Nicole Matiation
Movie Making

Other than staying home, on set is the safest place you can be in Manitoba right now. While that was said tongue in cheek by a local Manitoba producer, it reflects the high standards for COVID-19 safety that every film production in Manitoba aims to achieve. The media performing arts industry, like the performing arts produces stories through people working in very close physical proximity over several weeks or months. The fact that the performances are recorded on camera and then edited for distribution to audiences through broadcast, theatre projections or most services, today via online streaming services has afforded the media production industry the opportunity to continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This good fortune is not taken lightly. Manitoba productions go to great lengths, and invest significantly, to ensure the safety of all of the artisans, technicians and actors on set.

Every aspect of filming is governed by careful protocols to keep workers safe.

The preparation to return to work safely began in May. In consultation with all component of the industry through committees with locally-owned production company owners, the unions (ACTRA Manitoba, IATSE 856 and DFC), the City of Winnipeg Film and Events Office, the Crown Agency Manitoba Film & Music, the Manitoba Film Liaison and Film Training Manitoba, On Screen Manitoba developed a COVID-19 Safety and Health Guide for media productions to supplement and enhance Manitoba government guidelines. Manitoba was among the very first jurisdictions to allow filming activity to resume. The Guide, online and onsite training, posters and brochures all reinforce basic messages around the new safety protocols. 

From the outset, productions put in place requirements that everyone on set must wear a mask, and in the case of those in close proximity to the actors or subjects in the case of documentary masks, this is combined with plastic visors. Production teams are organized into small groups or cohorts to limit contact and facilitate physical distancing. Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers are present throughout sets. Productions are hiring entire teams to manage the logistics of maintaining inventory, ensuring regular cleaning, and managing confirmation each day that each person on set has taken the Manitoba shared health COVID-19 screening test. Most productions also require everyone to take their temperature daily. The Manitoba Media Production COVID-19 Safety and Health Guide is the starting point, but each production must consider the particular challenges of their specific locations, scripts, budget and number of professionals involved to develop their own specific COVID-19 protocols. 

As with so many aspects of the media production industry, creative problem-solving and adaptation is at the forefront of making movies and television in the COVID-19 pandemic. Each department, on each production, is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of everyone on set. The COVID-19 Supervisor, often someone with medical training such as nursing, is there as a guide and a resource to review the plans of each department and to consider how best to manage various locations or specific sequences to keep everyone safe. Other professionals with backgrounds as paramedics or first aid responders are also taking on roles of responsibility to help manage COVID-19 safety on set, on location and in the production office.

Those who work in the media production industry are creative, skilled professionals and passionate about their opportunity to work in the movie business, here, in Manitoba. There are some 2,500 professionals working in the industry today and, despite the production stoppage earlier this year, we are still seeing new opportunities emerge in every department. On Screen Manitoba is launching a refreshed web site called Get on Set Manitoba On tourne! (Yes! The media production industry in Manitoba also has a vibrant French-language stream with four active production companies that produce primarily en français.) 

The web site provides descriptions and training requirements for the many different roles in the media production industry – from documentary filmmaker to digital special effects, to set carpenter, to payroll and accounting. Do you know someone who is creative, people-oriented with training and/or experience in the trades? In bookkeeping? Are you a performing or visual artist looking for professional opportunities within the creative sector? Are you looking to put your customer service, office or logistics abilities to a new test? Take the Get on Set Manitoba On tourne! quiz to see which role is a fit for you. There are many pathways into the media production industry, and On Screen Manitoba, as the provincial industry association is here to help people find their role the media production industry.

Nicole Matiation is the Executive Director of On Screen Manitoba.