Crews have used Second Avenue in Qualicum Beach (pictured here in front of the old Chamber of Commerce building) to double as the main street for ‘Chesapeake Shores’. (File photo)

COVID-19: Vancouver Island film industry to gradually restart

‘Everyone is kind of baby-stepping how it’s going to happen’

The film industry on Vancouver Island is figuring out how to restart amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

There are no specific dates on when filming will resume in the area, but Vancouver Island North Film Commission’s Joan Miller said they’re talking to productions to figure it out. One main point, she said, is that no productions have backed out of filming in the area due to COVID-19 – it’s just a matter of having to reschedule and prepare to start things up safely.

“There’s this pent-up demand to want to see production get going from both sides, from employers, from the regions. From studios. But the guidelines have only just been put out… everyone is kind of baby-stepping how it’s going to happen,” said Miller. “So we’re working with people on a regular basis, we’re still providing a lot of location information, but our role is now expanding to assisting and looking for PPE.”

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The guidelines she’s referring to are for the province’s film industry — WorkSafeBC has released new guidelines to keep sets safe. Companies are allowed to start up again once they have a health and safety plan that meets WorkSafe’s protocols, as well as the one’s set forward by the province. The industry is part of Phase 3 of B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, which lasts from June to September. It’s allowed to operate “under enhanced protocols,” starting with domestic productions in June and July.

It’s an important sector for the mid-Island area. The area has seen success with ‘Chesapeake Shores’ and the influx of jobs associated with it. The series is one of the most-watched original series on the Hallmark Channel and has contributed significantly to the area’s economy — they hire a large percentage of their crew locally.

For now, Miller said VINFC is happy to see the same level of interest from production companies pre-COVID – a good sign.

“I don’t think there’s a magic crystal ball out there that’s going to allow me to say dates,” she said. “We just don’t know..but what is really clear is that Vancouver Island had clearly been establishing itself as a production area and the same type of interest we had before the COVID is still there, so we’re really pleased.”

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cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

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