Variety has compiled the latest series of first-person essays from across the entertainment industry for the Corona Chronicles about how the coronavirus is changing and disrupting lives.
Actor, founder of HITRECORD
I’ve been doing something creative every day, well, five days a week. It was a commitment I made a couple weeks ago.
While this is happening, while I’m (thankfully) at home, while the world is getting sick, and I’m trying to cope with how scary it is, I decided it’d be good for me. Something creative every day.
But for me, creativity can be hard when I’m alone. I’m less used to it. Movies and shows and things like that are not made by one person. They’re collaborative. On a set, in an edit bay, getting and giving notes, having conversations. I like making things together with other people.
A long time ago, I started a community called HITRECORD, and the whole point of it is creative collaboration. Today’s most prominent online platforms for creativity are about people posting their own creations and building their own audience. Which can be great! But HITRECORD is less about “look what I made” and more about “what can we make together?”
So I’ve been collaborating with different people every day on various creative projects. Some days I write, but I’m not writing my Novel, I’ll write a quick poem inspired by someone else’s painting, or I’ll do a polish on someone else’s script for a short film. Some days I make music, but I’m not recording my Album, I’ll add some harmonies to someone else’s song.
I’ve done a fair amount of voice-acting, recording myself reading other people’s writing out loud. I’ve been meaning to draw, because I suck at it, and now feels like a good time to suck. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.
Some of it’s more ambitious as well. I started a short documentary project about how the pandemic is disproportionately impacting lower-income people who can’t work from home. I’m co-leading it with a woman in Oklahoma, based on her piece of raw writing describing her feelings as she learned of confirmed COVID-19 cases in her workplace.
I started a music video project for the song I sang the harmonies on.
There’s less pressure when it’s not me alone. Less heavy inertia to overcome. I’m not staring at a blank page. Plus, I get a lot out of the human interaction that comes with collaboration. Frankly, chatting on social media doesn’t make me feel connected to the human race. But doing art with other people, it’s intimate, it’s layered, it’s vulnerable, it’s the opposite of snarky, and it’s uplifting when we accomplish something together. It’s the lift I need right now.
“The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” director
I’ve been cheating.
Well, with a mask on, touching absolutely nothing, and getting up at dawn to be almost alone kind of cheating. But technically, yes cheating by leaving the house. I live at the bottom fringe of the Hollywood Hills, so when the gyms closed that left the canyon hiking trail. But when the dog walkers neglected to heed the distancing advice and congregated anyway — and the police chopper flew low overhead to catch them — then our canyon trail got barricaded. As well it should. So now, I walk the neighborhood roads up the slope. Which is something I’ve never done in the 20 years I’ve lived here. Unexpectedly, what happens at the top is a revelation.
The ravens own the mountain. You can hear them before you crest. They talk to one another with their funny machine gun ka-ka-ka-ka sounds. And they sit on the side of the road only a few feet from me when I pass, and they ain’t moving not no-how. I’m on their turf. Theirs, and a panoply of other residents of the hills, such as yellow-rumped warblers, bushtits, spotted towhees, scrub jays, and my new fave, the scaly-breasted munia. Yesterday, I heard frogs from some kind of water down at the bottom. Frogs! In Hollywood! Who knew? Maybe they were always there but drowned out by the bass hum of traffic.
The other thing that happens in the quiet is that my work gets better. I’m writing in my head and solving structural and character problems that have been dogging me for many drafts. I presume I’m not alone in the old life of being swept into a schedule of non-stop whatever, which leaves no sustained periods of just plain brain-floating of the kind that allows ideas to drift in. Or percolate, or coalesce. You can’t schedule a good idea. Why don’t we know that already?
If I get too nervous about the cheat, or if the joggers get too many, then I will stay home and do the live Ryan Heffington dance class on Insta with six thousand other people from all around the world. This could indeed be the future of creative exchange.
Not that it’s all artful pastimes. I still need to Clorox the arriving groceries and do the occasional job-related Zoom. I still need to fret about living in a household with a foreseeable income of absolute zero. In these, I am not alone. But I do hope that I’m not alone in realizing that the freedom of exploring, and the time spent with friends is a precious privilege, not to be taken for granted.
This spring was supposed to be full of firsts- namely, my first headlining tour and my first time in Europe. I was ecstatic to check off some major bucket list moments. Never did I think I would spend it facing a global pandemic head on.
I had begun the process of social distancing, with my last trip out of the house (besides grocery store runs) starting on March 14th. After that, I was diligent- spraying everything I bought, using hand sanitizer repeatedly during every trip, and even spraying any mail that I received. Nothing prepared me for March 22nd.
I woke up with a headache, and thought it was from the wine I’d had the night before. I drank some water and brushed it off. That afternoon, after doing a whole lot of nothing, I got a wave of exhaustion that felt more post-Boston marathon than post-movie marathon. I woke up later with chills, body aches, and a slightly higher body temperature of about 99.2. I took some Tylenol and went back to sleep.
The next morning, after much tossing and turning, I had a rapidly increasing fever but was freezing cold. I had the worst night sweats I’d ever experienced. My roommate texted me to tell me she was experiencing the same thing. We immediately, and separately, went to Vanderbilt’s urgent care to get tested for the flu and COVID 19. My nasal passages were severely inflamed so I got a pretty awful nose bleed. For the next couple days, I dealt with the chills, night sweats, and fever. It wasn’t a constant state of these symptoms, but they came in very strong waves. After they died down, I had a complete loss of taste, smell, and appetite, which depressed me more than I anticipated.
