After a solid three months of no work, I was given a few opportunities in the past few weeks to dip my toes back into production. It goes without saying: filmmaking in the age of coronavirus isn’t what you’re used to. So put on your mask, sanitize those hands, and buckle up for our brave new world.
Information and musings on happenings in hollywood
Most Recent Articles in "Industry News"
Adam B. Vary writing for Variety:
The shutdown had just started to soften this month, as a handful of U.S. productions — ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” CBS’s “The Bold and the Beautiful”— began slowly getting back to work, with others quietly preparing to start up again in the coming months. Those plans were predicated, however, on the assumption that COVID-19 cases were either leveling off or dropping nationwide, providing a safer environment for productions to move forward.
Instead, cases have exploded. On Monday and Tuesday, California hit record numbers of daily confirmed cases, led by Los Angeles county, which has hit over 103,000 total cases of the over 230,000 total cases statewide. Cases are similarly skyrocketing in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, while the popular production hubs of Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico are seeing a precipitous rise as well.
The facts on the ground are swiftly placing the industry into an excruciating double-bind between literal and figurative life and death.
Film production in the United States is currently at a crawl. There is some work to be had (I’ll be sharing my few COVID work experiences soon), but it’s nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels. Most of our peers in the major production cities or working on big shows are sitting at home waiting for things to settle – except the opposite is happening.
With dwindling options in the U.S., some productions are beginning to entertain moving to Europe, where COVID-19 spread is far more under control.
It’s shameful that an uncoordinated, inconsistent, and scattershot approach to COVID-19 from the leadership of the United States has resulted in our industry and below-the-line crew (among many others) losing out on valuable work. It’s maddening that the simplest, most affordable, and most effective weapon we have against coronavirus – mask wearing – has been politicized into another line in the sand in which sides are taken. It’s frustrating that we endured lockdowns, unemployment, and numerous stressors only to end up backtracking.
Until productions can be done safely, which is perilous in areas of abundant community spread, a lot of crew will be left out of work as unions, above-the-liners, studios, and crew themselves prefer to mitigate their risk of COVID-19 infection.
So: please, wear the mask!
Todd A writes a damning account of his time working at RED, the digital cinema camera company:
I have a post drafted in my blog titled “My birthday gift to myself this year: Retirement.” It’s dated February 26, 2012. At that time, I’d been working in the online marketing (web) department at RED Digital Cinema for about 5 months. I was sick of complaining about it to my friends and family. I didn’t want to be that guy who is always bitching about his job but never doing anything about it. Yet, I remained at RED for two more years. How is that possible?
Ouch – he already wanted to leave after only 5 months.
It’s surprising to hear such incendiary remarks considering the passion and devotion that usually surrounds RED’s users and fans. However, within the context of founder Jim Jannard’s forum posts and his recent exit into the shadows, it’s unsurprising to hear Todd speak out against, “the president making announcements on the community forum before the employees knew” and writing:
After the stressful product launches in December 2013, things quieted down enormously. Almost too enormously. It was quiet like “this is bad for business” quiet. But I knew NAB — the major broadcasting convention — loomed in April and I knew RED was bound to surprise all its employees with its plans for the show. “Keep the crises rolling” and all that.
Todd goes on to describe broken promises for bonuses and equity, long hours, and an unhealthy lack of organization. And in the comments, someone else named “Brian” added:
I was at RED from the start for 4 years . It is a good characterization of the place. Easy to understand why none of the first employees are no longer there anymore.
As RED matures from the disruptive force it was several years ago into a major player on the digital cinematography field, it’s going to have to address the problems and negative experiences of employees like Todd and Brian – even if they are in the minority.
(Todd wrote another post, too, about how companies can avoid the mistakes he encountered at RED.)
Midnight Rider, the production that camera assistant Sarah Jones was working on when she was killed, has been trying recently to resume production by moving the shoot across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles. But today, the subject of the biopic, Gregg Allman, asked the film’s director to abandon the production via personal letter:
“When the idea of you producing the film first came about, I was genuinely excited about the possibility of sharing my story with fans around the world. Unfortunately, all of that changed for me on February 20 of this year,” he wrote. “While there may have been a possibility that the production might have resumed shortly after that, the reality of Sarah Jones’ tragic death, the loss suffered by the Jones family and injuries to the others involved has led me to realize that for you to continue production would be wrong.”
