Production shutdowns leave crew members without jobs, income

Several foundations, funds provide financial support in wake of virus outbreak

By Shreya Partha

From major movie releases to late night talk shows, much of the entertainment industry is receiving the fallout of COVID-19’s rapid spread. 

Movies, shows and other forms of entertainment are available on multiple streaming platforms so they can be easily accessed at home away from the public, but the production process of the content still requires significant contact, which puts actors, crew members and assistants at risk.

Photo by Shreya Partha
PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: More than 100,000 workers in the entertainment industry, who heavily relied on their paychecks for basic necessities, are out of a job, according to the LA Times.

Recently, Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19 while they were on set to start production on Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley biopic. A lot of people pay importance to the actor or actresses, but the behind-the-scenes workers, like assistants and crew members involved with production are facing harsher repercussions.

According to the LA Times, many crew members, assistants and other workers have been living paycheck to paycheck and are facing the effects of COVID-19. More than 100,000 workers in the entertainment industry are now out of a job. 

Inequality in pay has always been a problem in Hollywood. It’s unsettling to think the brilliant writers or stage production crew who help bring various shows to life don’t make nearly as much as the actors starring. After all, the actors would have nothing to act on if not for the stage crew. 

According to Vanity Fair, on a $200 million blockbuster movie, the lead actors, director and executive producer(s) make the most at $12 million, $4 million and $1.1 million, respectively. However, the camera operators and editors make significantly less, ranging between $172,506 to $924,500. 

This is upsetting to think about since the production crew has just as much involvement in the movie as the actors, and should be receiving equal pay and recognition. Instead, they are left scrambling to provide for themselves during these hard times because they rely on their paychecks for everyday needs. It’s almost as if the exact hours they put into the production of content are forgotten since they can not even take care of themselves or afford fundamental resources like food or shelter.

Thankfully, foundations and funds are providing emergency financial assistance to qualified industry members during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The #PayUpHollywood movement started in October 2019 and sheds light on low assistant pay.  Several assistants have spoken out about being verbally and physically abused by their superiors. This behavior should not continue and is absolutely disgusting. It demoralizes the person just because of their position and is not how any person should be treated, regardless of their background.

The movement, along with several leading TV writers and industry members, advocates for the rights of assistants and has raised more than $500,000 on GoFundMe for up to 800 Los Angeles-based support staff affected by production shutdown.

However, it’s honestly so empowering to see how this unconventional situation brings people closer together and how others are stepping up to help those in need. Although it is disheartening to think about COVID-19’s effects, the community that has been built to support underpaid workers in the entertainment industry is a nice turn of events in wake of the pandemic and all the negativity surrounding COVID-19 in the news.