After roughly five days, I started to feel close to normal, and after a week my senses came back. It took eight days to get the test results. I had been posting content on social media from my drafts and not giving anyone an inkling into my illness. In my opinion, it would have been melodramatic to post without a positive test. Once it was confirmed, I shared a brief statement on Twitter, mostly to encourage people to stay home, regardless of their age. I could never have anticipated the amount of press and social media backlash that would ensue. I took a break from the replies rabbithole, and leaned on my loved ones and therapist.
As I continue to social distance, I feel lucky to live with roommates and animals that I love, surrounded by books and instruments. I’ve been writing and producing music with others via Zoom and FaceTime. It’s giving me hope.
As a COVID convalescent, I’m looking for opportunities to volunteer- whether it’s donating plasma or my time, as it’s unlikely I can contract or carry the virus ever again. I’m so thankful to be on the other side of this. I owe it all to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tylenol, old Dixie Chicks records, and the magic of technology. I don’t know what the future holds, but the perspective check I got from experiencing this firsthand will be something I carry with me forever.
Drag Queen, current cast of season 12 of RuPaul’s “Drag Race”
“Hey I like the makeup!” said the TSA agent to me as I nervously made my way through security at JFK. I’d never been in an airport in drag makeup before. It was March 6, the second premiere date for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and I was scheduled to have the longest day of my life in drag. Two early press appearances in NYC followed by the official viewing party at Micky’s West Hollywood that same night.
“Thanks, ha” I said nervously as I realized that wearing sweatpants with a full face of makeup and lashes probably wasn’t the most unusual thing this agent had seen all day. Families nervously covering their children in hand sanitizer, couples in face masks turning their heads away from anyone who walked by. In a few weeks, this would all seem normal, but already you could sense things were different. The airport seemed so empty for what would typically be a busy travel day.
At Micky’s later that night the crowd was energetic and excited but after the episode they seemed to disperse more quickly than I expected. I didn’t think much of it, but as the weekend went on a picture started to emerge of a world changed, a world afraid.
Speaking that night with my drag sisters, Widow Von Du and Heidi N Closet, we already were talking about how meet and greets might go at Drag Con. Is it a no-touch policy? Do we just elbow bump fans who’d been waiting hours and spent hard-earned money to meet us? How do we make these moments memorable for one of the most passionate fandoms out there?
Four days later, March 10, Drag Con LA was canceled.
Of course, it was the right thing to do. We had learned so much about the potential for this disease to spread. But as we discovered over the coming days, drag is a resilient art-form and will find a way to survive.
From drag queens performing epic numbers, doing jump-splits from a car in their driveway (thank you Laganja Estranja!), to digital cabarets, to live video chat meet and greets with fans, we are all figuring out how we can still perform, engage and do what drag does best: make people smile.
This past Monday, I performed in drag for the first time since that night at Micky’s, albeit as a one-woman show broadcast live out of an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Afterward, I had a video chat meet-and-greet with a young fan from a small town who had never seen a live drag show before. Perhaps he would have had to wait much longer to see me perform live had it not been for these unprecedented circumstances. He was grinning from ear to ear and I finally felt that feeling I had been missing the last few weeks, the feeling that as a drag queen your greatest power is to make someone’s day a little brighter, and to make them smile.
And right now, the world needs to smile. The world needs drag.
Producer and author
Who would have thought that binging “Tiger King,” rediscovering “American Idol” or re-watching Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” among so many other forms of entertainment would be as vital to our overall mental health, well-being and flat-out survival during this global pandemic, as watching daily briefings from Governor Cuomo or Dr. Anthony Fauci?
With the day-to-day hustle and bustle of the business and the prioritization of profits, it’s easy to lose sight of the vital role entertainment plays in keeping spirits lifted and lives connected, especially in times like this.
Even as companies and agencies scramble to make the necessary financial adjustments to weather the economic storm the coronavirus has caused, maybe one of the greatest benefits of this global pandemic for the entertainment business is to rediscover its soul.
Prior to the pandemic, there was such an incessant focus on IP, branded entertainment and profitability that the soul of the business was getting lost. Hollywood was built on great original storytelling. This is our lifeblood. This is our soul.
The power of entertainment is completely dependent on the stories it chooses to produce. Entertainment by definition is an escape. People look to entertainment to help them escape the stress and anxiety of their day-to-day lives. Storytelling is one of the most desired methods of escapism. People want great stories, original experiences and profound journeys depicted on screens (both big and small)–not just franchises.
I’ve been in Hollywood for 24 years, starting as an intern at the age of 18. In my work now as a producer and a preacher, I was consistently in front of thousands of people through events, prior to the pandemic, and now primarily through my social media channels (3 million followers across all platforms), and I can say first-hand that people depend on entertainment to get them through the day. They want hope, they want shared experiences and they want an even greater diversity of stories coming out of Hollywood.
In a moment like this, we are reminded of the powerful role we in the entertainment business play in helping the world find peace, joy, love and laughter. And when the pandemic subsides and we get back to business, I pray we also get back to the business of getting our soul back by telling great stories of all shapes and of all sizes for all different types of people all over the world.
“Life Below Zero” star
So, you are bored. You are alone, and this condition may last a few more weeks. How do you make it through and stay emotionally intact?
Stop seeing this time as a negative. Don’t dwell in panic.
Your mind cannot thrive if you are always throwing negative “panic alarms” at it. I don’t dwell in an emotional place. I cannot thrive in a negative environment, so I don’t.
