A landmark year for the Nova Scotia film industry spoiled by COVID-19

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If it were a film plot, 2020 would have been the year in which the Nova Scotia film industry emerged from the shadows of the McNeil government’s 2015 decision to eliminate the tax credit for film production, a popular incentive that had fueled the industry. growth over two decades.But like all good conspiracies, COVID-19 is the dramatic twist that no one expected or expected.

“Let me tell you, we were all very, very excited about 2020,” said Laura Mackenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, the voice of the province’s film and television industry. .

“We were on the verge of being in production, or at least in pre-production and production from January to December this year, which would have been a pivotal year. ”

Mackenzie said there would have been at least six larger budgets, scripted productions filmed in the province, as well as at least 40 lower budget productions.

Laura Mackenzie is the Executive Director of Screen Nova Scotia. She says that in order for the film industry to resume production, the 14-day self-isolation rule when entering the province must be eliminated. (Screen Nova Scotia)

“But at this point, each production is trying to find its way,” she said.

While film production is not one of the province-ordered closings, the fact that only essential workers outside of the province are allowed entry into Nova Scotia is a major barrier to entry. an industry that depends on external teams and expertise for most of its most lucrative activities. job.

The need for people to keep their distance from each other will be an ongoing challenge for the teams that are sometimes forced to work close to each other and for the actors who must, finally, act.

“There are going to be exceptions”

Michael Volpe, president of Topsail Productions and co-producer of the Oscar-nominated film Lighthouse, said there was a need to adapt the restrictions to the reality of the industry, in particular the rules of physical distance.

“There are going to be exceptions to these things,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about testing and, you know, there’s the ability to test key people, not only when they enter the province, but during production and that may be an answer or you just need to rewrite things.

“There will be times when the social distancing will be broken, just by the very nature of the intimate scenes, so maybe the test is the answer. It will be a great experience for all of us here. ”

Edward Peill, President of Tell Tale Productions Inc., the Canadian partner of The curse of Oak Island, a popular television series in Nova Scotia, said that he could not say if the show would be filmed here this summer, but said his company had developed a new protocol for other projects.

Michael Volpe, president of Topsail Productions, is shown on the set of Mr. D in this undated photo. (Topsail Productions)

He said that the crew members would be asked to give themselves more space and that they would be checked daily.

“We will take their temperatures and record them on the sheet,” he said. “And if someone has symptoms or their temperature is abnormally high, we will ask them not to continue and to go to the hospital for testing. ”

Peill said the crews will no longer travel together and on the set, the crews will wear masks and physical distance from each other. There will be a strict protocol for cleaning the equipment and, if possible, the material will not be shared.

Like Volpe, he would like certain restrictions to be relaxed to meet industry requirements, such as the 14-day quarantine requirement for those coming from outside the province, which could be “cost prohibitive” .

Edward Peill is the president of Tell Tale Productions Inc. He says that many measures will be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the temperature of crew members. (Tell Tale Productions)

“We want to respect the 14-day quarantine, but by bringing in a crew member and paying them to sit alone in a hotel room for 14 days before they can start working, you can imagine the challenges it creates if he’s only coming for a work week or two weeks, “said Peill.

Mackenzie is more brutal. She said that for production to progress, the 14-day quarantine period must be eliminated. She said Screen Nova Scotia works with provincial and federal governments on issues facing the industry.

Volpe said that a healthy film business is not only good for the industry itself.

“This type of production really helps all the companies that suffer the most,” he said. “You know, restaurants, hotels, bars and all this economic activity that really comes out of the closure of COVID. ”

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