When we get back to work... (12 replies and 5 comments)
It’s a hopeful thought. What’s happening around the world, and particularly, the numbers of people put into hospital beds (aside from death rates), underscaores how serious the pandemic is.
Our livelihood is on set. But the somewhat patchwork response to the virus in the US makes me wonder when it will be deemed “safe” to run a production again. Can that happen at all before a vaccine is approved and administered to the public?
A film set is a particularly challenging environment for prevention of virus transmission. People work in close quarters. Camera operators, dolly grips, makeup, all of us really, are often within a few feet distance of the other for long periods of time. And speaking of the hours, 15-hour days can tax the immune system of the healthiest among us under the best circumstances.
Food for cast and crew is traditionally served in large open containers under modest heat, plates and utensils out in the open being grabbed by hands without much concern.
Some of this could be addressed by productions spending more money, in shorter hours and changing craft services substantially. This seems somewhat unlikely to me. Mandatory testing of crew is likely already being discussed. Masks may become a common sight on set, or even mandated (unless your job is in front of the camera). I know there are bigger issues in the world at this moment, but the nature of the work itself makes me wonder when studios and production companies, not to mention all of us, will see it as safe to resume.
We do TV editing and A-for-V and music scores and everything is 'dark' until August except the guy who does TV editing is working from home. We were going to start a new project in May - our first film - but that has too many people involved and features a band playing in a club, so that's all on hold.
We may lose that film completely as we are contracted to start another film next year. We are a tiny operation, so one small film a year is all we can hope to crack!
I have been doing some number-crunching and if the UK is following the Italian/Spanish/French C19 model, there will be some 1400 deaths in total by Wednesday next week. If the USA follows the same trend, they will have had 1800 deaths by then.
Those three countries have seen a six-fold increase in total deaths to-date every seven days. The UK so far has seen a ten-fold increase every seven days.
On March 07 it was two deaths, then 21 on the 14th and 233 on the 21st. Right now we are at 477.
Italy is two weeks ahead in infection rates and the figures, therefore, started Feb22nd with two, then 29, 233, 1441 and on the 21st 4825. It is now on 7503.
If I take three dates - 7th, 14th and 21st, the figures for France are 16, 91, 562 and today are 1331. The USA - 19, 57, 301 and 1062 today. Spain - 10, 196, 1381 and 4145 today. Every week about six times as many are dead as the week before.
As for the economic effects - that will be the subject of many books and many Ph.D. papers! Let's just say that this one may easily outdo the 2007-9 banking crisis.
I too am concerned about the health of film production crews if work starts up too soon. We all want to work and it is an immensely frustrating time for many of us either creatively or financially. Ours is an industry that thrives on close collaboration and, this is even more of a concern, close collaboration between people from all parts of the country and from all parts of the world. This is a factor that will need to be addressed. What insurance company would cover a crew shooting in Spain, Italy or even London with an international crew of hundreds and including actors who may be in the, shall we say, upper age range?
Personally, I am optimistic and I don't think things will be as bad as some projections imply. But to avoid the worst we must behave as if those projections are our future.
The economic effects are going to be massive and lasting. Right now, the world in lockdown. Movies are not being made. Buildings are not being built. Concerts, flights, hotel and restaurant bookings and a thousand other things are being canceled and governments are borrowing from the future on a grand scale. Central bank interest rates are near zero, but companies are borrowing at far higher rates to cover cash shortfalls as we all are forced to stop spending.
Over the past few weeks, a deep recession has come to be accepted as the inevitable economic price of slowing the advance of C19. On March 24th some of the earliest broad statistical indicators of how deep that recession might be in Western economies arrived, in the monthly purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs) published by IHS Markit, a data and research firm. The numbers are staggeringly bad.
The numbers indicate a recession every bit as bad as in the financial crisis of 2007-09, and probably much worse.
The PMIs are compiled from surveys of purchasing managers at 400 companies in each of several countries. They cover manufacturing, services, construction and the whole economy. Managers are asked about a host of things: current and future activity, new orders, employment, suppliers’ delivery times and more. They provide a pretty decent leading indicator of GDP. For each index and sub-index, the magic number is 50: a figure above that suggests that activity is increasing; anything below it points to contraction.
Looking at the above charts shows that a 20-point fall in the PMI for the UK back in 2007-8 was co-incidental with an 8% fall in GDP. A similar fall happened in the US. That is roughly what the fall is this time already - only this time it has happened almost instantly.
