Northern Ontario film industry shines at Canadian Screen Awards in shadow of COVID-19 pandemic
SUDBURY -- The film industry might be on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn't meant a total shut down.
Earlier this week both Letterkenny and Cardinal, which are filmed in northeastern Ontario, received awards at the Canadian Screen Awards.
"I think it kind of continues with the tradition of both shows being very critically successful," said Rob Riselli, the film programs & reporting supervisor at Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION).
"Cardinal, I think this is year number three although they changed their category from limited series to dramatic series so they went up against a different group of TV shows. And the same thing with Letterkenny. Again, it bodes well for the success of the show, with the creativity and with the high standards that both shows have."
Although the event was done remotely this year, the Canadian Screen Awards still found a way to recognize and celebrate the nominees and winners.
Trina Brink, a makeup artist on the show Cardinal won her first award this year.
"It was absolutely amazing. I had scheduled a ZOOM meeting with all of the nominees, including a fellow nominee for hair for Cardinal because she lives in Northern Ontario as well. So we planned a ZOOM meeting and we had the Canadian Screen Award background and we watched it live. So we got to experience it as they called it, which was awesome," said Brink.
Cardinal took home seven awards this year, more than any other program and Letterkenny won "best direction, comedy and best writing, comedy."
Riselli says these type of awards and recognition are significant for the region.
"I think it helps, and I've said this before, it helps validate the region as a viable film and television production community. When you see things like earlier this year with Brad Pitt giving a little bit of a shout out to Letterkenny you know that it has that sort of international appeal," said Riselli.
"And more and more we see more productions wanting to come up here and shoot."
Sudbury City Councillor for Ward 5, Robert Kirwan, says the film industry receives a lot of support in the city.
"When you take a look at it, any industry that over the past four or five years has produced 70 film and television productions and generated over 100M dollars in economy spending in Sudbury, it is a very significant industry," said Kirwan.
"I think as city council, we've tried to do everything we possibly can to make this a filming friendly community."
Kirwan adds that the film industry generates jobs in the region and economic spending when crews are in the area for production.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic the industry has been shut down and many projects have been placed on hold.
"No shows have been cancelled. Everything has been delayed," said Riselli.
"There was approximately, at the time the shutdown happened, there was about six projects that were either in preparation or shooting. So all of those have been delayed and then hopefully, once things get lifted, we will be back in some form shooting again."
Riselli says "the projections are in the millions of dollars in terms of what was lost" but he is hopefully that when things pick up again it "will just be a different economic model going forward."
There is no indication right now when the film industry will be able to reopen, but those in the business say they are ready to get back to work.
"I've been talking with a lot of groups [and] I've been attending webinars about the future of what's happening going forward," said Brink.
"What it means, what protocols are going to be in place, there has been additional certification that people are doing going forward COVID style."
"I'm not nervous, because I think that this has to be done," she adds.
"It's important and vital that we do it because if we don't, especially for the film industry, if everybody comes back to work we might have a second wave and then we'll have to stop again so we really, really don't want that second wave."
On top of the additional safety and sanitation protocols that will be put in place, Kirwan says that the technology should be able to assist in getting the film industry back on its feet.
"We're going to be coming back stronger but different than, in every aspect of society," said Kirwan.
"But I think the film industry is going to be able to adjust to that new normal an awful lot easier than some of the other businesses. And I think they're going to be able to get ramped up very quickly."
Riselli says CION is working closely with the government to make sure that when work can resume, it will be a safe environment for everyone involved.