Nova Scotia

Lights, camera, action: Low COVID numbers in N.S. create boom in film industry

Nova Scotia's film industry is enjoying a rare boom this fall and those in the business give much of the credit to this province's positive COVID-19 numbers.

'We're seeing a huge uptick in interest from below the border'

Mark Kenny, a lighting technician, says the fact that Nova Scotians were able to keep COVID numbers low for the past three months has attracted production. 1:59

Nova Scotia's film industry is enjoying a rare boom this fall.

Those in the business give much of the credit to the province's low rate of COVID-19.

More than a dozen large and small productions got started mid-summer and are continuing into the fall.

"It's pretty apparent that our [COVID-19] numbers are low and that's great for us to be able to come back to work," said Mark Kenny, a lighting technician.

Kenny has been working on the series Chapelwaite, the adaptation of Stephen King's short story Jerusalem's Lot.

He said when work on the project was still suspended in June, he had doubts production would ever resume. By early August though, as the COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia remained next to nil, production began.

"We're being tested once or twice a week and, obviously, wearing masks," Kenny said. "So far, so good."

Laura MacKenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, says very few places in North America have been able to resume production. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Kenny said the bottom line is that Nova Scotians were able to keep COVID numbers in check for the past three months and that's attracting production.

"It definitely has something to do with it," said Laura MacKenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia. "I would say for the most part what we're dealing with are compounded shooting schedules."

That means a bottleneck.

Much of the shooting schedule that was supposed to begin in April and May was pushed back. Suddenly, it's all happening at the same time.

MacKenzie said few places in North America are able to resume production, but Nova Scotia has. Producers from Los Angeles are taking notice and making calls to her office.

"We're seeing a huge uptick in interest from below the border," MacKenzie said.

"There's a production boom in Canada and there has been since the digital-streamers really started coming in and shooting their content. Now we're starting to find they're more attracted to Nova Scotia just because of our low COVID numbers."

Will that sudden interest in Nova Scotia translate into more film and TV production?

"I expect it to, absolutely," MacKenzie said. "Any hands that we can get into the industry are needed."

Many working in the film industry say they are being tested for COVID-19 once or twice a week. (CBC)

Patrick Doyle, a steady-cam operator from Sydney currently working in Halifax, said much of the production is for the U.S.

"This opportunity may never come again," he said. "We are showing producers in other parts of the world and other parts of the country what we can do, how safe it is and follow the rules and abide by them. And we can build on this momentum."

Shelley Bibby, business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said there's work for anyone who wants it.

She's hoping the provincial government is paying attention.

"This is a good way for us to show how much we put into the economy, how resilient of an industry we are and how we can function under this climate," Bibby said.

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