Action! Montreal's film industry back at work, despite COVID-19 measures

Back in March, public health concerns abruptly metaphorically yelled “cut!” at the city's film and television productions, but the industry is re-opening as it learns to adapt to COVID-19.

“I have to commend how quickly we've been able to adapt in a very positive way, so we can at least work,” said location manager Anita Bensabat.

Bensabat is now back to work on a series of romantic comedies but acknowledges her team has had to adjust to physical distancing, masks and limited crew on sets.

“When we're doing interiors, there has to be protective barriers,” she said.

Montreal's movie-making scene is a billion dollar industry that employs thousands of workers on productions both local and foreign. This fall saw the return of American blockbuster productions, including the latest sci-fi flick from director Roland Emmerich, 'Moonfall.'

“Our studios are full, so that's very good news and now we're looking forward to the new year,” said Quebec Film and TV Commissioner Chanelle Routhier.

There are new rules in place: foreign workers must quarantine when they arrive in the province and Routhier said strict COVID-19 protocols add an extra 10 per cent to production budgets.

“No one wants to live another shutdown. I think that's probably what brings people together, making sure we keep working and we keep this industry alive,” she said.

Bensabat said there are noticeable differences, as COVID-19 measures don't just limit how scenes are shot, but what can be shot.

“A lot of the adaptation has been in terms of scenes of intimacy,” she said. “Hugging, sitting down to big dinners with groups of people doesn't happen.”

The change in dynamic extends to what happens behind the scenes.

“We're like a family, film crews are really close,” said Bensabat. “It's something we miss. Wrap parties, get togethers, all of that is in the past now.”

“So far, as long as we're able to work, we'll continue with the protocols in place and hope for the best. I think we're going to be okay. We'll weather through.” 

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