Courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Once the government gives the film and TV industry the green light to reopen  in B.C. productions will be hitting the ground running, says Vancouver’s Brightlight Pictures chairman Shawn Williamson.

“As fast as we shut down we will be able to start up once we find the safe protocols,” said Williamson, whose company produces the TV shows The Good DoctorThe Power and The Mighty Ducks as well as numerous Hallmark movies.

Brightlight’s productions were part of the 42 shows and films that were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic in the second week of March.

According to Creative B.C., the provincial agency that supports B.C.’s creative sector, TV and film production brings contributes close to $3 billion a year to the province’s economy, with around 70,000 jobs directly linked to the industry.

On May 6, Premier John Horgan announced the B.C.‘s four-phase restart plan. The film and TV industry falls under phase 3, which is expected to happen June to September if COVID transmission rates remain low or decline and government protocols are met.

Creative B.C., film and TV industry representatives, unions, and WorkSafeBC are working to develop those protocols.

“We’re waiting for whatever the government comes out with, and we will of course be compliant with that, but we’re also developing our own (protocols) that are specific to the shows and the requirements of (each) show,” said Williamson, adding that there are different challenges with location and studio shoots.

Once the government clears the start up plan — likely in the next two weeks — the studios and productions will resume.
Williamson says writers for The Good Doctor are already working and the show’s sets are ready to go.

One big factor is the U. S-Canada border closure and restrictions on workers coming to B.C.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that Canada is the border shutdown would be extended to June 21.

“We will adhere to it of course,” said Williamson, who added that hopefully, in the near future, extensive testing could be set up at the cost of the productions in order to get talent and crew through borders without a 14-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, Williams said the company will build quarantine time into jobs and bring people in earlier.
He said there are discussions with private physicians and labs around setting up testing stations at or near stages or locations, with costs covered by the production.

“As awesome as film and television is, it is by no means essential. We understand where our place in the pecking order is,” said Williamson.

“So in the next few months, if there is some mechanism for us to create a testing site — somewhere where we can run our crew through and our cast through and our background performers and such  — then we would love to see some pro-acting testing. If there was a way for us to do that safely,  then that would be awesome.

“We don’t want people getting sick while they make television,” he said.

The industry also does not want to play a part in spikes of the number of people who contract the virus.

“I’m confidant that with the government and with the various safety committees at the studios … we will come up with a safe plan that will allow us to restart production in a conservative and responsible manner, and still shoot compelling drama.”

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