102 - Covid-19 Update & The Power of Storytelling

Lawrence Lewis:

Hello, this is Lawrence Lewis.

 

Sister Christian:

And this is Sister Christian.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

We are to film producers. I'm from Los Angeles and Christian is from New York City. Just a little more than a week ago, we quietly released the first episode of a podcast we created called Producers Happy Hour. It was meant to be a show where two producers on opposite coasts chatted over drinks about what it means to be a good producer.

 

Sister Christian:

But things have changed very quickly. Within a week and 1/2 most jobs have canceled, and we find ourselves out of work for the foreseeable future.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Do the Coronavirus pandemic and the important safety measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus, such a social distancing or shelter in place. It's bringing the film production community to a near standstill, something that we haven't seen happen since 9/11.

 

Sister Christian:

So, we've decided to pivot. Although we have five episodes recorded, it doesn't feel right to release those right now. This is much more important.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

We are now going to take this opportunity to reach far and wide into our filmmaking community to see who is working, who is not working and what does the future look like for commercial shoots as well as TV and film?

 

Sister Christian:

So, we want to hear your stories. We need to hear your story. Please send us your questions or tell us what's happening with you or your work or your family, or just how you're navigating what we're going through right now. Whether you're a freelancer going on 20 years myself or staff at a production company, we want to hear from everyone. Everyone in our community is affected right now.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

You can either send us an email at producershappyhour@gmail.com or better yet, share your story with us audibly. Record a one minute voice memo and email that to the same email address producershappyhour@gmail.com. Tell us who you are your name, what city you're based in. Are you a production company? Are you staff? Are you freelance and what's going on with your situation?

 

Sister Christian:

You can also remain anonymous, if you'd prefer. We just would like as much information as we can, so, that it's informative to the rest of our community. We also put these instructions on our website at www.producershappyhour.com. Our hope is to keep the community informed and help guide the conversation in a productive way.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And we're not journalists, but as producers, were facilitators and storytellers. And we think there's value in that and we want to use our skills to bring our community together and share our stories with each other so, we don't feel so, alone during this difficult time.

 

Sister Christian:

So, Lawrence, 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah

 

Sister Christian:

I know, I know that I immediately feel somewhat isolated from our community. I understand CoPros is still going, and, um, I'm still trying to wrap up a few jobs that I was on, but in the end, I'm already feeling a bit isolated.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Well, I'm literally isolated. I came out to my house in Joshua Tree. so, I left L.A. on Saturday, came out here in Joshua Tree for an art opening and to see some friends. And we had an opening in our Airbnb. so, we thought things were getting a little strange. Let's just go to the desert, hang out and work remotely. I just turned in a bid for missing pieces for a project. And then I had another project this week that got delayed, postponed. so, I'm here.  We're safe. We're good. We're healthy. We've got supplies. Um, I'm recording. You might hear the rain. It just started raining as we started this podcast. I'm in a trailer that we have on our property. so, I've made my little, uh, recording studio with all my gear for my home studio. Brought it all out with me because I I had a feeling we'd be out here for a little while and yeah, it's isolating. We feel safe, but it's definitely it's definitely isolating. And it's a little unnerving. And I'm sure most of our listeners air feeling that right now,

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, I was in L. A. For the last five weeks, on and off, working on several projects and just figured with everything that's going on and whether we're going to stop domestic travel or not or just we just close the borders to Canada, looks like, um, I decided to come home to New York, and so, I'm recording out of my basement. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Great. 

 

Sister Christian:

A little room that I have made for myself. so, everybody’s fine. Family’s good, husband’s good. His parents are good. so, we’re, we're all fine here. 20 to eat, plenty of provisions.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Great. And I hear I don't know what you've heard since you're actually in New York. But over here we've heard that De Blasio is warning that there may be a shelter in place directive issued for New York. Is that have you heard anything more?

 

Sister Christian:

Nothing more. But they are considering it because not everybody's heeding the warnings as they should. And, um, you know, I would like to consider you and I at least practical people and common sense based. That's how we both produce. And I just feel that we all should be doing our part right now. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Sister Christian:

That means we're staying at home. Then we should be staying at home. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Exactly. And washing our hands and not touching your face.

 

Sister Christian:

Don't touch your face.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Don't touch your face.

 

Sister Christian:

And then, of course, I feel like I'm four layers off of my skin. But we're going there to…

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Mine, too. I was going to ask you about that. My hands are so, raw because I've been washing them so, much. Um and maybe that's something we can do, Christian. Maybe we can put out a video. Have you seen the video of the five steps of washing your hands?

