Windsor COVID testing firm helps Ontario's movie, television industry keep operating
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell
Movie and television productions went dark in Ontario when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the province last spring, but that’s when the light went on for four Windsor natives employed in the entertainment industry.
The Holy Name Secondary School graduates formed a company (Pulsar UV) specializing in health, safety and COVID testing of production crews/actors that is currently helping five Ontario productions keep the cameras rolling.
“The pandemic put the entire industry on hold,” said Pulsar founder Barbara Szeman, an assistant director who has worked on such films as Pixels, RoboCop (2014), Poltergeist and Suicide Squad.
“Our team has an unique skill set. Kelsi (Mayne) and Adrian (Jaworski) are also nurses with medical backgrounds who have also done work in films. We can support the industry because we’re in it and understand how the set works.”
The federal government also recognized the fledgling company’s skill set and potential by awarding Szeman a R3 grant.
The Rebuild, Reopen, Revive grants aim to assist women in leadership positions who are creating small/medium-sized companies in response to COVID. Pulsar received the maximum sized grant of $5,000.
Mayne, who has done special effects for such productions as Vikings, Game of Thrones and Handmaid’s Tale, is the chief financial officer.
As knowledge of Pulsar (pulsaruv.com) has spread through the industry, demand has surged.
Last week, the company hired five nurses for another production.
“(Monday) I was talking to six productions about to start filming,” said Szeman, who still calls Essex County home along with her husband Adrian Jaworski.
“The phone is non-stop right now. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it looks like we’re going to be having a busy summer.”
Corey Mayne said the company’s appeal is their mobility and understanding of the fast-paced industry’s work rules and set requirements.
Most productions are having testing done three times a week. The required safety protocols during the pandemic are consuming 10 to 20 per cent of a production’s budget.
“This is a different world,” Mayne said.
“We test on set and we also arrange pre-testing before shooting. It’s a concierge-type service of coming to them we offer.”
Mayne said they’ve hired a physician to oversee the medical requirements and protocols. The firm also has a relationship with a diagnostic lab allowing for prompt return of results.
On average PCR testing results are confirmed in 24 to 36 hours.
“We are offering different kinds of tests now also,” Mayne said. “We have rapid testing that can be done in 15 minutes.”
Szeman said the group never really thought of themselves as entrepreneurs, but have always been creative and open to innovation.
Szeman, Jaworski and Corey Mayne also have their own film production company, Formido Films.
“We were just trying to find a way to get our friends and ourselves back to work,” said Szeman of the inspiration for Pulsar.
“Our original goal was to try and put ourselves out of business by helping end the pandemic. Now we’re tossing ideas around and pivoting again.
“We feel there’s potential beyond the pandemic.”
Szeman said she expects the film/TV industry to pay more attention to health and safety issues going forward.
“We’ve already seen companies are trying to make it healthier for people,” Szeman said. “We feel we can be part of the solution.”
The group is also expanding into non-entertainment industry sectors in Windsor.
With the need for testing and rapid results at the border, Szeman sees a niche to be filled.
“We have a lot of businesses in Windsor that need this type of testing,” Szeman said.
“Some need to get their people back and forth across the border. We see a need for different type of service and we’re going to make it available.”