Production on the popular TV series Riverdale, which is shot in the Vancouver region, has been suspended after a “team member” on the series came in contact with a person who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
It’s an apparent first in the province’s booming production sector, where cast and crew work in close quarters on sound stages and locations largely in the Vancouver region. At least 40 feature films, TV series, TV movies and other projects are before the cameras in B.C. The list includes an untitled feature film with Sandra Bullock, a reboot of the 1970s-era TV classic Kung Fu, the 15th season of the series Supernatural and a new live-action Superman series.
Warner Bros. Television said in a statement that a “team member” for Riverdale, now in its fourth season of production, is receiving medical attention after coming in contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.
As a result, the statement says, production on the show has been suspended and work is under way with authorities and health agencies in Vancouver to identify and contact all individuals who may have come into direct contact with the team member.
The studio did not respond to a question about whether the team member is part of the cast or crew.
B.C. Culture Minister Lisa Beare said she is urging leaders of the film and TV industry to “make timely decisions” around the health and welfare of their employees. “Right now, public-health officials are asking people to practise social distancing and stay home if they are sick,” she said.
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Ms. Beare said her ministry is working with Creative B.C. and the sector to ensure employers have accurate information as the situation progresses
The Union of B.C. Performers/ACTRA says it is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 in the film community. Last year, the production sector contributed $3.2-billion in production spending to the provincial economy and created jobs for about 70,000 people.
“We are working with productions to ensure they have measures in place to address this unprecedented situation,” said a statement issued by communications officer Alison Stewart. “We will continue to keep our members informed as unfolding events dictate.”
Ms. Stewart said she is not aware of another situation similar to the Riverdale case.
On Thursday, the province banned events larger than 250 people in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus. The decision will have a staggering impact on cultural activities in B.C. The list of cancellations is lengthy, affecting the next two weeks of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concerts, Ballet BC performances, all Vancouver Recital Society events in March, as well as literary readings, theatre performances and other music concerts.
Riverdale, a TV adaptation of the Archie Comics, premiered in January, 2017, on the CW Network, and also airs on Netflix. The series features K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, a teenager in the town of Riverdale.
Spending in British Columbia for the third season of the show was about $43.2-million, with B.C. crew and labour accounting for 75 per cent of that budget, according to a study by the Motion Picture Association of Canada released last year,
The production’s employment impact was equivalent to the direct and indirect employment to build 280 new homes in B.C., according to the study.
Keith Woods, president of IATSE Local 891, which represents about 8,000 artists and technicians working in the B.C. production sector, said he had no information to add to the Warner Bros. statement.
“We are working to disseminate what little we know to our members and have been working with other unions and guilds in the industry to ensure that our employers provide a healthy and safe workplace for the professional artists and technicians in the B.C. film industry,” he said in a statement.
Creative B.C, the provincial agency that tracks and supports the production sector, said the sector is in sync with broader efforts to deal with the coronavirus.
“Enhanced cleanliness and sanitization measures are in place as the industry is committed to align with provincewide, strategic and precautionary measures that will help stop the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.,” Creative B.C. said in a statement.
With a report from Marsha Lederman
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