Turn off the news if it’s on 24/7. You can’t change what’s happening, so listen to update but do not use it for background noise. A constant barrage of “Chicken Little” reporting will only allow fear to grow, so stop it in its tracks. What do I replace it with? Creativity.
Turn negative into positive.
You now have a chance to explore you — YOU. Think of what your inner child liked to do: paint, draw, build. Whatever it is, do it!
The longest I have spent in Kavik without getting out of camp is roughly 1,290 days. I loved it. I am artistic and curious by nature, so I embraced this time. I like to cook, so I learned how to make bread. Try baking and cooking! Draw, paint, sew or because this is a virus-based lockdown, do some spring cleaning. If you throw a fit at the idea, put yourself in timeout and come at it again.
Go through your closets and try everything on! Separate what you can use; bag up and prepare to donate what you can’t. Or make a rag rug or two. Replace worn-out rugs with these clean new ones.
This alone time is when you can shine.
Do things you haven’t done in a while. Use the internet not just for social media. Remember to be part of the solution, not the panic. It is OK to say less on social media; instead, look for and download e-books. Loads of free or cheap entertainment and information options are at your fingertips. Remodel the kitchen! Demo is hella fun but plan so you can finish once this quarantine is over.
Don’t cut your hair, no. Unless you know-how.
Exercise! There’s no need to jog 10 miles, but do breathe and stretch. Deep breathing encourages healthier lungs. Don’t give the virus a home; evict it! Viruses exploit a weakness, so let’s shore ourselves up.
Rest — but don’t go into a lockdown coma.
People may forget that alone time will end. You do have a choice whether to get overwhelmed and bombarded with doom and gloom or to seize this rare opportunity to get to know yourself. Miss your friends? Set up some online video coffee breaks. The mind is a muscle — flex it!
“Prodigal Son” actress
They taunt me every day. Teasing me, letting me know they are in control. When I wake up in the morning, they are immediately on my mind, inducing a fear that comes in waves throughout the day like loops on a rollercoaster.
I’m officially afraid of my own hands.
I never thought my archenemy would be attached to my own body. Suddenly, my fingers feel dangerous. Fishing out the cat hair that flew into my eye feels like a life or death decision. My once soft and limitless hands are now neglected and cracked. They are a constant reminder that life isn’t as it once was.
Have you ever been to four different Duane Reade’s in one hour? I have. On March 3, I was booked on a flight from JFK to LAX. I had been traveling between cities for two different projects, but this flight on this day felt different. As I stumbled in and out of pharmacies in pursuit of antibacterial wipes, I started to feel like something was very, very wrong. As a baseline level five germaphobe, I never had an issue procuring the essentials.
This time, my best friend (Purell) was nowhere to be found. I continued to LA for my job, following every CDC guideline along the way. Once I made it back to New York to film what would turn into the last week of “Prodigal Son’s” first season, everything happened quickly.
For five days, I started to flinch if I heard a distant cough. Growing up, I was taught to nurture the ill, not to jump ten feet in the air and sprint the other way. It all felt uncomfortable and confusing and still does, to be honest.
As we joined the many productions put on pause, I packed up my Manhattan apartment two weeks before my lease was up and flew home to begin my 14-day isolation. Our show was nearing the end of its season anyway, so leaving felt less jarring than experiences my friends were having. Still, there was no big goodbye, and no hugs for the cast and crew.
Just a simple thank you and get-the-fuck outta-there feeling we now get from completing tasks in public places as benign as buying cereal from the grocery store.
COVID-19 is changing the way we interact as human beings, but at the end of the day, I’ve found that nothing matters more than being able to lean on those you love— even if that means leaning on the disinfected screen of a FaceTime call. I miss my first little New York apartment that I forgot to say goodbye to amidst the chaos. I miss being on set.
I miss watching movies and not screaming “Nooo!” when characters shake hands or go to parties (it was a different time, I remind myself). I miss seeing my family and friends beyond the glowing glass of my computer.
We are all missing our “normal,” but we will be back. In order to do this, we need to go against what feels natural to us. We need to honor social distancing and find creative ways to stay connected. I find comfort in knowing the time will come when my hands won’t scare me anymore.
Model, activist, fashion designer
A week before lockdown in New York, I was preparing an outline for the launch party celebrating my clothing line with QVC launching at the end of April. We had plans for a big party with all my closest friends and colleagues. That got shut down quick!
Now, my days consist of zoom meetings, fittings of certain garments via a small square and hoping that the feedback I’m giving is correct. However, I am grateful to live in a time where technology can come into play even more than it has before. As a model, I haven’t had a shoot since early February and had many lined up all of which are now canceled. This has deeply affected my industry as a whole – as a model, an influencer, and a designer as there is so much uncertainty.
“When this starts back up, how long will it take to get the ball rolling?” “Will they even be shooting on live models or did they find doing “flat lays” during the quarantine proved successful?” These are things that roll through my mind daily. I find solace in the fact that we are all going through this together, we are struggling, but struggling together. For the first time in the world no matter what you do, who you are, or where you are, you are affected by this. It has forced us as a nation to come together. I have seen communities rise to the occasion and take action, bonds made stronger, and families are having to come up with ways to connect again. Break out the Monopoly!
During this time it is easy to get depressed and feel isolated in more ways than just having to stay home. It is expected and appropriate for you to feel these things during this time. I work with the JED Foundation, which exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide in the nation’s teens and young adults. They have been a great resource during this time. I believe after this is over, we will look at life with a new set of eyes, a new mindset, and a whole lot of gratitude.
