Another week with the coronavirus brings the death toll in the United States to more than 50,000 people. It’s also another week where millions of people continue to exercise home-schooling and working from home while first responders and healthcare workers put their lives at risk.
Read the stories of how lives have been put in hold in Variety’s ongoing series, The Corona Chronicles.
Founder and CEO of Thrive Global
For most of us, doing our duty for the greater good in our “new normal” means stepping back, staying at home and isolating ourselves as much as we can. But for frontline health workers, it means just the opposite. They’re being asked to step forward, putting their own health and the health of their families at risk.
We don’t yet know how long this pandemic will last, but the one thing we do know is how much depends on the sacrifices being made by our first responders. They’re taking care of us, so the least we can do is take care of them.
That’s why Thrive Global has partnered with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the CAA Foundation to launch #FirstRespondersFirst, which provides not just protective equipment, but also essential resources like child care, accommodations, food and mental health support for frontline healthcare workers.
We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of generous contributions to the #FirstRespondersFirst campaign. So far we’ve raised almost $4 million in three weeks, an incredible testament both to people’s generosity and to the gratitude and love for those putting their lives and health on the line for us.
With the support of the Marriott Hotels, we were able to open the Algonquin and the Renaissance hotels to healthcare workers from the Mount Sinai Health System so they can rest and recharge with the peace of mind that they aren’t putting loved ones at risk. And we have been receiving moving feedback from the healthcare workers using the Bright Horizons child care facilities we have been able to open with your generous contributions. Here is one from Angel Marino in Detroit: “It saved my world because I don’t know what I would have done. I probably would have lost my job, and I fought too hard to get here to have that happen. When all of this is over, I still need to provide. This saved me — and the kids love it there, too.”
We’re also grateful for the help we’ve had from the Hollywood community in getting our message out, like these heartwarming videos from Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis and Olivia Wilde supporting our frontline healthcare workers.
Back when we could fly — remember those days? — we’d hear the warning that, in the event of an emergency, we should secure our oxygen masks first before assisting others. That’s why we also offer mental health support, including webinars and Microsteps — small daily steps — they can take to support and build resilience as they confront this crisis.
So if you’re looking for a way to help, you can start by helping those on the front lines.
“Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” actor
I’m Chilean, so I’m used to natural disasters like earthquakes happening every so often. I don’t however, think you can ever be prepared for a global pandemic. EVER. The day before lockdown, I was filing a police report for my car being stolen, an event that put a lot of things in perspective at the time – I was safe, my partner was safe… all the things lost were material, screw the car. Alas, that was short-lived…my main task went from detective work and trying to find the criminals that took my car and filing an insurance claim to going around crazed supermarkets, desperately trying to find toilet paper (which we were actually out of). We didn’t find any toilet paper, but we did sink into the very intense “world-ending” energy in the supermarkets and managed to get the last of a frozen fried chicken dinner from Trader Joes without having to fight someone for it. Big score.
It’s been a very strange shift to say the least. The first week of lockdown I thought I was so on top of quarantine. My evident attitude was “go-get-em” – cleaning like a psycho, working out every day, “I’ve got this” (please refer to @bennydrama on IG for a visual of the Virgo in Quarantine, that was me). In this phase, I learned my deep appreciation for Lysol and Clorox. After everything was deeply cleaned and disinfected and my love affair with my Swiffer was finally out, I wanted to “figure” things out. Enter phase two: the panicky-petrified, losing her s— with many near panic attacks one. This phase was all about desperately trying to avoid the fact that we would be in this for the long run, so I spent my time reading all the news. I wanted to get all of the information so I could figure it out – and I mean EVERYTHING. The fake news, the real news, the alien conspiracy news… only to find out no one else knew anything either. I was going to have to tough it out – with the help of my Swiffer of course. The big take away of my news reading psychosis was discovering @thegoodnewsmovement, and it restored my faith in humanity.
This new understanding of the unknown being our only future sent me on a bit of a low for my third phase: the sad baker. I made (surprise surprise) banana bread (very bad banana bread), cookies, lemon cake, you name it – but nothing quite did the trick. I had used up all of the ingredients in my pantry way too quickly and was left with mediocre baked goods and no clear date of this ever ending. I realized I was avoiding the very obvious fear of my financial security. As an actress, I’m used to things not being so safe all the time. But this was a completely different concept. And I’m one of the lucky ones who has a show that has just been released “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.” A show I’m so proud of and excited about, yet it feels so weird promoting it in times like this.
