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Vancouver production booming again thanks to B.C.'s management of pandemic: studio head

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 9:51 am PDT

FILE - Silhouette of a production in progress on a white stage. (iStock photo)
Summary

Expect to see a lot more trucks and tents around your neighborhood in a few days if you live or work in Metro Vancouver

An expert says new records are being set for TV and movie production thanks to how well B.C. has managed the pandemic

If you're hoping to spot some big name stars keep an eye out for Vancouver's Ryan Reynolds

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Despite COVID-19, new records are being set for film production in — and around — Vancouver.

That’s according to the head of a local film studio, who says more than 60 projects will be simultaneously shooting in October.

Pete Mitchell says this market has become more attractive because B.C. has managed the COVID-19 pandemic so well.

“Absolutely. The way that, as a community we’ve handled COVID, has made it even more appealing. The limits that we have on production here are physical, the number of studios, the number of people, locations that are available –that sort of thing. Otherwise, there would be even more production.”

Mitchell, who’s the President and Chief Operating Officer of Vancouver Film Studios says there’s also strong demand for content because streaming services are running out of new material.

“Everybody has watched everything they ever wanted to watch on Netflix. The companies that are making content have a backlog of projects that they want to get into the pipeline. The demand is huge and it’s not just North America. It’s world-wide. People are used to seeing new content on a regular basis and there is none. There will be a delay as well because when something goes into production in October, it’s not necessarily getting to the screen until, if they’re lucky, April. More often then not, it’s a year before something shows up on somebody’s screen.”

Mitchell adds Vancouver has suffered since many film and TV crews were ordered to stop working in mid-March, but more projects are leaving New York and LA.

“We’ve done a great job as a community. We continue to do so and people from around the world want to shoot here. Which isn’t to say that it’s slow elsewhere because the demand is so great for content that lots of other production centres are also up and running and about to go full capacity, but believe me, people want to be here. It’s a great place to live and work. So, we’ll be setting records in terms of simultaneous productions. People are going to see a lot of trucks and tents around their neighbourhood. They should know that the industry has done a really, really thorough job of making it as safe as possible.”

In May, Mitchell told NEWS 1130 he was worried Canada’s 14-day quarantine for any workers coming in from other countries would be a problem, but now he concedes that’s no longer a concern.

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“It’s just a matter of perspective because, in March, two weeks of quarantine seems like a long time and in September, it seems like nothing.”

“So, it’s a small, small minority that are coming in from anywhere and those people have been required to quarantine…. there’s so much at stake for these companies to keep the shows running that they’ve been over-engineering the solution, so there’s ongoing testing that’s been happening on a regular basis, there’s groupings of employees to keep them separate from other groups of employees like wristbands, different colours are issued, so that nobody mixes and you’ll see far more tents because that’s everybody spreading out when they’re at lunch or just sitting waiting to go to the next shot. A tremendous number of protocols have been put in place and I think it’s well above and beyond the WorkSafeBC standard, but that’s because the risks to shutting down production are so high that nobody wants to go through it.”

Mitchell says work started ramping up again in August.

“A lot of shows started prepping and figuring out how it is that we’re going to get back into production in a safe way. That’s been an extended pre-production period, but what’s happening now is it’s all converged and there are tons of shows about to go back into production around the world, but particularly in the Vancouver area.”

He admits the boom happening now is not enough to make up for all the work lost since March.

“I don’t think we can catch up completely, but we’re giving it the best shot we can. You’ll see the numbers overall for the year down substantially. There’s essentially a six-month hiatus and we won’t be able to make all that up, but what I do see is there’s going to be a healthy return and then, 2021 should be a very good year. The real thing that’s of great importance in all of this is the 40 or 50-thousand people that worked in the industry who’ve been off for that period of time are going to be back at work. It’s a large workforce that has been inactive. There’s all kinds of ramifications of that where people are not going out to restaurants because they didn’t have a job and I think we’ll see this is part of recovery of the overall economy.”

If you lost your job in another sector because of COVID-19 and you have transferable skills, Mitchell is suggesting you reach out to Creative BC.

As for what star-gazing you can expect to do if you’re hoping to see one of your favourite actors on set, Mitchell says the only big name he can share is someone who grew up in –and still calls– Vancouver home.

“One of our favourite native sons, Ryan Reynolds, is going to be pretty visible around town because I think he’s got two shows going.”