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, it is. I bet we could add that we can improve on the contents for sure.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Let's improve on it. Let's improve on in and let's put that out. So, this is an interesting thing that's happening right now. You know, as we're going to wait for everyone stories to come in and people to jump online and do some interviews with us, that's something else we should say. We're looking to interview all of the leaders in the film industry right now, so, we've reached out to AICP, to folks at on IATSE and some of the biggest production companies in the country. We want to hear what they think is happening because we feel their voices are important right now to talk to our community because everyone's a little unnerved about where their next paycheck is coming from and when their next job is going to be so, we've reached out to everybody. We're hoping we're pleading for some people to come on, share their knowledge, shared their wisdom and since they're on the front lines talking to the ad agencies and talking to, uh, the brand's directly, they might have some insight as to what the thinking is. When will things get back to normal?  If normal, still a thing, it's going to change for sure what?

 

Sister Christian:

What the new normal will be?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

So, stay tuned. We are going to try and do this daily for as long as we can If we're held up here at home, Uh, you know, we're producers who would like to create. So, we're just going to dive in and see what see what we can do to share stories amongst the community so, people feel less disconnected. And I think one thing like you know, the amazing advantage we have with technologies that we can do this we can just set up instantly and start creating content and media and sharing it with people. And I think that is one important thing that we should talk about. That's the power of storytelling, because we're going to start seeing it really quickly. Just last night, Ben Gibbard from, Death Cab for Cutie just did a live concert from his home. And then I think a little bit later last night, Keith Urban did a live concert from his studio. This is going to start happening. I think we're going to see the biggest celebrities. Oh, did you see Matthew McConaughey's message, Christian?

 

Sister Christian:

No, I did not.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I'll share it with you think Matthew Haste sent out a message as well. We're going to see people have the ability now to broadcast from their homes without any middlemen in the way at all. And that's going to be a game changer. I mean, imagine if Beyonce decided to do a little acoustic set from her living room that would be mad!

 

Sister Christian:

On instagram stories or something. Of course, guy,

 

Lawrence Lewis:

There's going to be a whole new awakening here of stay at home entertainment. That is going to be interesting to watch, because it's going to effect when we do get back to work. Some things that are going to happen.

 

Sister Christian:

And it's hard to predict exactly what's going to happen right now. And I think part of the reason why I was very interested in doing this with you is I'm nervous, too. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. 

 

Sister Christian:

We've been getting our jobs freelance now for for more than…

 

Lawrence Lewis:

more years than we want to admit

 

Sister Christian:

meaningful adult life was calling. I've been freelance, and every job has come from how good I was or the company's loyalty or a director that's felt that we meld. You know, all these things that are gone, 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, 

 

Sister Christian:

and so, I'm definitely feeling a little lost that I know a lot of our community is as well,

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely, which is why we wanted to kind of just start talking. We don't have the answers. We aren’t news journalists. We aren't health experts, but let's just all talk. Let's share our stories. So, we put out a plea on social media for people to send in one minute video. Anybody can do this. If you work in the film, entertainment or live event business, there's a lot of live event people. They're really, really hurting right now. Send us your story. Send us your thoughts, tell us your name, the city you're from, whether you are staff in a company or you’re a freelance, is that company active? Do you have a job right now? Did you have jobs cancel or postponed? what’s happening for you in the foreseeable future? And of course, how are you doing? How are you doing all this? How are you staying positive, productive, active? That I think, that's really important for us right now. So, we have our 1st recording come in. This is from Michael Palumbo. He’s the director of sales, and he's also a film director from a company called Votary. Let's take a listen. 

 

Recording (Mike Palumbo):

My name is Mike Palumbo. I am in Worcester, Massachusetts, and I am a director of sales and a film director for Votary Films and I also do freelance work for photography and videography. We are still working mostly remote, but some of us are in a new space that we are building out. So, it's kind of tough timing because we need all the jobs we can get to fix this new space up. But yeah, we're still cranking, and I'm just trying to create some video content, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while. Trying to do some tips and tricks of the trade, and talk about some stuff that I I enjoy and just basically start conversations because people just need help and need to be able to talk to people you know, if there were strangers in the business world, um, I just find it a little inappropriate to just jump into pitches right now without kind of connecting with people on a deeper level, which is really my personality. So, I'm cool with it. Hang in there. Hope you're well Okay. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

OK, thanks. Michael Palumbo, for that contribution. Christian, I want to share with you, still talking about the power of storytelling. I want to share with you this amazing video. It's a montage of video recordings that a bunch of Italians did that are on quarantine right now. They were asked to record a video message to themselves 10 days ago. So, what would they want themselves to know, 10 days ago about how serious it was going to get. Because just like us, 10 days ago, I just pushed out our first episode of this podcast. 10 days ago, I didn't know this was all going to happen, and we didn't know how serious it was going to become. so, this video is really, really it's really I don't even have words for it. It’s, it’s heart warming. It's a little nerve wrecking, but it reminds us all how serious to take what is happening right now. And don't be surprised. We're 10 days behind Italy. So, that's why this video makes so, much sense. So, I'm going to put in the show notes and I'm not going to put it on our YouTube page. It's really moving. And it could really show the power of storytelling, even if it's not journalism, just talking about what's happening in our new reality. That's all I got. What about you, Christian?