So, I think I gave up on figuring things out and I finally accepted the facts. SVU, Sour Patch Kids and wine. That’s phase number 4. I accepted that I was scared and that that was ok. I gave up trying to make it all better and turned to what gave me comfort and what helped me cope. The combo of watching “SVU,” eating Sour Patches and drinking wine was the right kind of soothing. The big issue I find with social media and all of the access we have to information is that it can get really daunting. I was trying to be productive and creative yet couldn’t achieve anything. It was a pressure I was putting on myself, when the reality is, all it should be in this time is just to cope. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being creative and productive – but you also need to take the edge off. I think mental health during this time is so important – having an outlet and a safe space for your feelings to be processed is so necessary in normal life that, right now, it has to be a priority.
So, enter phase today: I’m into puzzle making currently, and it’s IMPOSSIBLE. It’s a drawing of the city of Paris and it’s quite beautiful. It makes me think of everyone there, and then of everyone everywhere. And that’s the thing – this is global and it affects everyone. But it affects everyone differently. I have never been so aware of how lucky I am to be able to stay home, to have a home to stay in and share it with the person I love. It’s a blessing, and I want to actively help people who don’t have the same privilege. There’s a bit of an issue when we so lightly say we’re all in this together. It’s coming from a good place, but the truth is, the reality for privileged people is not a global one. There is a huge gap – a very hard and unfair one. And that concerns me. If you are in a position where you can donate, there are many incredible charities doing so much good today: @directrelief @feedingamerica, all the GoFundMe campaigns, and @desafiolevantemoschile – a great way to help in my home country, where my family is and where most of my attention is directed toward today.
In the end, we’re all doing the best we can. So go do you, stay home, stay healthy. I’ll be here making puzzles with my Swiffer while watching “SVU.”
CEO and Founder of Smart Cups
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of companies around the world shifted their production to make essential supplies, and we were one of them. My company, Smart Cups, a Southern California-based technology company that has the ability to print beverages and medications on surfaces, knew that we had to act quickly to support our Mission Viejo community.
With many unknowns about this virus, I started thinking of creative ways to ensure my Smart Cups team would be able to stay employed. After a trip to the grocery store with my wife, I saw the store attendants wiping everything down, and spraying customers with hand sanitizer and disinfectant. I told my wife, “We could do that. Smart Cups can do that.”
So, I went back to the office and looked at our current manufacturing assets, and I said to myself, “Yeah, we can definitely make hand sanitizer!” Within days, we started to make hand sanitizer for healthcare workers and first responders who are on the frontlines in Orange County. We’ve been able to remain open as part of the United States’ Essential and Critical Infrastructure, and because of that, the Smart Cups team has had the opportunity to help essential services, such as the Orange County Fire Authority, the City of Mission Viejo, local hospitals, homeless shelters, first responders and veterinarians.
To date, we have produced more than 70,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and I’ve made a pledge to our community to continue to do so during this crisis, in an effort to slow the spread of this virus. We’re very fortunate to have an infrastructure and supply chain in place to turn our normal operations into a hand sanitizer manufacturing facility in less than 72 hours. While producing traditional hand sanitizer is not our core business function, we’ve allocated about 50% of our manufacturing assets to make it a priority. And, right now, we’re doing R&D to evaluate how Smart Cups Technology can be applied to printing hand sanitizer, as well as other disinfectants in cups and bottles.
It goes without saying that these are very strange times, and my team and I are very honored to give back to our community. The Orange County community has supported us since the very beginning—they are a part of our DNA, and they’ve believed in us since we launched in 2017. This is the least we could do for them.
Director, producer and CEO of Fire Starter Studios
“Co-ro-na-vi-rus,” I say.
“What’s that, Mommy?” says one of my 7-year old twins.
“People are sick so we need to stay in the house.”
“Yes, like zombies.” The new life of a single, working, small business owning Mom.
If I have ever juggled a work-life balance before, this is a new level. The Cons: The hardest part for me is the small business owner part. (Okay and 1st-grade math. Who created this crap!?!) The mess is unbelievable. I commiserate with friends on a daily, HOURLY basis if anyone is getting help or even just a response. It is a second job to jump through the hoops. We are inundated with endless forms, crashed websites, lack of communication, sometimes 3-4-5 times applying again and again because a form changes, and the “new” form is now required and all while racing against the clock and the 30.2 ml other small businesses. I put my life savings into this company to have the flexibility to spend more time with my kids, enjoy projects, stretch my wings as a creative and to never work with jerks…our motto, so even the idea of having it wiped out is terrifying.
