5 movies filming in Hamilton?

While Ontario government has asked the public to stay home and only leave when it is essential, it has also approved production crews to film five movies in Hamilton.

'A movie, it doesn't seem as essential when you have people working in health-care getting overrun'

A movie called 'Loving Christmas' got provincial approval to film in Ancaster even after the Ford government told everyone they must stay at home. (Submitted by Daniel Norwood)

While the Ontario government has asked the public to stay home and only leave when it is essential, it has also approved production crews to film movies in Hamilton, provided they follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

A team of roughly 60 people in Ancaster is filming Loving Christmas, according to the city. It adds there are four other movies being filmed in Hamilton, but the city wouldn't disclose any more information about them.

When 29-year-old Daniel Norwood saw the Ancaster crew working in front of the old town hall on Thursday morning, he says he had questions. He also says other locals are confused.

"It just seems there's not a lot of alignment on what should be happening during the pandemic," Norwood said.

"On the first day of the stay-at-home order, it kind of stood out to me this was happening right as we were getting the notification on our phone and a large group of people was gathering and filming a movie, which didn't seem essential to me," he said.

But it is essential, according to the Ford government's rules.

The province allows film crews to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Government of Ontario)

Film crews are allowed to operate per page 28 of the province's workplace safety measures

Those measures include screening for COVID-19, maintaining physical distancing, disinfecting areas, and limiting the number of people physically on set. Some sets are also doing temperature checks throughout the day, and diagnostic testing when available. 

Crews also have to monitor entrance and exit points from behind a plexiglass screen, the regulations say.

Michelle Williams, a spokesperson for the city, also said the stay-at-home order permits working where "the nature of the work requires the individual to leave their residence. So this section gets the people out of the house."

"Film and television production continues to help support overall economic recovery. In 2020, there were 113 productions that filmed in Hamilton spending a combined total of approximately $50 million," read Williams' email.

"Location rental fees provide a welcome source of additional revenue for businesses who've had to change the way they operate in the face of the pandemic."

Norwood says he understands it is a luxury to be able to work from home, but has questions about what is considered "essential."

"A movie, it doesn't seem as essential when you have people working in health-care getting overrun."

"We're asking people to sacrifice certain things and it just seems if people can work at a movie during the pandemic yet our ICU and emergency rooms are being filled, you hope nothing would ever happen with all these people outside having to need to go to the hospital and they can't because the beds are filled."

Hamilton's hospitals are close to capacity as they treat 110 COVID-19 patients. Hamilton Health Sciences previously said it is close to or at capacity and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton said it still has some space.

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