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The Army of Artists

The Army of Artists

Welcome to altered reality. We are not watching a movie, this time, though. We are living it.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the rhythm of all families, business, commerce and life.

Forced isolation paradoxically led to new and more expansive connections. Our family, who live in the four corners of the U.S., now have standing Sunday video calls.That beats waiting for the occasional wedding or funeral for us all to catch up.

Speaking of movies, how did you make it through isolation? To escape and laugh, how much entertainment did your family consume? #bingewatching is part of #quarantinelife

My daughter, Ella Grace Helton, and I were in Hollywood during the busiest time of the entertainment cycle, known as pilot season, when the pandemic shut everything down. For who knows how long. There could be 200,000 people out of work in the entertainment industry, who only get paid when work happens.

Ella was in the mix of consideration for two commercials (one a Mother’s Day campaign) and at least one feature film when focus shifted to summarily packing. The commercials may never get made. The film surely will, but on a TBD schedule.

A shock to the Hollywood system: only ONE pilot from all networks was completed. The delay of production means no library of new TV shows come the fall. Streamers and networks had new content in waiting. But it will dry up. (Ella appears in some of this, stay tuned!)

Some finished films went straight to video on demand, but several major motion pictures were pulled from theatrical release, waiting for when theaters reopen. 

I read an editorial questioning why some entertainment professionals (actors, sports stars) are paid so much and teachers so little. Everyone knows teachers deserve more money.

But the percentage of movie and TV stars earning the biggest paychecks is miniscule compared to the army of crew it takes to make your entertainment. Most are referred to as below-the-line workers. Ever count how many names scroll so fast in credits that you can’t read them all? Many earn comparable to teachers.

The luxury cars and houses in Los Angeles reveal a level of living most of us will never know. But the majority of people involved in making your entertainment are out of work and struggling. Like so many other industries across the nation.

To paraphrase a post I saw:

“As you watch another Netflix series, movie or TV show, do a virtual tour of a museum, read a book, listen to music, sing, dance, etc., remember that while the rest of the world shuts down, you are turning to artists and creatives to help you get through the dark times. The arts matter and provide hope.”

To everyone working tirelessly throughout the pandemic: THANK YOU. To those who lost loved ones and jobs, I’m so sorry. Better days are ahead.

Just remember how essential entertainment was to the war on the virus, arming the masses with the ability to escape the real-life doomsday movie playing out around them.

IG: @lee_nessel 


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