More U.S. film productions moving to Canada

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Despite COVID-19, which has had an impact on virtually every aspect of the entertainment industry, Canada is experiencing a sharp increase in entertainment activity due to U.S. film productions choosing to relocate.

Industry insiders say a growing number of major American productions are relocating to Canada.

The increase of Covid-19 cases in California, the strict health and safety protocols issued by Hollywood’s Unions, combined with the shortage of tests, are pushing major film studios to look to Canada in order to get film production up and running.

Solstice Studios is one of them. The studio was scheduled to start shooting their new feature film with Ben Affleck in Los Angeles last April. The film will instead be shot in Vancouver, Canada, in October, according to a recent article on CNBC’s website. Although the production of the film was interrupted by the coronavirus, it is mainly due to the lack of widely available tests that the film was unable to resume shooting in the United States this fall.

The shortage of tests, delays in receiving results, and the high additional costs involved in this process in the United States are putting studios at risk of violating their agreements with unions representing actors and crews, forcing major studios and production companies to look for alternatives.

In Canada, the story is different. Solstice Studios, for example, will have easy access to tests and quick lab results, according to that same article.

In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has also caused unprecedented disruption to Canada’s entertainment industry. However, with the coronavirus under control, Canada entered its reopening phase and, in most parts of the country, the industry was able to resume operations in June while implementing strict health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

Since then, things have come a long way. Prem Gill, CEO of Creative B.C., whose organization is dedicated to the development and support of the B.C. film industry, told CBC News this week that between 40 and 50 productions are in pre-production or about to go into production in the province.

James Monk, the film manager for the City of Surrey in British Columbia, also said to CBC News that the city is on the verge of setting another record for film permits issued and expects activity in September to match last year’s level.

COVID-19 has been circulating in the U.S. since January and the country now has the highest number of registered coronavirus infections with more than six million cases. Canada has far fewer cases of coronavirus, with approximately 130,000 confirmed and suspected cases as of early September.

Canadian film and television production were already booming before the coronavirus because production costs are significantly lower in Canada, and challenges in the United States are poised to drive this trend even further.

How do you obtain permission to work in film or television in Canada?

Individuals working in film and television productions can enter Canada through a category exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is required for many work permit holders. Foreign and Canadian production companies shooting in Canada can use the Television and Film Production work permit category if they can demonstrate that the work to be performed by the foreign national is essential to the production.

Individuals may also be eligible to apply as business visitors. There are typically three categories of individuals working in the entertainment industry who could be considered under this pathway:

  • Film producers entering Canada to work on a movie, TV show, or documentary which must be a foreign-financed production;
  • Essential personnel who are entering Canada to work on a foreign-financed commercial shoot. These workers must be entering Canada for short durations, usually no longer than two weeks; and
  • Performing artists who are performing at a show, concert or festival, or who are entering Canada for a time-limited engagement.

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