Pandemic puts $2.5b at risk for Canadian film industry, say producers

Photo: Chung Chow

What happened: Report estimates production shutdowns could cost Canada’s film and TV industry billions

Why it matters: B.C. accounts for 37% of sector’s total volume nationwide

Disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could cost Canada’s film and TV industry as much as $2.5 billion by the end of June, according to a new report commissioned by the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA).

The April 21 findings also reveal $1.4 billion of that amount is tied to labour spending, with 73,000-81,000 cast and crew members set to be directly affected by production suspensions in effect since mid-March.

“These numbers should serve as a wakeup call for what’s at stake, and motivate us all to work together to ensure the industry can get back on its feet as quickly as possible once this crisis ends,” CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin said in a statement.

The report, conducted by research firm NGL Nordicity Group Limited, made its estimates based on a list of current and forthcoming productions scheduled for on or after March 16.

In addition to the jobs directly impacted by the nationwide shutdown of productions, Nordicity forecasts as many as 91,000 spinoff positions could be lost.

“Although these employment impacts are significant, the effect of a production shutdown will likely exceed the estimates articulated above, which are solely based on the value of spending expected to take place in a given month,” the report states.

“At the outset of the COVID-19 shutdown, many projects in production were disrupted, and a continuing shutdown may lead to these (and future) projects being cancelled.”

In B.C. alone, film and TV production volume reached $3.4 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the CMPA’s Profile 2019 report from earlier this month.

That’s down 4.3% from the $3.58 billion generated in the previous fiscal year, but still enough to top Ontario’s $3.17 billion.

The vast majority of volume in B.C.’s film industry — $2.82 billion — was service work for foreign productions.

However, with restrictions on cross-border travel and large gatherings, productions have come to a standstill.

CMPA-BC chief operating officer Liz Shorten told Business in Vancouver the day before the report’s findings that about 70 stakeholder groups are working together on addressing the ongoing industry concerns, including developing models for a phased-in approach for productions to return.