Canada’s TV and film sector booming amid pandemic

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: June 10, 2021

Canada has been welcoming television (TV) and film personnel ever since the industry reopened last summer— and now it’s booming.

In Ontario alone, there are 87 major productions taking place, according to the Directors Guild of Canada. These include TV series such as Locke and KeyChucky, See and Star Trek.

The industry has been allowed to flourish amid the COVID-19 pandemic in large part due to collaborative efforts of producers and unions to keeping things safe, and following health and safety protocols. As a consequence, COVID-19 cases from TV and film sets have remained low.

In fact, in a sample survey of productions in Ontario last year, it was found that less than 0.1 per cent among TV and film crews got the virus. This shows the commitment to allow the industry to continue to operate.

Toronto Public Health have investigated 15 productions since last fall, and found 34 cases of COVID-19.

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How are film crews kept safe?

Film sets follow health and safety protocols that were outlined for workplaces by the government. Producers worked with unions to customize these protocols to the TV and film industry.

According to Aren Prupas, chief operating officer at Muse Entertainment, daily health screening has become the norm, as well as regular testing.

When actors take off their masks to perform, everyone on set is required to wear a mask and a face shield.

How can productions benefit?

Not only is the industry doing well in popular locations such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but also in various provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

For example, Alberta now has enhanced tax credits and have removed funding caps. This would allow larger-budget productions to consider the province.

The federal government also helps productions insure against COVID-19-related shutdowns using the recently announced Short-Term Compensation Fund (STCF).

On May 21, the Ministry of Canadian Heritage announced an increase in coverage, bringing the total now up to $149 million Canadian.

Work permit options for Television and Film Production Workers

Canada welcomes workers from abroad to come and work in the TV and film industry. However, it is important to learn about how an international worker obtains the right to work in Canada.

Workers in the industry may qualify as a business visitor. These individuals are also exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement.

An LMIA is a document that shows that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident are available to perform the job.

Film producers coming to Canada to work on a foreign-financed production, other essential personnel entering Canada for a short amount of time as well as performing artists may be eligible to enter Canada as a business visitor.

Other workers in the TV and film industry may need a work permit to come to Canada.

Some workers may be exempt from the LMIA requirement, and others may have to obtain an LMIA as part of their work permit process.

Those who are exempt from the LMIA requirement are typically workers whose occupation are deemed essential to the production, and are eligible through the Television and Film Production Workers category.

For workers who do need an LMIA, showing that no Canadian or permanent resident exists to carry out the job is typically done by advertising the position in Canada.

However, for many workers in the TV and film industry, they may be granted a facilitated process where the position does not need to be advertised.

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