COVID-19 has clearly presented extreme challenges for society over the last 18 months. While some industries are still navigating how to successfully address the health and safety of its employees, even with the introduction of vaccines, Canada’s entertainment industry has been a shining star from the very early days of the pandemic. Its proactive approach to the pandemic and steadfast commitment to safety protocols, including the diligent use of rapid testing, has enabled it not only to continue to function but to thrive.
However, despite the industry’s success overall, the pandemic has uniquely impacted historically marginalized performers. Increased safety protocols have meant a general decrease in the number of performers on set, meaning reduced airtime and opportunities for talent. This has also resulted in fewer opportunities for performers to build and enhance their demo reels, limiting chances for future auditions.
A leader in the entertainment space in Canada, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) Toronto branch developed the Demo Reel Initiative: A Different Lens, led by the organization’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The initiative aimed to create and provide opportunities for historically marginalized talent to strengthen their demo reel – all while keeping them safe. Precision Biomonitoring was proud to partner with ACTRA Toronto, covering the cost of testing and providing peace of mind to all those on set.
The Demo Reel Initiative, a project of ACTRA Toronto, could only go ahead with full compliance to the Section 21 Guidelines, which include a requirement for testing. With most people not having access to vaccines at the time of this production, it is adherence to the Guidelines that has helped to stop the spread of COVID-19 on set. Precision Biomonitoring, supportive of the project’s objectives, came forward as a partner. The partnership helped ACTRA Toronto to ensure full compliance with the Guidelines and made the testing process accessible by coming directly to the production location.
ACTRA Toronto is very grateful to Precision Biomonitoring and other sponsors for their support. The experience and production of quality demo reels was very successful and appreciated by the participating performers. “Although vaccines are now readily available in Canada and a vast majority of folks are at least partially vaccinated, it’s still incredibly important to continue to be vigilant of the risk that the virus poses and do everything possible to take the necessary precautions to avoid outbreaks on set,” said Jenn Paul, Producer, Demo Reel Initiative and ACTRA Toronto staff member.
An already successful industry in Canada, the entertainment sector has continued to grow and evolve. In Ontario alone, there are an estimated 30,000 full-time jobs connected to the TV and film sector and as of May 2021, there are currently 87 major productions happening in the province. Despite the booming activity across this sector, taking place in centers like Toronto and Vancouver, as well as rural, remote areas in Northern Ontario and Manitoba, there have been few COVID-19 cases reported, and ultimately, no production shut-downs. A survey conducted by Film Ontario of productions in the province from the last half of 2020 found that the positivity rate for COVID-19 was less than 0.1 per cent among on-set personnel. In fact, since last fall, Toronto Public Health has investigated 15 productions and reported only 34 COVID-19 cases and 2 outbreaks; no closings of film or TV sets were ordered.
The success experienced by Canada’s entertainment industry is a direct result of its adherence to safety protocols, where rapid testing plays a critical role in ensuring the well-being of everyone on set. Innovative testing tools, like Precision Biomonitoring’s, have enabled the industry to proactively address the virus and quickly pivot to avoid outbreaks, as well as potential halts to production, all while striving for fair and equal opportunities for all talent. Recent border changes between Canada and the U.S. are sure to expand opportunities for the industry, as well as performers, though it will also come with the increased chance of transmission. It will be important for the industry to continue to be proactive in its approach as restrictions change and the virus evolves – but this sector certainly remains a leading example for all others in Canada.