Vancouver Gets Official COVID-19 Safety Guidelines To Restart Film & TV Production; Border Still Closed, Quarantine In Effect

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The Flash isn’t speeding back into production yet in Vancouver, but the Warner Bros TV series is certainly on the starting line thanks to the official coronavirus safety guidelines released yesterday by the government up in Hollywood North.

While a self-described “Pandemic Production Guide” as well as Department-specific Guidance are still to come, as of today “the Province welcomes all production activity to restart, resume or begin with employers’ COVID-19 Safety Plans implemented and in place – from domestic production companies to international studios creating content in B.C.”

Of course, as the June 8 piecemeal Protocols for Returning to Operations proclaimed in their own optimistic press release, the fact is the border remains closed between the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, and perhaps even more important from a production POV, “a 14-day quarantine is still required for anyone entering the province on a valid work permit or otherwise,” the government reiterated in these new Safety Guidelines made public on Wednesday. (See the full report below)

With mid-July and August restart dates still penciled in for the likes of Grant Gustin-led superhero show, Riverdale,  ABC’s The Good Doctor and A Million Little Things, the CW’s Supernatural, Charmed, and Netflix’s Midnight Mass, these latest guidelines leave a lot to be blueprinted by individual productions.

For example, when it comes to on-camera talent, the new guidelines are fairly non-specific, beyond an overall assertion that everyone should adhere to “PHO (Provincial Health Officer) and WorkSafeBC regulations.” Otherwise, the just released Safety Guidelines simply suggest that lots of “hand-washing facilities” are accessible, sick people on set have to go home ASAP and “performers on camera will require special provisions to reduce exposure.”

“The production teams will look at how quick they can move and what’s the availability of front-of-camera personnel that are required to get these productions up and running,” said Premier John Horgan on June 24, while noting the hinderance of the quarantine for US-based talent that make up the majority of the leads of the over 30 shows shot in B.C.

“I would encourage them to come and get started,” Premier Horgan added of a $2 billion USD industry that is vital to the local economy and brings employment directly and indirectly to around 700,000 jobs. “I’m running out of things to watch on Netflix, so new content would be good and I also know that the jobs connected to industry are critically important,” he stated of the third largest production center after LA and NYC and its tax credits rich landscape.

The long-anticipated new procedures were compiled by the B.C. Motion Picture Industry COVID-19 Best Practices Coalition. Mixing unions and studios, the Coalition counts HBO, IATSE Canada, Netflix, AMPTP, Disney, Warner Bros. Television. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Teamsters Local Union No. 155, UBCP/ACTRA, the Directors Guild of Canada, CBS Studios, Amazon and Apple among its members. There is no word yet when the Pandemic Production Guide will be released, but I hear that document will likely be the final word in getting Hollywood North back in the race.

Still, even with Premier Horgan’s push to turn on the lights and the pay checks aside, there is an overall tentative tone to the newly released B.C. Phase 3 procedures. A tone that when translated to substance  looks to weigh heavily on the side of suggestion and commerce rather than mandate.

“Victoria (the provincial capital) and Hollywood are so desperate to get things started they are pushing things harder and faster than a lot of us feel comfortable or truthfully safe with,” a seasoned industry local told me of the new Safety Guidelines. “Why don’t the studios and the government work things out, instead of in bits and pieces? It’s so misleading, because people don’t know if or how they are going back to work,” the Great White North insider adds.

Admittedly, the Safety Guidelines do ask that “only essential workers should be in production offices, on set, stages or locations. No unauthorized or unexpected visitors should be permitted.” The Industry Measures section of the new Safety Guidelines also declares “employers must identify risks that would apply to all stages of business, including but not limited to prep, shoot, post-production editorial and wrap.”

However, beyond that candid affirmations, a lot of the rest of this latest document reeks of bureaucratic inertia and a wing and prayer hope that productions will do the right thing, as best they can. Leaving some rather larger potential loopholes in plain sight, time and time again, the term “consider” appears in the new Safety Guidelines. Here are a few examples:

Where other measures are not sufficient, consider the use of nonmedical masks or gloves (also known as personal protective equipment or PPE), understanding that these have limitations.

Consider staggered call times to avoid congestion.

Employer may consider an action plan as a tool to be implemented in the event a cast or crew member reports feeling ill while at work.

Consider minimizing the number of people involved in a specific activity to ensure physical distancing can be maintained, to the extent possible.

Consider minimizing use of shared tools and equipment.

As of June 24, after a fairly strict lockdown and the state of emergency being extended another two more weeks, there have been over 2,850 confirmed case of COVID-19 in B.C., with 171 deaths.

Here is the full Film & TV Industry COVID-19 Safety Guidelines report:

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