I worry about our employee’s families, our revenue down the road, the educational hit my kids will take and even financially on their college savings and my retirement. I am flabbergasted (yes, I am trying to broaden my vocabulary during the stay at home orders) by the people who protest staying safe. The cure is worse than the problem? Uh, isn’t the problem potentially death?
The Pros: The silver lining in all of this is I have slowed down during this time. I am enjoying the time with my kids, recuperating from the ultimate weekend warrior aftermath on my body from completing all of my leftover house projects and having a 30-second Los Angeles commute. My dog Zoom-bombs daily and the cat is now a star to a client’s office in Ireland. I am conflicted to how I will go back to how life was before. We have a moment to step back and PLAN, not just react. Oh, and PJs. I love wearing them daily. I haven’t worn real shoes since mid-March.
“Rhett & Link” on YouTube
I’m not on the frontlines of the fight against the Coronavirus. I’m not treating the sick, working on a cure, or providing an essential service. All I’m doing is staying home and doing my best to keep making my internet show, “Good Mythical Morning,” hoping that people will enjoy a break from the bad news cycle by laughing at two grown men playing a game that involves downing spoonfuls of whatever condiments they can find in their fridges.
You’d probably think that the social distancing measures we’re following in CA would have minimal effect on a YouTube show. After all, it might be weird for Stephen Colbert to lose his studio audience and transform his show into what feels more like a Zoom conference call, but YouTube is full of kids sitting on the ends of their beds doing makeup contouring tutorials. Coronavirus can’t stop that!
Alas, we at Mythical Entertainment have slowly changed the way we produce our daily show. What started as something we could make in a garage now requires a studio and a talented crew. So, when we were given the order to stay home by our governor, the immediate future of our show was uncertain.
Without a concrete plan in place, we instructed our staff to begin working from home, gave our editors hard drives and computers, and began to figure out what a quarantine version of the show looked like. Of course, social distancing requires that me and my best friend and co-host, Link Neal, not be in the same room, so we made each episode split-screen. Plus, we can’t have anyone run camera or set up lights. The only help I’ve got at my disposal is whatever my 11 year old son is willing to do. As you might guess, the show feels a little different.
Shortly after we began this new version of the show, we heard from a fan who was battling COVID-19 from her hospital bed and struggling to breathe. She said that our content was making her laugh and keeping her positive, helping to distract her from her situation. That alone made us realize that we’ve got to keep making “Good Mythical Morning,” even if we can’t do the big ideas that require our amazing staff.
And while I’ve worked out most of the kinks (and taught my son some colorful language), this experience has helped me realize just how much our team does to make my job easy. Before Coronavirus, Link and I were able to sit down at our desk and make our show without worrying about any of the technical considerations. I look forward to those days again. I’m sure my wife does as well.
In early March, I was in Brooklyn preparing for the premiere of my latest film “Swallow,” while reading scripts for potential new projects, but as California and then New York came to a sudden halt, of course so did all of the interviews and potential jobs. At first, I think being a freelance artist in a project-based industry, helped the home-quarantine, out-of-work, “country-shutdown” concept feel less jarring compared to many of my friends and family outside of the entertainment industry.
And while you can proactively and optimistically make a to-do list of all the things you never seem to have time for, the reality of what is happening in your community and world is devastatingly impossible to ignore. The sirens in New York have been deafening.
On the contrary, the nightly cheering for all health care and essential workers is cathartic, but still the very least the rest of us can do. During a crisis, I think it’s human nature to want to “run to help,” especially those of us in an industry who tend to be adept problem solvers. So even when doing our part by staying home, early on in the shutdown, I continually found myself incredibly frustrated with the federal government’s lack of preparedness and response.
Conversely, the daily group threads of local 829 members provided solace — rallying together with their shutdown productions, local vendors and set shops to track down every last N95 mask they might have access to, or gathering CDC standard materials and patterns to help make more PPE, all while also sharing personal tips on navigating the inundated unemployment systems. Like many, I have found comfort in our medium, binging all of “Schitt’s Creek” and “Tales from the Loop,” while tonally vastly different, both are escape worthy worlds.
The fear and uncertainty surrounding not only the pandemic, but when we might be able to go back to work can be overwhelming. But I’m also aware that many in our industry and my community are far more at risk and facing greater hardships than my own. I have attempted to quell my own anxieties through volunteering for local food banks found with NYCares or MutualAid, and delivering groceries through Invisible Hands. Volunteering has not only provided some much needed structure to my week, but allowed me to feel a little less helpless and more connected during this very uncertain time.
Owner & COO of the Spotlight Theater in Warsaw, New York
As an Independent theater owner, I’ve always recognized the power the theatrical experience has to create community. A collective and magical sharing of feelings and emotions in a darkened room.
