Feast or Famine in the Freelance Film World

I’m the type who keeps an up-to-date Google Calendar and a physical planner. I keep track of special events, due dates for film festivals, writing deadlines and yes — many random film gigs that come up.

I was particular when purchasing my 2020 planner. It was gonna be a big year. I settled on this hardcover sparkly planner, being picky to choose one that I liked the layout of best.

Coming out of a pretty slow winter (I only had a couple gigs, the longest of which was a short film that ended early March) I was happy to start booking gigs for the next couple months. Things were looking good. At first.

“This was the year I was going to –” starts literally everyone I talk to. Major life events. Decisions to make a big gear purchase or invest in a new skill. Joining a union. All of that changed in March, when it became clear that things were not going as planned.

The calls, emails, and texts started coming in. “We’re holding for now.” “The shoot is canceled.” Job after job disappeared, some of them going the “ghosting” route. At least three different productions just stopped communicating midway after heading full speed into production. It’s hard enough being a freelancer, but things had been dialed up to 11.

If you looked at my planner, flipping month by month, you’d see vast columns devoid of any work. The only notations being the occasional webinar or Zoom call or writing sprint hosted by an author on Twitter. I was doing what I could to keep busy, but as each month passed and the potential “end date” for coronavirus kept being pushed back, all of us in the entertainment industry were sweating.

Just since this August have I seen a reversal here in Georgia. Suddenly, I’m getting calls and gigs are holding fast, following recommended CDC guidelines and — for the most part — keeping crews small.

I’ve personally been COVID tested four times now. It’s unpleasant, sure (they don’t call it the “brain tickler” for nothing) but it’s a necessary precaution and I have no problem with it.

Every time I see one of those “I just moved here who wants to hire me” posts, inevitably someone will comment “Have you not heard of the pandemic?” Hold in there. We’re just starting to recover.

We’ve just started December, and that could mean things will go right back into the normal winter holdup. Gig’s usually dry up from about December 15th to around the first week of January because of the holidays, so there’s typically not a lot going on during that time. Again, freelancers in the film industry who’ve only gotten to work for a few weeks or months for this whole year will have to tighten their belts and ride it out again.

If you’re navigating your own joblessness and having trouble finding your path — give yourself time. Polish up that resume, tweak your reel if you have one, put your best foot forward (digitally) but don’t be too forward demanding work. Keep your eyes peeled as a number of short films and non-union productions are starting up all over, and will certainly need your help. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to comb these job boards and find those gigs asking for someone with your skills. Bring your best attitude, mask up, and wash your hands.

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