“Home & Family” host, Pet rescue expert
It’s hard to properly describe what life has felt like for the last few weeks. The best words I can use are “surreal” and “dream-like.” Days blur together and time doesn’t matter the way it usually does.
As an on-camera personality for Hallmark Channel’s two-hour, daily morning show, “Home & Family,” I’m used to waking up at the crack of dawn and being “on the go” until late at night. I thrive on the hustle and bustle of live television and love interacting with the dynamic cast and crew every single day.
But suddenly…. everything has come to a complete halt and as soon as I forget what we’re dealing with, I look outside and see people in gloves and masks and I’m immediately catapulted back to reality.
During the quiet moments, and there are many right now, I worry. I worry because experts say the worst is yet to come. I worry that my parents, grandparents and seniors around the country may contract it. I worry about the amazing healthcare workers risking their lives for us and the fact that they’re completely overwhelmed.
And of course, I worry about all the animals that will be impacted by this horrific pandemic. As a pet rescue expert, I’ve worked so hard to educate and inspire others to adopt and rescue and decrease the homeless animal population. During a crisis like this, I fear we will see a large number of animals being surrendered to shelters around the country and that we will be taking a big step backward.
That said, I’m also trying to stay positive during this time and remind everyone that “this too shall pass.” If we’ve ever had to unite as one, this is the time. We CAN and MUST work together.
Please check in on your friends and neighbors, offer to buy them groceries, walk their animals, talk on the phone. This pandemic can remind us that there is such beauty in the world, if we shift our perspective.
In addition to helping our fellow humans, please reach out to your local animal shelters and see if they need anything. Most of them have seen a huge decline in donations and an increase in animals being surrendered. Foster…adopt…donate and above all else right now…. JUST BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER! A smile and wave (even from a distance) can go a long way!
CEO and executive producer, Glass Entertainment Group
I’m a person who sees peril in a pat of butter, so I started getting anxious at the end of February. Then about a week later, the staff started talking about the virus and expressed their apprehensiveness too. That’s when you realize being neurotic can actually pay off. Immediately, we transferred our shows in post onto drives, transitioned staffers to work remotely and shut down the office as well as four series that were actively in production. We have six other shows that were just about to start shooting. Now we don’t know when that will happen. We’ll feel the financial impact of that.
I always tell my team, “family first.” Whatever you have to do for your family is more important than work. You’ll still be paid. So, if your family needs you, take the time to care for them. It would have been hypocritical if I put the health of the business before the health of our people. We are located in Philadelphia and have 120 employees. A majority are full-time staff and they’re really talented. The advantage is that they care about the company and they stay with us. The disadvantage of Philadelphia is that networks often ask, “What time is it where you are?” I’d like to say, “It’s 1982. What time do you think it is?” But that’s just the bubble over my head.
It’s been daunting keeping spirits up for my work family. We have several Zoom meetings every day – we guess who’s wearing pajama pants and organize virtual happy hours for the company where we all have Quarantinis. We are still busy with shows and podcasts in editing and we’re actively developing and pitching, but the specter of this pandemic hangs over us all. I am worried about the staff I love and hoping, like the rest of us, that this crisis will be over soon.
CEO, Painless Productions
No one had begun using terms like “social distancing” or “stay-at-home orders,” but I’d been watching the numbers multiply and I knew it was time to bring everyone home. Two of my company’s unscripted paranormal series – one in its 13th season and the other in its critical sophomore season – were shooting in different states each week, making it too risky to continue. The sizable overages my company would incur didn’t concern me most – although, trust me, it’s deeply concerning –what concerns me is the income I knew my freelancers would lose. And as much as I’d truly love to pay everyone to stay home and wait for this nightmare to pass, they wouldn’t have a company to return to if I did.
I’ve owned my production company for nearly 25 years. I knew I hadn’t seen it all, but I’d seen my share of production hurdles – labor strikes, wildfires, blizzards, 100-year floods. I once rented two RVs to drive cross-country in case the 9/11 air travel ban wasn’t lifted in time to begin filming our new series in Orlando. I always tell young producers that 99% of our job is anticipating what can go wrong. But I never saw something like this coming.
And I work with psychics.
Every moment of every day is now spent imagining new worst-case scenarios and creating countermeasures with my team: What if this lasts six months? If the networks default? If FedEx closes? I’m no longer a TV producer, I’m a wartime field general.
My work philosophy tends to run contrary to the Corleone family’s: For me, business is personal. I spend more waking hours with my co-workers than I do with my wife (and I really like my wife), so I do my best to choose good people and true collaborators. Many have been with me for more than a decade. Right now, Zoom helps, but I miss my creative family and their energy, and I hope to be back in the same room with them very soon.
Until then, my goal remains the same as always: Get everyone home safely while doing everything I can to make sure they keep those homes.
I’m a composer for theater. All of my work is in jeopardy right now, so that’s deeply nerve-wracking. I’m fortunate to have a few long term projects that I can work on from my home studio.
I am in the middle of orchestrating the music from “Most Happy Fella,” for a production to be directed by Daniel Fish. Our last collaboration was the Broadway revival “Oklahoma! “and I am crossing my fingers we will be able to present this next piece eventually.
