Companies like Datametrex AI (DM.V) are helping with the transition to the new normal by helping culture-houses like Lighthouse Pictures get back to doing what they do best—which is making movies.

They’ve been involved in providing COVID-19 screening solutions for months now and they’ve received their second purchase order from Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a film and television production company here in Vancouver, B.C. The service starts today and DM expects little to none in terms of upfront costs associated with importing and selling these kits.

We’ll get back to what we mean by the new normal in a second, but first let’s talk about why this matters. It matters because of a little something called resilience. I won’t bore you with definitions—this isn’t a high school essay and I hate cheap definitions as much as anyone—but for the sake of argument, let’s concede that resilience is the capacity of people and institutions to bounce back after a crisis. On the whole, I’d say we’re a fairly resilient society. We roll with the punches as best we can and then we get up and get back at it like nothing happened.

My wife and I went to the movies for the first time since COVID-19 shut the planet down. What we saw is immaterial to the discussion, and not as relevant as the fact that we could. We arrived a little late, bounced through an vacant concession, and entered an empty theatre at a popular time to watch our movie. I’ve never actually watched a movie in an empty theatre and despite the obvious salacious jokes shared between husband and wife about the activities that go on in such places in the middle of the afternoon, we watched our movie, did our best to ignore the subtle aroma of wood-fire, and went home having momentarily forgotten that most of the continent was on fire and there was a plague kicking the shit out of the planet from every angle. Good deal.

Culture aids resilience. Not just as distraction but for context. We need these moments where we can forget about our problems for a few hours to replenish our energy stores and return to them relaxed. We also need these moments to make sense of our lives. They’re worth the risk.

We knew the risks of going to the theatre. As a society we’re coming slowly to the realization that we can’t just shave off the sharp edges everywhere we go, and that the act of living going forward is going to involve an element of increased risk. If you’ve got a compromised immune system your risk tolerance is going to be less. Maybe wait for the new Bill and Ted movie to come out on Netflix and avoid bacteria farms like theatres, public transit and everywhere in between. The rest of us will need to get on with our lives, always aware of the spectre of disease hovering over our shoulder, ready to reach out and touch us and our loved ones should we fall vulnerable. That’s the hidden subtext underlying the new normal.

We still need to go on.

DM knows that and recognizes the value in it. Ostensibly, when they’re not providing COVID-19 equipment, they’re an artificial intelligence company dealing with government organizations, hard at work applying their AI format to sussing out fake news. In this case, they’ve recognized a market gap and filled a hole, no matter how temporary. It’s not only prosocial behaviour but it’s smart business.

The economic new normal

It’s a common sight to see production crews gathered on the streets in Vancouver. We have two actors working in our equity guru office, doing various tasks for our production when they’re not out there working on shows that show up on Netflix and on the big screen. Vancouver is the third-largest production centre in North America, worth $3.2 billion during the 2018-2019 year, according to Creative BC. The province is home to several world-class film and TV studios and it’s honestly, a huge chunk of our local economy.

On average, these film and TV studios produce more than 65 movies and 55 television series a year, and that’s not including the hundreds of other filming days for commercials, TV pilots and other features. This industry is responsible for over 42,000 direct and indirect jobs in film and TV production, and 80% is located in Metro Vancouver. We’re talking in the ballpark of $8.92 billion in production volume, and full-time equivalent jobs in the range of 179,000 workers. COVID-19 stopped all of that in March. That’s 46 productions put on pause, not including the television commercial market. Each of these shows would have a minimum of 100 people working there, and many had much much more.

Lighthouse pictures is a small but vibrant part of that.

They specialize in producing genre and mid-to-small-budget film and TV projects. They’ve produced over 65 productions in the past 10 years, and continues to be recognized, year after year, by the Canadian Screen Awards and other such prestigious awards, such as the Leo.

There’s no reason Canada can’t advocate for the film industry. Datametrex has set up testing and laboratories throughout COVID. It also doesn’t hurt that we also have fewer instances of COVID-19—the present numbers range around 139,000, compared with numbers that range in the millions for our neighbours to the south, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“With our prescreening and screening tools, this industry can resume and provide us with the much-needed entertainment that this newly indoor, on-line-based culture requires,” said Marshall Gunter, chief executive officer for Datametrex.

The psychological toll of 2020 and its discontents is going to be wide ranging. We’re probably going to spend the rest of our lives being mindful of our company, and dreading the arrival of flu season and thinking of it deliberately and directly instead of as an oblique afterthought, consulted only when our bodies begin to ache. We’ll be washing our hands and pumping the sanitizer bottle as a psychological relief valve likely until our dying day, but we should be grateful that there are companies and groups of people like DM doing what they can to ease the transition to the new normal and provide the comfort and reprieve we sorely need.

If there’s anything to be said about the preparations being undertaken, it’s that maybe there’s hope that when round two of our battle with COVID-19 starts in a few months, we won’t knock ourselves out in the first few seconds like we did last time.

—Joseph Morton

Written By:

Joseph Morton

Joseph is a Vancouver-based author and journalist with both a communications degree and journalism diploma (and a few novels) under his belt. His joie de vivre is to spin difficult technical topics into more human-centric narratives. Buy him a coffee and he'll talk your ear off for hours about privacy issues, blockchain, cryptocurrency and martial arts. Don't talk to him if you're either a tomato, a bully, or if you're not a fan of either 1984 or Tender is the Night. No. You can still talk to him. Just be prepared to be told why you're wrong.

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