This is huge. And it comes after actor William Hurt withdrew from the film. Hurt was set to play Mr. Allman and was on set when the train that killed Sarah Jones and injured several others came barreling down the tracks. Additionally, many crew have proactively stated they won’t work on this shoot.
So to summarize where Midnight Rider stands: the main star dropped out, the subject of the movie wants to pull the plug, and crew across the country have started boycotting their involvement.
What’s the point of moving forward? How do the director and producers exhibit such blindness to the tragedy and lack of guilt for what happened to Sarah? Even if it does move forward, how will they get a crew? It’s common knowledge within industry circles that doing so would amount to career suicide.
Cheers to Gregg Allman for understanding the situation and treating it with reason and sensitivity. Let’s hope that same sensitivity results in the production shutting down and that same reason prevails in a thorough investigation of the incident.
The Anonymous Production Assistant is Kickstarting a podcast in which each episode is an interview with a different below-the-line crew member (an idea that’s long overdue):
I’ll interview the unheralded crew members that toil below-the-line (which is Hollywood speak for anybody who’s not a writer, director, producer, or actor). Not just the department heads (although they’re obviously very important); I’ll talk to everyone from assistant editors to art directors to rigging grips.
Do you know what a gaffer gaffs? What a best boy is best at? What a production accountant counts? Listen to Crew Call and find out!
For those of you new to the business, it’ll be a great way to learn what everybody does. For more experienced listeners, it’ll still be a great way to learn what everybody does. ‘Cause let’s face it, you have no idea, do you?
I’ve pledged my share to get a sweet T-shirt, but I also have a vested interest in the project getting funded because I’ve already been interviewed for the first season along with these crew:
- Michael Taylor, electrician, who writes Confessions of a Hollywood Juicer
- Nathan Gendizer, location manager, who writes Polybloggimus
- Darryl Humber, dolly grip, who writes Dollygrippery
I am a huge fan of Hollywood Juicer and Dollygrippery, so it’s truly an honor to be in the company of Mike and Darryl as the initial group of crew lending our perspective about life below-the-line and experience within our respective departments. I’m genuinely excited to hear their take on the industry.
The podcast will be fully funded with a modest $1,845 and it’s almost there, so please head on over to the Kickstarter page and donate what you can! Also, be sure to check out The Anonymous PA’s blog.
I’m writing this while waiting in the check-in line at my hotel in Las Vegas for the 2014 NAB Show. This line is pretty long and, well, I shouldn’t be surprised after the cab driver from the airport said NAB will bring an estimated 96,000 people into the city of sin. It turns out that number isn’t so crazy – last year NAB had 93,602 registrants come to Vegas for the yearly Mecca of filmmaking gear.
I’m normally not a gear-junkie, but NAB offers me a chance to get up-close-and-personal with the new cameras and equipment I can expect to see popping up on sets and in rental houses. Plus, it’s a trip to Vegas, right? But NAB is also about connecting with others in the filmmaking community. One of the things I’m most excited for this week is to shake the hands of people I’ve only known through this site and put faces to their virtual counterparts.
So while I don’t have any set schedule or specific plans for the convention, if you see me walking around please don’t hesitate to stop and say hello! You’ll know it’s me if I’m wearing black and/or blue. And if you’re still unsure, my badge has my name listed along with this website.
I hope to see you on the floor of the convention center! Now, excuse me while I have a few beers to try and mentally prepare myself for the explosion of gear and equipment I’ll be subjected to tomorrow.
Last week, camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed after being struck by a train on the set of a movie. The reaction to the preventable accident has been varied, but there’s been an outpouring of positive support via a Slates for Sarah page and a petition to get her mentioned at the Oscars.
Tony Reale and Matt Jeppsen are the masterminds behind NextWave DV and Fresh DV and they’ve teamed up to bring as much insider access and filmmaking perspective to NAB Show 2012 as possible.