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Vancouver Island film industry positioned for leading role in COVID-19 recovery
VICTORIA -- It will be lights, camera and action again for the film industry on Vancouver Island soon, potentially as early as next month.
The province says the industry can resume shooting by June, as part of phase three of the economic reopening.
Ric Nesh is the producer of a television series that was being shot in Victoria prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. His crew had filmed the first installment of a five-part series, “The Ruby Landry Saga,” before shooting was interrupted by the pandemic.
“Very excited, very happy,” he said about the idea of resuming the series. “As we all know, the film production and film industry are a major economic driver.”
There are close to 2,000 people employed directly in television and film in Greater Victoria.
All of them were suddenly out of work in mid-March because of COVID-19.
Brian Globus with the Vancouver Island South Film Commission says that for every two actors in front of the camera, there are often as many as 25 people working off screen.
“For a large production, you’re talking about 300 people sometimes working in a warehouse,” he said. “Sometimes working outside, but often squeezed into a small space.”
With the province giving the green light for the industry to turn its lights back on next month, producers are planning ways to make movie magic safely.
One of the measures will include revising scenes to avoid shoots with lots of actors gathered together.
“We may reduce, revise, rewrite scenes without the larger crowds,” said Nesh. “Not we may, we will revise scenes.”
According to industry insiders, another possibility includes increased reliance on digital effects to generate images that create the impression actors are standing closer together than they actually are.
Smaller crews, fewer cameras and masks for non-actors are all expected to be part of the new normal when things start up again.
Globus say when the cameras do get rolling again, Vancouver Island may be prime turf for film crews.
“The [Canadian] dollar is still attractive, the tax exemptions are still attractive and the beautiful outdoor locations are still attractive as well,” said Globus.
Globus said the island may be especially attractive for crews because there have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 here, and filming outdoors — in soaring scenery — is now considered safer.
“I think the cast might feel more comfortable filming here rather than in a very densely populated area,” he said.
It’s true across Vancouver Island, including places like Ladysmith, where a television series was being filmed, before the coronavirus intervened.
Northern Vancouver Island film commissioner Joan Miller said demand remains high for local productions.
“Calls haven’t stopped,” she said. “And calls are continuing to come in,”