And it is still falling!
In the eurozone, the index plunged from 51.6 to 31.4 in February. That is the lowest it has been since the index was created in 1998. The services index slumped from 52.6 to 28.4, beating the previous dire record of 39.2, set in February 2009. Service-sector jobs are being cut at the fastest rate since May 2009.
The eurozone is by far the hardest hit and the economic effects in the US have yet to be seen and it is far too early to get a clear view. The end is very far from being in sight!
Roger you asked perhaps rhetorically what insurance company would back a film being shot in the near term with expansive international cast and crew coming together, and I think there is a way. But that way is as extreme as the methods China used to “flatten the curve” of new Covid-19 cases.
First, the script and project would need to small and suited for restrictions. No commercial air travel. All personnel, cast, crew, transportation, etc, involved would need to agree to be sequestered for the entire run of production, in housing guarded by production security. All would need to be pre-screened for exposure to the virus, and agree to testing once sequestered. (This alone would push the feasibility of this to a more distant timeframe). All food would need to cooked within the sequester, and carefully prepared or washed prior to being made available.
I would agree to these conditions if I were asked. I suspect many others would, if it meant doing what we love to do, and making the living that supports us. There certainly is an audience out there, eager to watch, from the safety of their own livingrooms.
It’s extreme, and sounds almost preposterous. And I hope tough restrictions allow the virus to die off into irrelevance. But it’s hard for me to imagine right now how a film production could be safely done, and backed financially, without such measures until a cure or vaccine is developed for the virus. That is unless the film’s cast and crew consisted of about 5-10 people. Roger I would still pay to see you collaborate with the Coen brothers or Sam if it were such a small production! (In fact it would be pretty interesting).
By the time you've put that lot together, a vaccine will have been created! Every member od cast and crew will have to have a C19 vaccination certificate.
Just hope a ‘Death Certificate’ will not have been issued before that happens.
My point is that it will take time for the film business to recover, probably longer than any other industry. I don't want to be negative but I think that is inevitable. I was running on the beach a few days ago when someone called over to me. I love your work! I replied that I hope to do some more one day. Yesterday the beaches here were closed. It seems like we were just at the Academy Awards and a few days later we were in lock-down. And the Academy award was won by a wonderful film, a film which gave me hope that great films can still be made. And the film was called 'Parasite'.
Yes, the Academy did make left-field choice but I wished another Korean film "Burning" got more attention. This Korean film tackles similar themes of "Parasite" but in a much more subtle fashion. I found it interesting that "Burning" premiered at the Cannes festival when the jury members included Villeneuve and Zvyagintsev because the film shared the slow-burning narrative styles of those two directors.
'Parasite'. My point was really that the title seems a little ironic given C19 was spreading around the world at the time.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't reached its peak, we are barely witnessing the beginning in the United States. I live in Texas, and infections are soaring in New Orleans, it was estimated that Texas would reach high levels of infection within three weeks. And 80 percent of the population will eventually become infected. It’s terribly odd how America’s economy was soaring at a record level, only to be destabilized by the Chinese virus; there is a lot of misinformation being thrown around; some sources indicate that the virus may have been bioengineered, and China even claims that the virus was created by the US military. The whole pandemic is bizarre, the entire world changed in the blink of an eye. What is even more disconcerting is how people bought all the toilet paper from the store shelves; an apocalypse-scenario and that’s what they impulsively go for.
Don’t forget there’s a Covid19 sequel coming our way in the summer, the trailer will be out soon. We all need to sit back and think this one out.
I hope the virus doesn't mutate and become a super-virus; that would kill millions of people.
They are now using the word ‘plague’, sounds much more dramatic and gives it an urgency. Now personal protection equipment is now actually being delivered to the people that need it.
As we wonder when and how we may return to work, a somewhat more interesting thought comes to mind.
How might the pandemic change the kinds of stories we tell once we are able to do so again. How could it alter the tone of narrative film or even advertising? Will we see an era of more contemplative, smaller films? Darker in tone? Will narrative film and TV match the mood of the audience or go to pure escapism? What can prior eras tell us? Which are relevant? The Great Depression? WW2? Watergate? 9/11? Perhaps this is so uncharted, no prior era can inform just what to expect. It’s still very early.
There were films made during the Vietnam war that were provocative, challenging, imaginative as well as entertaining. But that 'war' was a long way from home. 'Night and Fog'. 'Chernobyl'. I hope not.