‘We are excited for the boom’: Manitoba’s film industry could soon start back up

WINNIPEG — Manitoba is one of the first provinces in Canada to give the all-clear for film productions to start back up, though local associations say they’re taking things slow before cameras start rolling in the province.

On Thursday, Manitoba released its draft plan for the second phase of reopening the province, which proposes film productions have permission to restart operations as long as cast, employees, and the public follow physical distancing of at least two metres.

It said productions must follow all provincial and federal travel restrictions.

This comes as good news for Rachel Rusen, CEO and Film Commissioner of Manitoba Film and Music.

“I think there is a need globally. The entertainment industry is a very large economic driver worldwide and certainly it makes a big difference in Manitoba,” she said. “We are very happy to have the government of Manitoba behind us for phase two.”

Rusen said they don’t want to rush into this. She said they have been working with producers and other members of the industry to develop detailed health and safety guidelines.

“Social distancing is obviously incredibly important and our government has posted that – other than brief encounters – social distancing is required,” Rusen said.

“We are breaking that down in great detail for every department, how that health and safety regiment has to work.”

Nicole Matiation, Executive director of On Screen Manitoba, says with productions sometimes reaching over 100 people including set construction workers, lighting electricians, hairstylists, makeup artists, caterers, and producers – social distancing can be difficult.

“We’re not going to scale up to that kind of size immediately, the intention in the industry is to move forward with caution and making sure that safety comes first and that we can maintain adequate physical or social distancing on set,” said Matiation. “That is exactly the kind of things that are laid out in the protocols that we have been developing.”

With demand for content up as people around the world have extra time to watch and stream shows and movies, Rusen said some production companies are setting their sights on Manitoba.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook at Manitoba Film and Music, both from foreign producers, studios, and other production companies across Canada who are looking to come to Manitoba,” said Rusen. “Again when we can do so safely – we are excited for the boom.”

Rusen and Matiation said even though the province is going to allow production to begin, it may be a while before any filming starts.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need to start up safely and we need to make sure that the protocols and guidelines that are developed for the industry take all aspects into account for safety,” Rusen said. “We’re not looking to open if we can’t do it right.”

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