Going into the weekend of March 13, we were planning, preparing and doing everything possible for the safety of our patrons. How many seats equal six-feet apart? How many tickets equal half capacity? But then on March 16, the Governor of New York announced and specifically named movie theaters to close until further notice. That date there was a shift, our community world seemed to tilt and balance precariously.
The day the theater closed its doors you could almost hear a collective gasp. This is for real. What about graduations, Easter dinner, meetups with friends on their porch? We quickly learned what it felt like to lose the collective experience.
It was all quiet for about a week and then something started to happen. Independent movie theaters started to engage with the audience. We might not be open, but we could all still share in a collective experience. Name the first movie you ever saw? The movie you can’t wait to be released?
We organized Bear Hunts, getting hundreds of our patrons to place bears in windows for families out on walks. We opened for popcorn pickups through take out windows so families could pretend to be at the theater. We partnered with studios to create virtual art house theaters at home that benefit our theater and them. We created a virtual community experience and it’s working. I receive a message or more every day saying they can’t wait until we are open again. They want to come with their families, spouses, and friends and be part of something. I can’t wait until that happens, too.
I stayed home with my husband and four kids like every other New Yorker, realizing our version of “Groundhog Day.”
One week turned into three and now I’ve lost count. We have school block hours, and times that the kitchen is open and closed for business. We’ve found a new norm that we hope to be an old, forgotten norm soon. But until it does, I will share in weekend movie nights, introducing movies of my childhood to my children (yes, we watch them at our theater), and continue to engage the theater audience until we can hopefully open again soon!
Every morning, I make a cup of tea and practice my scales. Sometimes they are slow and heartfelt, other days they are fast and nimble. I’ve played these scales since I was a girl. They are my “comfort food”—my sense of “normal.”
I am a classically-trained violinist. I write, produce, and perform classical-fusion (often taking classical music and mixing it with hip-hop). I was devastated when my label decided to delay my long-awaited music release. To top it off, my Tribeca Film Festival premiere was postponed due to COVID-19. Everything I had worked so hard for was put on pause. But, that’s okay.
One thing music has taught me: resilience. I’ve faced rejection. I’ve been told “black people don’t play violin.” Yet here I am. I’ve come across passages in a concerto so difficult I didn’t know how I would learn the notes. I’ve been tasked to write a string arrangement for the lead single on “Black Panther” in two hours, yet I stepped up and delivered in ways I couldn’t fathom.
Coronavirus is a test of our resilience. We are challenged to be more compassionate and empathetic. A virus that has made us afraid of other human beings is pushing us to be more connected. What does this look like? Sewing free homemade face masks for the general public or bringing your elderly neighbor’s mail to their front stoop so they aren’t exposed to the virus.
For me, connecting means reaching out to children who are stuck at home and giving them free Zoom lessons on how to make a violin with an empty box of macaroni and cheese, a ruler and rubber bands. We will make it through this unprecedented time if we take it note by note, day by day.
Director of “Black & Blue”
On Wednesday, March 11, I stepped off the plane from Sacramento, bouncing with energy. Why? Well Lionsgate just moved up my latest film “Fatale,” starring Hilary Swank to June 19. I’m now hours away from our big marketing meeting, and also to discuss July production plans for my other Lionsgate project, “Free Agents.” This was quickly shaping up to be the biggest summer of my career.
I prepared for the meetings, a news alert pops up, “NBA season suspended indefinitely” and the world suddenly stops. So I headed back home— not knowing what was next, but what I did know is that my summer was about to be a helluva lot different.
Fast forward to now, we’ve been in quarantine for over a month. In the second week I started to pick up the pieces from a situation that was seemingly perfect. With the “Fatale” release now in question, my summer production is up in the air. We need to rethink the timing of my other 2020 release, our independent comedy “Meet the Blacks 2!”
In this moment, I started to look inward, move forward, and focus on the things I can control. I hunkered down on the “Free Agents” script, striving to make sure it’s the best script I’ve ever written. I focused on creating marketing materials for “ Meet the Blacks 2,” that way we’ll be ready to push our release when the light turns back on. During this time, I’ve also teamed up with my business partner Robert Smith, who is spearheading a philanthropic mission to help Black businesses survive this pandemic.
I’ve learned a lot during quarantine, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to truly appreciate this rare gift of time with my family. Being a filmmaker, you’re often away from home for months. With the world battling this crisis, I’ve taken the time to slow down and appreciate what’s around me. At this point I still don’t know what the summer might bring, nor do I know what next summer will bring. But the one thing I do know is that family and life is priceless, and at the end nothing else truly matters.