 

Sister Christian:

So, Lawrence, last week, uh, I spent the entire week trying to field clients concerns about what was going on. Ah, we saw the gatherings of people to drop from 500 to to 250 to 50 to 10 eventually on Friday.  so, every day I would check the L A film permits offices website.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

because you were in LA at that moment at that time, right?

 

Sister Christian:

Yeah. And I was also monitoring co prose as well, because that's where people would post whether they had a job cancel or whether there's a lot of force majeure talk. Um, last week, there's definitely insurance talk. I know that we reached out to our insurance company a couple of times to ask them what they would cover and what they wouldn't do to cancellation. I think that when the AICP put out their letter with guidelines about can solutions and such was interesting. I also feel as over the years what would have been taken as verbatim and the end of the conversation would have been the AICP guideline. However, these days there's a lot of different negotiations going on. A lot of different company, you are dealing with client direct to have never heard of the AICP. so, I know that we a lot of us use those guidelines as what we should do. However, I'm finding that it's been different in every single instance. And that's been a little bit hard to navigate people's expectations from the crew that you had holding to the clients, and what their expectations were for cancellation as well. And who's going to share the burden of those costs

 

Lawrence Lewis: 

Exactly. In the AICP guidelines are really only, they only really dictate what needs to happen between the ad agency and the and the production company, right? so, AICP the guidelines just say, if it's this many days before the shoot, you have to give 75% of the money back plus hard costs if you if it's this many days before the shooting to get 50% of money back and plus hard costs or director fees. I don't have it in front of me, so, I can't read them down. But that doesn't dictate what the production companies have to pay, the staff and crew that had been hired. 

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

That's kind of up to the production company. Unless, of course, unless it's a union production company. There are some guidelines in there, but I think they're very lenient.

Sister Christian:

I feel like I feel like moving forward. We all have to have, you know, those spelled out before you start the job?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely. so, I'm looking at the AICP website. And they have a page - that’s Coronavirus Resource.  Everyone should check that out. There's a lot of information on here.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

But one thing that I do want to point out that I just saw, Christian. And this was from March 17th. Chicago Film Office, film permitting suspended. 

 

Sister Christian:

Yes. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

So, we assume that that's going to happen. I don't know the situation in New York and I haven't checked on film. LA yet

 

Sister Christian:

Well, New York. I'm not sure about that. L.A. definitely just… They batten down the hatches there. Any public land or any LA county or LA city proper is absolutely no filming now. And but you can film on private property as long as your crew is under 50

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right? Yeah, that's what I'm seeing here. county of LA, crews of under 50. But, Christian, that does not adhere to the rule of crowds under 10 by California Governor. so, I don't know if these are slower spin and getting updated, but I imagine that's going to change as well.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, and this this is our update from today. The 18th release, Sunday night, I believe, is when the people do not gather and larger Clinton, though I'm surprised that they're still allowing this. I also did run into last week a slight situation where we were going to be filming in a private, on private property in a person's home, and once Friday hit, they canceled on us.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, it's time to be smart and be safe. And work is important for all of us. But, um, our health and safety and those of others is also very important as well. so, we need to do our best to abide by the guidelines set by the by the states in which we reside and work,

 

Sister Christian:

and as producers as producers. Where are the go between our production and our agency clients. So, trying to navigate the rules of what the government or the localities have set in place versus what the federal government has set, and then what our client expectations are, have been challenging.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Um, what is this article Baker McKenzie that you sent?

 

Sister Christian:

So last week on CoPros There's a lot of force majeure talk like I had mentioned before. And I noticed that Bruce Navy, who, but he does business affairs in such contracts. He posted an article from Baker McKenzie, which kind of explains a little bit about what force majeure means in this climate. Basically, what this is saying is because this is a virus, it doesn't really fall under force majeure. It's going to be taken on a case by case basis. There's not a set answer yet on what to do if your job is canceled. I know that my job postponed last week. And so, we had an amicable, you know, this is what the fees were. Okay. They paid it, done. It doesn't always happen like that. And I don't know that insurance and fall back on insurance either. When we spoke to the insurance company, they said that no, we saw the way. I mean, I know that's been described as a wave, but we should have seen it coming and prepared for it.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Wow, that's intense. Uh, this is definitely unprecedented for everybody. Hey, Christian, one thing I want to talk to you about is that the last time that I can recall ever having such a major stoppage of production work was 9/11.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And I know you work through 9/11 as well in New York City in the heat of it all. so, can you share us a little bit of your insight as to what happened to the film community and how long were things down until you were kind of back to work?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I happen to have fared 9/11 a little bit better. I feel than a lot of people out there, so, I can say that by the end of October, beginning of November, people were ready to get back to work. You need to get back to work. I remember doing a huge Gatorade ad with, um, Pam Thomas at Moxie and that was navigating a new world of, um, you know, every time of cube truck went through a tunnel or over a bridge had to be searched. so, you had to make sure your PA's have their driver's license on them, of course. And also, that they're driving record was good, but they would get pulled over. You'd have to pull the truck up and then show them it was camera equipment, whatever, shut it, move on. You had to build that into your day or understand that your PAs were leaving at 4 a.m. to go to New Jersey for an 8 a.m. call time. Though just little things like that. But we adopted immediately.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

Because of who we were as a production community, but also the willingness to work. And I do think that there is something behind that. Whatever the new landscape looks like of freelance commercial production, we will absolutely be able to handle it.

Lawrence Lewis:

Yes, I can see in our future once, we're able to, you know, be in groups of larger than 10. It might come back incrementally, but there's going to be some serious senate sanitation issues on set that I think we're going to have you abide by, right?

 

Sister Christian:

Well, I mean, this could be a completely different topic, too, but, um, we had a hard time finding water.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Oh, during 9/11 or after 9/11?

 

Sister Christian:

Also last week for our filming this week. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Oh, right. 

 

Sister Christian:

Yeah. so, weak. We were of service. We decided that we would serve packaged goods at craft service. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, 

 

Sister Christian:

That bowl, some guacamole for people that scoop out on their own? 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. 

 

Sister Christian:

So, we would already begin to make a few decisions like that. But it would be It was hard because there wasn't a lot of, um, sanitary items that we could clean with.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

Do you think that, you know, moving forward, yes, we’re going to be doing that. But I also think that there's had also checked into life streaming because of something that Lawrence and I did last year. You knew about it, It totally do it. Um, Found several companies that are offering it now where you can live, stream the VTR monitor feed and it could be livestreamed with, like, a 10 second delay. And then they could be on something like Zoom or go to meeting or Blue Jeans and be able to discuss the shot with us. I think that needs to be built into the schedule. You can't get us much done in a day that way. However, I do think it's a good solution for people who can't travel.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And it would be good for us to maybe get one of those companies on to chat with him about their service is and how they help facilitating these kind of remote connection setups for help keep our industry moving and and keeping people safe at the same time.

 

Sister Christian:

I think that there's going to be a lot of innovation born of necessity, and things like this are going to start popping up in ideas are going to be, you know - yeah, I want to know what people are doing. Are they taking like old YouTube clips and cutting them together or in making a commercial early doing animation now?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

One thing that I remember from 9/11 was that a lot of spots were getting renewed. so, they would take old spots renewed, and put a new tag on them. Also, a lot of animated spots, a lot of animated spots read and see talent and that, you know, those kind of commercials became much more prevalent. That was a way for people to kind of get back to work without spending a ton of money and traveling and dealing with all the changes in modern day life that happened at that time. so, I imagine that's what we're going to see here. Luckily, I'm also a voice actor. so, hopefully I’ll be able to continue working. Yeah, exactly. And voicing commercials and corporate video pieces. And also a lot of the eLearning. eLearning’s going to be really big. And I think the eLearning is going to have a really big impact right now because it's already an infrastructure. That's their stay at home. Learn, connect with the community and, uh, and continue to kind of, you know, grow and prosper in the safety of your own home. so, I think we're going to see a lot of that as well. Christian, I'm glad. I'm glad to hear you laughing. Um, I think we need a lot of that right now.

 

Sister Christian:

A little injecting a bit of levity into the situation.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

It's important. We have to Ah, stay safe. Stay connected and stay active.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes. And please reach out to us for your stories where we're very interested in understanding what's happening right now and also knowing that you're okay.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Thank you all for listening. Sorry for no bells and whistles this time. We just want to get this out quickly as possible. Uh, we're going to stay out this every day as long as we can. Sharing everyone's stories with you every day, Uh, during this crisis. And if you want to be a guest on the show where you want to chat with us, let us know at producershappyhour@gmail.com

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, we'd love to hear from anybody who's had an experience that can they feel can help other people. Happy to have you on.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Be safe out there. Wash your hands and don't touch.

 

Sister Christian:

Don't touch your face, Lawrence. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

All right.

 

Lawrence Lewis and Sister Christian:

Thanks everyone!