We put out a call to people who work in the entertainment industry, asking them to share stories about how their lives have changed as the coronavirus pandemic shut down Hollywood.
We heard from folks across the industry. Most are out of work and feeling varying degrees of alarm. There were some strategies for coping, and even signs of hope.
Filmmakers Christina Beck and Beth Dewey are still teaching remotely at Loyola Marymount University. But Dewey says they’ve been hit in other ways: “The way we see our work affected by the pandemic is that it was beginning to look a little bit better for female filmmakers, and we both had individual projects that we were getting off the ground.”
Now meetings about those projects have been canceled.
Actor David Saucedo, who’s had roles on “Shameless,” “Mayans” and “Arrested Development,” isn’t booking new work. “Obviously with everything that’s going on, the industry’s completely shut down, so I don’t have any income coming in,” he says.
At first, costumer Monica Haynes thought there would just be a two-week pause on finding outfits for her most recent movie job. But after a call from her boss, she quickly realized the work stoppage would be longer. She learned the film she was working on got shut down entirely, and the whole crew was laid off.
Even before the pandemic hit, Matt McRee was struggling to find work in writers’ rooms. He was a production assistant in the writers’ room for season four of “Mr. Robot,” but wasn’t able to get in a room since. Still, he managed to line up something short-term as a temp worker at a company that organizes live audiences for tapings of television shows. Then that went away too.
“Large groups of people sitting right next to each other is definitely not what the doctor ordered,” McRee says “So the company I was working for had to lay off all of its employees. I think everyone there kind of knew it was coming, but still.”
Cinematographer Mario Contini is accustomed to freelancing in Hollywood, so he’s familiar with occasional downtimes. But in the past, even when he didn’t have a job, he had something on the horizon. With coronavirus, that’s all changed. Contini tells us, “I just lost all of my work ahead. And there is nothing being booked in the future. So at this point, it’s definitely a little unnerving.”
Before the state started shelter-at-home regulations, Beck and Dewey found a rare opportunity amidst the chaos. They were working on a movie called “Everything She Owns,” coincidentally about a woman alone in an apocalyptic Los Angeles. Before, they struggled to film LA streets without people in them. But for a moment, they were able to film a completely deserted Hollywood Boulevard.
Beck, who stars in the film, says it was a surreal moment: “As fortunate as we felt as like, ‘Oh yay! We get to shoot on Hollywood Boulevard, and there’s no one around, and we would never be able to afford this,’ there was definitely this other reality, which is what’s going on right now, and why this very once-busy street is completely empty.”
In addition to their work situations, the people we spoke to shared how they’re planning to pay the bills. Some are relying on savings. Others are applying for unemployment. McRee is hoping a GoFundMe specifically for Hollywood assistants may help him.
They also told us how they are coping. Contini is riding his BMX bike and cooking vegan food, while Saucedo is reading and calling old friends on the phone.
Haynes is meditating every morning and trying to take a realistic and optimistic perspective. “The best way to handle what we’re all going through is to treat each other with compassion and kindness, and understanding that we all have fears,” she says. “None of us know what’s gonna happen over the next several months, but what we can control is our reaction to it, to each other.”
David Saudeco is keeping the faith too. “I do think we will be stronger for this. And we will come together.”