Film shoot during stay-at-home order irks some Cornwall residents

·3 min read
The Netflix production crew was in the eastern Ontario city for 24 hours including an overnight say. (Facebook  - image credit)
The Netflix production crew was in the eastern Ontario city for 24 hours including an overnight say. (Facebook - image credit)

Some residents of Cornwall, Ont., say they're confused about why a film production crew was allowed to shoot there during a provincewide shutdown, and frustrated that their mayor is celebrating it.

While commercial film and television production crews are permitted to continue working under Ontario's current restrictions, Chris Harrop believes the exemption sends the wrong message.

"So they're able to keep working and making money, but our small businesses have to remain closed," Harrop said. "I have a lot of friends in town with small businesses, so it just didn't sit well with me."

Harrop is among many social media users who expressed their disapproval over a Facebook post by Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement, who met with some of the more than 100 visiting members of the Netflix production crew twice, on Sunday and Monday.

Clement said it wasn't up to the city to approve the shoot; rather, that decision ultimately falls to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which ensures businesses abide by public health restrictions.

Clement said city officials were only informed of the shoot on the weekend, when they learned the crew would be in town for 24 hours including an overnight stay.

"If we had had advance notice it might have been a conversation that we would have had with city staff and with city council," Clement told CBC News on Tuesday. "We might have talked about, and we probably will talk about, putting in place a film permit process, especially if Netflix or other production companies take an [ongoing] interest in our location."

Clement said when she visited the site, crew members wore masks and she felt safe in their presence.

"They went briefly over the safety protocols, which are quite stringent for the film industry," she said. "The people on site are tested regularly, and ... there's dedicated staff that do nothing but enforce the safety protocols."

The crew didn't require a street closure, which would have triggered some form of municipal review, Clement said.

Clement said she understands why some residents feel frustrated when they see rows of trucks parked in front of closed businesses during a stay-at-home order.

"The conversation is a difficult one because the messages are often contradictory," she said.

"Some people thought it was good for the city, which I agree [with]," Harrop said. [It's] definitely a good exposure for Cornwall any other time. Just not during a stay-at-home [and] lockdown order."

Extensive testing

In a statement to CBC, a spokesperson for Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries said the film and television industry is extensively testing its workers for COVID-19.

"The sector was selected by the Ministry of Health to receive Panbio rapid antigen tests to support screening on production sites," Dakota Brasier wrote.

Brasier said testing can range from every other day to weekly, depending on a worker's role.

"Many productions also require a negative pre-employment test result 48 hours prior to employment."