COVID-19 in B.C.: Film and TV series to resume production, including arrival of U.S. workers

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      With everything from Riverdale and Arrowverse superhero TV series to big-budget blockbusters like Deadpool and Jurassic World 3 shot in B.C., the province has long been one of North America’s hot spots for screen productions, which infuses billions of dollars into the economy each year.

      However, all that came to a grinding halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

      Although B.C.’s screen industries were never ordered to shut down, almost all productions ceased activity in March, with only a few completing work before wrapping.   

      Now that the province is about a month into the second phase of its reopening plan, screen industries will soon get back on set, with new health measures in place.

      On June 5, WorkSafeBC published its new health and safety protocols for screen projects returning to production.

      All industry employers must have a COVID-19 safety plan that meets WorkSafeBC and provincial health officer requirements in order to restart activity while minimizing any risk of transmission of the coronavirus. These plans do not have to be approved by the government or WorkSafeBC but must be posted at worksites.

      WorkSafeBC inspectors will ask employers about their plans during inspections.

      Although the provincial health officer’s order about gatherings having a maximum of 50 people does not apply to workers at a workplace or site for occupational activity, limiting the number of people at a location is being encouraged to ensure physical distancing.

      Among the health precautions are measures such as:

      • casting remotely when possible and casting members of the same household when possible if physical distancing is not feasible;
      • considering spaces, including outdoors, for physical distancing when scouting locations;
      • staggering work schedules and limiting or restricting visitors;
      • creating movement direction patterns in high traffic areas;
      • providing separate makeup application tools and supplies for each performer, or using disposable supplies; cleaning and disinfecting all tools after usage;
      • asking background performers to do their own hair and makeup, and wear their own clothing, if possible;
      • using greater distance between performers and the camera where possible;
      • considering alternate ways to shoot intimate or fight scenes, and performers have the right to refuse close contact with other performers, including kissing, hugging, or stunts;
      • filming scenes involving yelling, singing, or playing wind instruments outdoors when possible;
      • limiting crowd scenes and shooting them outdoors if possible.

      As one of B.C.’s largest sources of screen productions are from the U.S., many of these productions will require cross-border travel by workers, including actors and directors.

      Although B.C. has not seen any significant increases of cases since the province's reopening plan began on May 19, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix drew attention to large spikes observed in several U.S. states in proximity to B.C., including California, at the daily B.C. COVID-19 update on June 8.

      Federal government regulations, as of June 5, will permit travel to those who do not have COVID-19 symptoms, if all other immigration criteria is satisfied, and who have valid work permits.

      However, all travellers arriving in Canada must quarantine for 14 days upon entrance and are required to submit a self-isolation plan, according to both federal and provincial orders.

      B.C. Motion Picture Industry COVID-19 Best Practices Coalition will be providing safety guidelines for all screen productions later this month.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.