Leaders in the film and television industry and I, happily joined Lisa Macleod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, to celebrate unprecedented production volumes in Ontario for 2019. The conference took place February 27 to March 2, 2020, and an announcement heralded a 2.16 billion dollar industry, with over 1 billion being our own domestic productions! With investments in new studio spaces, stability of tax credits and a growing international reputation for successful world-class productions from The Handmaid’s Tale and Anne with an E to Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny, we saw promising signs that our creative industry would continue to grow. Premier Ford was so excited by our ninth consecutive year of growth and the financial benefits to the province’s coffers that he openly mused about wanting to see our sector grow to a 5 billion dollar industry.
Yes, we were firing on all engines, full steam ahead!
On March 6th, 2020 and in solidarity with International Women’s Day, ACTRA Toronto released its Best Practices for Scenes Involving Nudity, Intimacy, Simulated Sex and Sexual Violence. The last in-person meetings I took as President of ACTRA Toronto were held on March 12th when we met with agents to outline these important protections for performers doing intimate and complicated work. That same day Sophie Trudeau tested positive for Corona Virus and Prime Minister Trudeau put himself in quarantine. By 6 p.m. the ground started to shift and the next day the whole industry screeched to a halt.
And here we are still in the middle of what seems to be a badly scripted disaster film, trying to write about the future of the film and television industry in an uncertain post-Covid-19 world.
Let me start with the good news. Creative artists are resilient and we will adapt. Writers’ rooms have been working for months to find new ways to tell entertaining narratives. Our entire industry has come together through our Section 21 Health and Safety Committee and its fourteen working groups to create health and safety guidelines that will protect our artists and help stop the spread of Covid-19. From auditions to rehearsals, on set, hair, make-up and wardrobe to sound booths, stunts, food, transportation and child performers, we are being vigilant so that this important industry can return to work in a safer and healthier manner.
The other bright light is that through these months of isolation and social distancing, we have seen a new respect for the value of culture and artists as many of us sat on our couches binging on content or searching for online concerts and performances. Canadians depend on our storytellers to entertain us, to educate us, to give us hope and to provide us with a respite from the worries of living through a pandemic.
As our chief medical officers green-light a return to work, I predict a thirst for new content. Networks and studios are chomping at the bit to green-light projects. Locations across Ontario are gearing up for a safe return to work. Our actors are ready. We are ready to roll!