Otherwise, I am counting myself fortunate to be able to stay home safely in Midtown NYC with my wife and two cats. We usually work 60 hour weeks in the theater and traveling, so it’s a bittersweet rarity to be able to cook meals together. I’m working my way through the Dishoom cookbook I picked up on a trip to London.
I’m devouring news and podcasts, in particular Ezra Klein’s interview with bioethicist Dr. Ruth Faden, Donald G. McNeil Jr.’s coverage for the New York Times, and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed’s America Dissected. Journalists are doing profound work to keep up with exponentially evolving conditions.
To be perfectly honest I am also feeling depressed and scared for our world. This is a terrifying situation for which we don’t have answers. And I’m also proud to be a New Yorker, where at 7 p.m. people can reach out of their apartment windows and applaud the essential workers in our city. All the stories right now should be about the people who put their bodies on the line so we can continue to have health care, food, police, fire, electricity, water. We owe them everything.
When I was about 13, I got a horrible bacterial infection in my feet. I was off school for three weeks and I couldn’t walk from the couch to the bathroom without pain–let alone leave the house. I fully recovered. Luckily this time being stuck at home for so long I can walk fine, and I can even leave the house (even if the only thing I can do is buy groceries). It’s actually been kind of nice not having to go anywhere–there are no cars on the roads and people walking by are talking to each other (from a safe distance). My roommate, Michael Benzaia, is also an actor and a writer, and we are in pre-production of shooting a proof of concept for a pilot he wrote, so we have a lot to do. We just finished casting via self-tapes, which is a way that technology has been so helpful during these abnormal times in the industry, and we are also about to move into a new house–so packing up everything also keeps us busy!
So far we haven’t really had any issues. We saved a lot of money by not eating out, which is good for us but not for the restaurants. As soon as they are back open for business we will hit our local spots and help them return to normal too. I am so blessed that even though we have to stay home, we have a roof, food and (some) toilet paper. I think of the homeless and those who can’t get the supplies they need. I don’t know anyone who’s had the virus, but I think of those who have and what they need that isn’t getting through. Before acting, Michael worked in the medical field for a long time, so he has insight from previous colleagues about what’s going on and we talk about it every day.
My family is back home in New Zealand, my mother in England. Their stay home has really just started, so I tell them and will say to you: Stay home but make sure you go for a walk down the street, do your day as you normally would (get dressed, do chores) and you will be OK. Be safe and sensible everyone!
“The Seventh Day” “Avatar 2” actor
I was to be working in Serbia right now, reprising my role as The Blind Man in the sequel to 2016’s “Don’t Breathe.” I was looking forward to a nitty-gritty, down and dirty 10-week shoot, but filming has been put on indefinite hold, and like so many others I find myself out of work.
A month into quarantine and my sense of chagrin has been subsumed by the mounting horror at the breadth of local, national, and global suffering.
Of course, as a native New Yorker I feel particular concern for the people on my block, in my neighborhood, in my city. Nevertheless, my sense of hope, however unrealistic, is buoyed by two factors, the first being the presence of my grandchildren who, along with their parents, have joined us for the duration. Ike and Tess, 5 and 4, as aware of the situation as is appropriate, are paragons of spirit and energy. It falls to the adults to carry on with their education, which gives structure to the entire family. Keeping them busy and positive keeps us the same. I am Professor Pops, and I have the early shift: making beds, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and at least an hour of reading to begin the day calmly and reflectively. Dad does science. Aunt Bunny and Uncle Ramiro create art projects. Principal Grandma directs gardening–planting season is here! Mom teaches cooking and a hundred other projects. We all take nature walks, and everyone is responsible for hygiene. The curriculum leaves us tired but with a sense of fulfillment and purpose as each day ends.
The other factor which gives me hope is the weekly zoom meeting of our family foundation. My late father, Eugene M. Lang, committed his resources to effect change in education, social justice, civic responsibility, health and aging, and our family continues that work. We meet weekly to distribute funds to dozens of organizations, such as City Harvest and Broadway Cares, dealing with basic needs such as food and shelter. We direct resources to our local prison population, which is at a severely heightened risk of exposure. We do this out of a sense of solidarity with those at risk, as well as the brave citizens fighting on the front lines against sickness and despair.
I know that one day I will resume acting–the work I believe I was put on earth to do. Until that day other jobs need doing. As a personal hero, Pete Seeger, said, “It takes a lotta hearts, a lotta hands, and a lotta heads to do ‘em. Human beings to do ‘em.” For the moment, it is enough to be a human being.
Mrs. Burke in Broadway’s “Girl From The North Country”
So I opened in a new Broadway show on March 5 called “Girl From The North Country” (we got rave reviews pretty much across the board). After 6 months of playing the show off-Broadway in late 2018, waiting a year for an available Broadway house to make the move uptown and then rehearsing two months pre-opening, the cast was informed on March 12, exactly one week after we opened, that the entire Broadway community was shutting down due to the coronavirus!
All that work and poof! Bye-bye…go home…so now what?
Well, the first few days were like a vacation and to be quite honest, a welcome break! When you’re gearing up to open a Broadway show, the schedule is grueling. Rehearsals during the day and previews at night. It’s non-stop. But the vacation didn’t last long because I also had work to do on my upcoming 4th solo album titled “Triangle” to be released this fall. Cover artwork, booklet, label contract to iron out…it’s really helpful in this business to have other projects lined up for yourself. That’s why I started recording albums. It gave me an outlet to create my own music.
