Manitoba film productions shuttered amid COVID-19 pandemic, but industry group points to future

The province’s burgeoning film industry has halted production as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the sector worldwide, leaving hundreds of local film workers out of a job in the meantime.

However, the provincially-funded corporation meant to bolster the film and music industries says Manitoba will weather the storm.

“We were one of the first industries to be completely shut down… by mid-to-late March, that was it,” said Nico Phillips, the president of IATSE Local 856, which represents over 550 film technicians plus permitted workers.

“We’re the craftsmen, the technicians that make motion pictures — film, television, you name it, we can’t work from home.”

Phillips noted screenwriters, directors and others can do preparatory work from home during the downswing — but with film sets shut down for the foreseeable future, his technical workers are out of luck.

Phillips said those people will have to depend on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, recently announced by the federal government for the millions of Canadians who have lost work since the COVID-19 pandemic ripped through the economy. He noted the union at the national level is lobbying for that benefit to be increased.

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