Ontario greenlights post-production, animation reopenings

But filming and other on-site activities aren't part of the beginning of the first phase of reopenings permitted by the provincial government.

Updated at 3:16 p.m. EST on May 15 to include a comment from Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod.

Film and TV post-production and animation studios are among the first wave of businesses permitted to reopen as part of Stage 1 of the Ontario government’s reopening framework.

Announced by Premier Doug Ford alongside his cabinet yesterday (May 14), the province’s first phase of reopening will begin on Tuesday, May 19 and include areas such as retail services outside shopping malls, construction, pet care, seasonal businesses or recreational activities for individual or single competitors, as well as certain health and medical services. However, what won’t be included is filming or other on-site activities – “especially those that require the gathering of workers, performers or others,” according to a list of businesses a part of the stage.

In response to the announcement, Spin VFX president and executive producer Neishaw Ali – who serves as co-head of the Computer Animation Studios of Ontario (CASO) – told Playback Daily that animation, visual effects and post production groups are all very excited to be part of Stage 1, but that physical production resuming is an integral part to minimizing the gap in visual effects and post production, which is expected to follow in August 2020.

“When the world shut down in March, we were able to remote connect a large percentage of our workforce and continue working to deliver our shows currently in post,” Ali said in a statement. “When physical production resumes we will need to wait until prep, shoot and turnover of the director’s cut before we are able to fill our gap. Suffice to say, we are dancing on our toes at this announcement but need physical production to resume, of course, whilst following the health and safety guidelines.”

Additionally, the Ontario government and health and safety associations released more than 90 safety guidelines, including measures in the film and TV space.

Among the guidance options offered for protecting workers in the TV, film and live performance area from exposure include: postponing non-essential projects and tasks; limiting entry points and controlling how many people enter a site at one time; having employees and visitors wash their hands at numerous points; keeping a safe distance apart and changing the work layout where possible; replacing buffets with wrapped food items; and avoiding face-to-face meetings, or maintaining a physical distance where possible.

Meanwhile, potential controls considered for television hosts, technical crews and other film and TV employees also incorporate reviewing sanitation practices for hair and makeup stations and implementing new practices; ensuring laundering instructions are followed for wardrobe; opportunities to improve fresh air intake or air circulation as well as putting up barriers between people; the distance for workstations and guests to maintain physical distance; and keeping up with the latest or considering regular times to check in with public health updates. Inspectors from the ministry of labour, training and skills development will be visiting workplaces to ensure these safety measures are in place.

The Ontario government previously outlined its three stage strategy in A Framework for Reopening our Province, which was unveiled last month.

Stage 2 consists of the government reopening more Ontario businesses and public spaces gradually, based on the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s advice, and some larger public gatherings. While the final phase, Stage 3, will see the opening of all workplaces responsibly and further restrictions for public gatherings relaxed. As well, large public gatherings such as concerts and sporting events are restricted in this stage “for the foreseeable future.” Notably, according to the document, each stage will last approximately two-to-four weeks to allow the province to be monitored.

In response to when Ontario can expect to see filming and on-site production resume, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod told Playback Daily in a statement that she is expecting an interim report next week on what a return to production would look like from the film and TV advisory committee. “Film and TV was a growing industry in Ontario pre-COVID- 19 and I am committed to ensuring its continued success once we come through this pandemic,” she said. The minister also further noted that she is continuing to work with the Motion Picture Association of Canada and their U.S. members who are interested in Ontario as a film and TV destination.

Ontario makes up $3.17 billion, or 34%, of the total volume of film and TV production in Canada, according to the CMPA’s latest Profile report for 2018/19. Overall, the economic impact of the film and TV production sector in 2018/19 generated a total of $12.8 billion in GDP.

Photo: Jakob Owens on Unsplash