Thanks to COVID-19, Film and TV production has officially come to a stop. Not even during the Great Depression did filmmaking cease. This is uncharted territory, but that doesn’t have to spell total doom and gloom for the entertainment industry. In fact, we are already seeing changes, alterations, and opportunities arise that could have a major positive impact on how we are producing and consuming film and television.

How has the film industry changed already?

NBCUniversal announced yesterday that it will now be releasing movies digitally on demand the same day they release in theaters. This has been a conversation topic in the industry for a long time, held up until now by distributor contracts and cinema chains concerned about their own profits. Disney is also jumping on the proactive digital release bandwagon and has released Frozen 2 on streaming through Disney+ three months earlier than planned. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9shcjthB9D/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

This could now be the new normal, which will have a major impact on the industry landscape. Distribution has notoriously been one of the biggest hurdles for independent or micro-budget feature films. By knocking down that hurdle the film industry opens itself up to new avenues, new outlets, and new sources of revenue that could be very beneficial to the industry as a whole.

What vulnerabilities are being exposed?

Awareness of the vulnerabilities many workers in the production industry face due to the freelance nature of their jobs has also risen. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter

“In the last few days, showrunners including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Rob McElhenney, Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19‘s Krista Vernoff and Counterpart‘s Amy Berg have called for studios, showrunners and TV producers to keep their crews and assistants writing, working or at least paid amid shutdowns. Some have heeded that call, including UTV and Comcast, which are giving two weeks’ pay to Chicago Fire crew members and WarnerMedia, which did the same on Righteous Gemstones.”

Industry members have also created GoFundMes “relief funds”  for particularly vulnerable segments of the film and TV workforce, including pages, Hollywood support staff and musicians; union IATSE announced on Tuesday that it had committed $2.5 million to several funds. On a broader scale, California and New York have implemented emergency policies — such as quicker access to unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions — to protect workers, while the coronavirus relief bill continues to make its way through Congress.

This is a great time to refocus and regain control over your career. Perfect your profiles, get yourself positioned in the right places, take time to learn and understand Union benefits and what is on offer, and be prepared for the jobs to start rolling in when production resumes and the town is once again on fire with creative energy and anxious to deliver.

What opportunities will COVID-19 create in the film industry?

There are three areas that seem like potential opportunities to look forward to once this all calms down:

    • New breakthroughs and revised reboots: we all have heard the stories of little shows that found big-time fame thanks to distribution on Netflix. All this downtime provides people with a chance to catch up on shows and movies they might have missed in the fast-paced world we were previously living in. There is a chance this time could breathe new life into under-seen or under-represented shows, leading to a reboot and uplift in production to meet consumer demand once this is all over.
    • An uptick in freelance jobs: As we come out of this, bigger companies are going to be cautious while everything settles down and the economy finds its stride once again. This could lead to a major increase in the number of freelance jobs available. Even now, during this crisis, we are seeing companies like Amazon and Deliveroo hiring more workers at higher wages to perform their delivery services. Companies that had adequate or less than digital strategies will be looking to writers, designers and other creatives to ramp up their efforts. And when it is really all over, all the events postponed by the circumstances of the pandemic will be back on the scene with a bang and will need staff to handle the influx of people excited to be a part of something bigger than their own living rooms once again.
    • A rise in animated films: Could this lead to a rise in animated films? Live action film production has paused for the moment, but what about animated films that are mostly created on computers and can be collaborated on digitally? While animated films do take longer to complete, there’s a good chance an influx of these films could be coming at the tail end of this pandemic, or from powerhouses like Netflix and Amazon which have yet to stake a strong claim in that category. 

 

What is being done to overcome the pandemic?

To everyone taking precautions, being proactive, and practicing social distancing – thank you! These measures may seem drastic, but they are necessary. According to the WSJ, in cities within Italy and China where containment measures were taken early and seriously, there has been a significant difference between the speed of the spread of the virus compared to cities where life continued as normal even after caution was placed under lockdown. 

Graph of Covid-19 Outbreak in Italy

So keep doing what you are doing. We know the indefinite uncertainty is scary, but taking the proper measures to ensure you stay healthy does make a difference. Together we’ll get through this.

Still, many are wondering – what’re the timelines? How long will this really last? Around the globe, scientists and pharmaceutical companies are actively working on finding a vaccine. New vaccines are required to go through many stages, each of which typically takes three months to a year to complete. However, as of March 3, The C.D.C. lifted all federal restrictions on testing for the coronavirus. This should increase the speed in which a cure is discovered and distributed. 

On the commerce side, According to President Trump during his recent news conference, Google appears to be swooping in to potentially save the day and has announced it will be building a website designed to connect people in the U.S. to a coronavirus testing/triage tool. There is no word from the President nor Google of when this tool will be available, simply that it is in the works. However, this should help calm the nerves at the very least and assures that proactive progress is being taken. For those curious about a full timeline mapping out the spread of the virus so far, see this New York Times article.

No one knows for certain how long restrictions will need to stay in place, or how long this will last, but if we work together, we will get through this.

Light at the end of the tunnel? Starbucks has reopened 90% of its stores in China. 

Starbucks Cup held over Starbuck background