I’ve written songs for my Brazilian Jazz album “Krazy Love.” Created a new musical genre on my 3rd album called “Mixtura.”And now on “Triangle,’ I’ve assembled a line-up never
recorded before in jazz: voice, vibraphone and bass!
But it can’t be all work all the time!
I’ve also been hanging with my cat Lilly, catching up on old movies every night with my husband, and I just had a Zoom meeting with the cast of “Girl From The North Country.” Wow…that warmed my heart! The cast becomes your family and when your family goes away, it’s like a part of you is missing. We’ll be scheduling a Zoom visit regularly until someone tells us it’s ok to come out now and do a show.
“Young Sheldon” actor
“Shut Down!” Those were the words that I woke up to on March 13, 2020. That day, we were supposed to go to work on “Young Sheldon,” film our scenes, go home, and then come back the next week to finish out the season. Instead, I went to work to clean out my dressing room and to deliver our wrap gifts to whoever was there. We said goodbye, not knowing who would come back next year. There were a lot of air hugs and crying and hoping everyone would see each other again. We have a lot of traditions that we do before we wrap… cast and crew pics, wrap party, measurement chart for the kids, and shooting your final scene before everyone claps for you is so special. But it all just stopped.
One way I’ve been keeping busy is by being creative and using my imagination. I’ve been making bath bombs, forts (I’m an expert at those), lots of baking (muffins and cookies are my specialties), building robots with my dad, and learning a new language, French! I’ve also been reading and writing a lot, of course. I’m still doing my book-club that I post about every month on Instagram. Staying connected is really important so my friends and I have been doing movie-night where we Facetime or Zoom movies with each other. It’s so much fun. Music is really good for the soul, so I’ve been playing the guitar and piano and singing a ton!! Another thing that’s good for the soul…dogs! I have four so lots of playing and cuddles with them. I also do virtual school during the day, which definitely helps keep me busy!
One thing I have also been focusing on is Homeless Helpers, an organization I started three years ago. I got the idea for Homeless Helpers when my mom and I were driving through Santa Monica, where the homeless population of Los Angeles is extremely prominent. I was either reading or on my iPad and I looked out the window. What I saw caused me to burst into tears. I was so overcome by guilt because I was lucky enough to have a roof over my head, books, and an iPad, while on the other side of the window were people with nothing. After that, I was set on helping those who were unlucky enough to live on the streets.
Homeless Helpers is something that I hope to take even further, and reach people across the globe. I hope to team up with people who have companies like barbershops and restaurants where the homeless can get free haircuts and meals, or at least that is my hope. I have handed out many surprise boxes filled with essential items that also contain a little surprise. This is so much fun to do any time of the year, but especially during the holidays. I will also hand out packages with a shirt, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. I have also gotten my friends involved by giving them things to give out. They have really enjoyed this as well. After the hurricanes and wildfires, we were also able to help donate supplies to those impacted. The most important thing to understand is there is always a way we can help out. Even if you have ten bucks, or a snack in the car, it will all help. If you are at school, or a workplace, you can set up your own Homeless Helpers box and collect donations to hand out. Anything helps.
Now more than ever these organizations are needed. With coronavirus increasing unemployment and homelessness growing, organizations such as Homeless Helpers, and the many others like it are vital to help make a difference.
Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman
Documentary filmmakers and co-directors of “Slay the Dragon”
It was sometime in late February or early March when one of us said what we were both thinking: “Who is going to come to the theater to see a film about democracy in the middle of this crisis?” The plan had always been to bring out our film, “Slay the Dragon,” in the midst of Democratic primary season.
Our producer, Participant, and distributor, Magnolia, believed the film could help build a wave of interest and activism around the issue of gerrymandering, but now performances and social gatherings were being canceled everywhere, casualties of a rising panic in New York.
Fortunately, the film is not doomed. Slay made its streaming debut nationwide on VOD and digital platforms on April 3, providing everyone a chance to see it, not just those with an art house theater in their city.
And we’re looking into ways to replicate the theatrical experience while everyone’s at home, for example through virtual Q&As.
But the dream of a nationwide theatrical release – something we documentary filmmakers don’t often experience – seems to be fading, at least temporarily.
Even as we write those words, however, the smallness of the sacrifice seems obvious. Two people in our company of about 40 had been sick. They’re young and are already recovering, but they remind us of how close this virus is.
Outside the window, the usually bustling school playground is empty, the silence interrupted only by increasingly frequent sirens from passing ambulances.
Our office is shuttered and people are sheltering in place, our face-to-face interactions reduced to little squares on a screen.
The question “how are you?” has taken on real meaning.
On the other hand, what we do as documentary filmmakers has never seemed so urgent and necessary. We both have big films in progress, requiring international travel and lots of far-flung shooting. Those are temporarily on hold, and we’ve begun to toss around ideas for how we can help chronicle this surreal moment in the history of our species. For as long as we exist, people will want to make sense of what’s going on around them. That’s where we come in.
However this scourge eventually ends, there will be the need to reframe it as narrative, to explore how it brought out the best and worst in us. We’re already looking forward to helping tell these stories.
One of the things I find extraordinary about this whole experience is that we are at a moment In our evolution where every single soul is in the same place. it has never happened and I believe there is a reason for that.
I believe that in the face of tragedy and tremendous transition, there is another experience possible here and by what we choose to do with the circumstances given to us.
The experience for me personally is like many people I am not working. My various shows have been canceled. The Feinstein nightclubs are temporarily shuttered. Yet, I consider myself deeply fortunate because the concerts can be rescheduled and the recordings will continue when we’re able and I’ll be able to resume.
The nightclubs will reopen even though the concern for employees and staff is great. It’s important to stay connected to all those whom we care about and love.
As an artist, I believe the arts are of importance at this time. Art fundamentally brings people together. It unites in a way that is not possible by any other means. It connects us to hope and spirit.
For me, the connection to a higher power is the thing most on my mind. I pray daily at 1 p.m. with Caroline Myss. People all over the world join her to uplift and visualize healing and to project what we want the outcome to be.
While we have little control over what is happening, we do have control over our responses and choices.
The process of isolation has brought out many things about myself that I needed to look at. I welcome the opportunity of having the luxury of time to turn inward and do inner work. I think it’s an extraordinary experience that has come for many.
It is not the end. It is a wake-up call to speak your spiritual truth, whatever that might be and to speak it from your soul. It must be spoken now because our very survival depends on it.
Animals desperately need our help and money is needed. There are two organizations that would be wonderful to donate to:
As an Independent producer I’m well aware of the power of luck. Luck has been with me since I first arrived in LA in 1980 from the UK.
I work hard yes, but luck is always a part of success. I came here for one specific reason, to be in the movie business with a dream one day to produce a movie. That dream came true when I was 23 on the film “Oxford Blues.” I realize how fortunate I am to be in this business and call LA my home.
Back in the UK, my sister is battling cancer and is in isolation with her two children and my 81-year-old mother. I’m quite worried about them.
My daughter Arielle who is a producer also, is married to a doctor who is doing his residency at the Children’s Hospital in LA. He got the virus and they quarantined for two weeks. He thankfully recovered and went straight back to work on the front lines. I’m beyond proud of him.
Workwise since last August I’ve made six films with first time female directors. We had just wrapped “Habit, “directed by Janell Shirtcliff which stars Bella Thorne and is now being edited remotely.
Another film is called “Continue,” written and directed by Nadine Crocker, which is about to be mixed. “Bestsellers,” directed by Lena Roessler, is about to lock. That stars Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza, with a cameo by my brother Cary Elwes. My daughter Arielle found the “Bestsellers” script and produced it with me. “Violet” a film written and directed by Justine Bateman, was supposed to be at SXSW. “Farewell Amour,” was directed by Ekwa Msangi which premiered at Sundance. “13 Minutes” directed by Lindsay Gossling, which I just saw the director’s cut on my Ipad.
When we’re able to start making movies again I know for sure that people above and below the line will be ready. I’ve got four pictures that I want to make immediately. People will want to work when these surreal musical chairs is over. The music has stopped for now but will be back on with a vengeance very soon.
On a personal level, my girlfriend is the artist Susan Carter Hall. Since I’ve been home more, I’ve seen her create her art in her glorious, unique way. It’s incredible to watch and makes me love her even more. We’re also doing D.I.Y around the house. Or at least I’m gamely trying.
I’m optimistic about the future while mindful of those that are suffering. I was encouraged and comforted by the Queen’s recent speech. We will see each other again soon.
President Motion Picture Sound Editors
I have lived in Los Angeles for many years now. I am used to living through crisis; earthquakes, floods, riots, strikes, producers, and fires. My friends in other places would contact me and ask how I was holding up and you just downplay it as the usual LA thing. “The dresser vaulted clean over me, no problem”, “the fire is still two miles from my place… yeah, I can see the flames, no problem” “our lead actor is refusing to do any ADR, no problem”. Today I think we may have a problem.
This crisis is not like the others in many ways, the biggest one being that it is worldwide. Anyone you have ever met and everyone you haven’t, no matter where on this planet they reside is being impacted. This is an amazing thing to think about.
Being the president of the Motion Picture Sound Editors, I am also tasked with keeping our members informed and to some degree comforted. I want to keep a degree of normalcy projected by our organization. We have monthly sound-related events called “Sound Advice” events. We are having meetings about how to keep these rolling remotely. I have been talking to the committee in charge of these panels and we are coming up with plans and will announce them to our members. I have crafted a letter to our members about our current situation and how we hope to be back to normal, or our new normal, as soon as this crisis is over.
In my part of the industry, we are running out of material to edit and mix. As a supervisor and editor, I work with directors and producers to help tell their story. I get all the sounds prepped for the mixers. With our current situation, we will all be unemployed soon. I work crazy hours and to just stop entirely is a little strange.
It will take a while to ramp back up once this goes away and there will be lasting repercussions. I like to be working; I go stir crazy between projects. I miss the producers, directors, editors, and mixers that I normally work with. We have a crazy and eclectic bunch of people at the studio as well. It is sad to not see them.
There is the other side of this; I am talking to friends and family that I haven’t connected with for a long time. Some for years! A pause in life to reflect and see what is truly important, a period you will remember and talk about always. I recently had a dinner over Facetime where we could see each other and talk, almost like we were there. I believe that everyone forced to do this together is bringing people together, not physically but spiritually. We are all striving for the same goal, in every country around the world. I hope that we come out of this with a much broader sense of community and empathy.
Let me caveat this by saying I’m doing fine. I’m more worried about people who are in much more dire physical, mental and financial states than I am. I am doing my part to support local business, so we don’t all end up working for Amazon when this ends.
But I probably jinxed it by telling everyone that 2020 was going to be MY YEAR. I left BigLaw a decade ago to chase the Hollywood dream and things were really starting to happen: made the Blacklist this year with a script called “Doll Wars” about the historic Barbie vs. Bratz lawsuit, got a major producer and A-list talent attached and got signed by UTA. That’s all still great news, but for 2021 or 2024 ;)
Here’s how I’m spending my lockdown:
Writing: It’s all about discipline. (Writing this while eating four different flavored cupcakes and working out to a PopSugar Toned Side-boob video.) One benefit is everyone suddenly can get back to you with notes on your script. I’ve heard that people are “still buying.”
Remote collaboration tip: Just start the Zoom on the toilet! That way there’s no need to feel embarrassed or fear you might go viral when nature calls.
This pandemic wiped out my touring plans as I just released my first standup album “The 40 Year Old Version,” which launched at #1 on iTunes. So that’s mid-five figures on hold for 3-6 months minimum. I’ve done a few streaming comedy shows, but it just feels like shouting into a void.
Instead, I’m focusing on my brand. I’m currently reading “You’re 40 and You Want To Be A TikTok Star. Ok, Boomer!” which was written by my friend’s 4-year-old daughter in crayon.
My one hard and fast rule: put in a full workday 9 to 5. No Smothers…I mean Cuomo Brothers until after dinner. There’s still a good 8-12 hours to induce panic about the world!
And of course, I’m catching up with old friends. We’ve now caught up, so we basically just regurgitate the same 3 stories from high school until we all blackout from the Scotch or the Zoom cuts off mercifully after 45 minutes.
Remember, this is going to end soon. In the meantime, be kind to everyone and don’t be the doomsday prepper that pisses it all away the day before they end the quarantine!
Allan A. Apone Sr.
Makeup Artist IATSE Local 706 Founder of MEL, Inc. & MEL Products
I was in Berlin, Germany, waiting to start filming “Uncharted.” The day we were to start principal photography we were told that production was on hold and we would be going home. I knew I would be doing a two-week self-quarantine and pondered what I would do while I was housebound.
Read, write, play games, do puzzles, watch TV, etc. My son AJ had been taking care of my house and when I got home, he had made sure that the house was stocked with food and supplies.
And so, life in the COVID-19 era started for me. I watched the news and visited sites to learn more about the pandemic and what was and should be done.
My son came in and said, “Dad, I have this idea to create masks for first responders on my 3D printers.”
He had bought 3M HEPA 1,500 home air conditioners filters rated for Bacteria and Viruses cut them and we could use them in the mask.
Since then, we have been a two-man team plotting and manufacturing masks and parts to drop off to local first responders in hospitals and clinics.
We don’t accept money for these; they are donated. This was the start of “The Mask Initiative.” AJ received $3,000 in donations from friends to help with the project in just two-and-a-half days! I decided to post a fundraiser on Facebook after four days we reached our goal of $5,000 so we pushed it to $10,000 and we are at over $6,000 now.
All of the donations we receive are used 100% for the materials, supplies and equipment to make the masks and other PPE we create.
We don’t take any salary or compensation. We repurposed the house and set up a clean room for our 3D printers.
We also created a zippered plastic room in the pantry for the final antibacterial treatment of the masks by UV-C light.
Most of our assembly is done on the dining room table, which is covered in plastic and constantly cleaned before each assembly. We add nose guards and elastic bands, put them in a vacuum seal bag with a seven-day supply of filters and staple instructions to the outside.
We now have a dedicated website, themaskinitiave.com, to let people follow what we are doing and to contact us. It is hard to understand how the people who need PPE’s most are forced to reuse equipment that would never be allowed to be reused normally. Our hearts went out to them and we wanted to make the effort to help.
Make a difference visit themaskinitiative.com and donate or share with your groups or friends on all social platforms. We are here to help.
The beginning days of the shut in were strange and stressful – my fear was not the virus but people’s reaction. I lived through the AIDS crisis before the world cared and I knew what to expect from a deadly virus but not from a partisan nation with no one in charge. The hoarding scared me – as a 60-year-old jewish man, I always have enough toilet paper in the house but what about everyone else? I’m always stocked on food but what about those who weren’t? I can get around but there are those who cannot. What about those who cannot do anything and don’t know who to ask for help?
My friend Beth Corets posted on her FB page asking if anyone needed anything. That got me thinking – how can I connect people who need something with one of my friends who can help? I know that industry people are among the most generous people I know so I started WHAT I NEED , a FB group in to help those in LA. Our first night we got a request from one of our members – an elderly women in Atlanta needed her heart meds and her pharmacy wouldn’t deliver – if she didn’t have them she would die. Within minutes, we had someone set to pick up her meds and get them to her.
What a great joy to see this in action. I immediately opened the group to everyone on my FB friends list – we are now nationwide with over 3500 members and clearly I don’t know them all. People are inviting friends who are inviting friends and so on We have been helping people nationwide and the love and joy that we are
sending out and getting back during this time has been amazing. We are getting toilet paper to Rhinebeck NY, meals to Texas, groceries to shut ins in NYC, and humor and company online I am so proud of my friends and their friends and the others who are joining the group to help each other – a nonpartisan group where everyone is welcome. The next step is to create a fund for those who need emergency cash – I am working on the logistics on that now.
I have heard from so many involved that they are getting such joy in helping others that they want to keep this going after the crisis passes. Is there anything better than helping someone in need? WHAT I NEED on Facebook – join us and join in!
Here are some of the places entertainment workers affected by coronoavirus and related shutdowns can get financial and medical help.
Contributors: Jazz Tangcay, Jenelle Riley, Chris Willman, Michael Schneider and Elizabeth Wagmeister