President and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association
We are more than a month into this mandated lockdown, and I’m still shocked and amazed at how the coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. In early January, I started mildly tracking the virus, taking note of the news coming out of China. But awards season was in full bloom and my duties as the president of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) included producing the 11 th AAFCA Awards, leaving no time for anything else. Like most people, I assumed this was just happening overseas, so I kept plugging along. Then, after the Oscars, I immediately segued into the association’s spring/summer calendar. I also traveled to Marrakech in mid-February to attend a weeklong meeting of Black Creatives from throughout the African diaspora. Back in the States, I began paying more attention to the virus as it hit home, but that didn’t alter my plans. Now I can admit that I was stuck in the misguided belief that what was happening in the rest of the world could never happen in America.
#lessonlearned!!! The stranded cruise ship, talk of travel restrictions and the spread of new cases in Washington state forced me to consider what was happening in Italy and Iran could happen here. Still, I kept moving forward, finalizing AAFCA’s spring schedule that included our annual Women’s History Month program in March, plus our Special Achievement Awards Lunch in April, which had already been postponed a month earlier due to the shortened awards season. I was also in conversation with potential partners mapping out AAFCA’s growing summer season. A pandemic just wasn’t anything I could fathom, even with mounting evidence to the contrary.
By mid-March, I finally accepted the truth. After the national emergency was declared, I could no longer deny that a new world order was afoot and that, even as I sheltered in place, I needed to prepare myself and AAFCA for the wild ride into uncharted territory that lay ahead.
We were already halfway through our Women’s History Month podcast series spotlighting such female creatives as Oscar winner Hannah Beachler. Though that could continue, the industry shutdown meant I needed to postpone or cancel other activities planned over the next two quarters. I was really at a loss as to what to do next, but I did know that sitting and watching the news in disbelief was not the answer. So I turned to the AAFCA membership and one of the members suggested we curate streaming and TV titles to help people decide what to watch while they were housebound. One month in, AAFCA’s “What to Watch” lists for adults and kids is shared widely on social media, as well as via black newspapers and radio stations nationwide.
An AAFCA advisor suggested a roundtable series virtually connecting AAFCA members with talent and creatives to cover their upcoming projects. So far, this plan has proven to be a win-win that has once again productively filled my days.
Despite keeping busy with these new projects, it’s still scary not knowing when this real-life “Twilight Zone” moment will end. Of course, I am grateful to have my health, plus I am determined to stay positive as I continue channeling my energy into working with the AAFCA team to create projects to help others manage these turbulent times. While, in the grand scheme, these efforts may not help save the world, what I have learned is that we have to find joy wherever we can.
Director, entertainment at Rogers and Cowan / PMK
What started as a trip to Connecticut with my girlfriend Melissa to see her grandmother has since turned into a 37+ day adventure that neither of us will forget. We left New York on Thursday, March 12 to visit Melissa’s grandmother, who’d been battling Lymphoma for years. Sadly, she passed away six days later with Melissa and Melissa’s stepmom by her side.
Following the funeral, Coronavirus cases had gotten so bad in New York that we decided not to return home. Funnily though, we only packed four days of clothing as we never expected to be gone this long (thank goodness for online shopping & washing machines!).
While working from Melissa’s family’s two homes in Connecticut, either on a card table squeezed in a bedroom or on a couch in the living room, I’ve learned to balance my work and personal life by finding a fun hobby to keep me sane and occupied. Singing has always been a passion so I decided I would sing karaoke “quarantine” versions of songs and share them on social media (@The_Meltz).
One day while watching Andrew Cuomo gave a speech, I freestyle rapped “Cuomo: An American Hero” to the tune of “Hamilton” and posted it online. Several colleagues and friends messaged me that they really enjoyed the video and that I should post more. Therefore, I started writing more songs based on quarantining and social distancing.
Melissa, who is an Emmy Award winner and currently the Art Director at “Saturday Night Live,” has been helping me shoot some of these videos. She filmed her best work on a beach, however, it was too windy and we could barely hear the lyrics, so I had to redo it. To date, I have written/performed four additional videos to the tunes of Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” Dear Evan Hansen’s “Waving Through a Window,” Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.”
There are more videos in the pipeline including a spin on Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” In this unprecedented time, we all need a reason to smile. My feeling is if I can make one person laugh, even when I cannot hit all the notes in the songs, it is all worth it. I look forward to going home and seeing the “new normal,” but until then, I will keep making videos and hope to bring joy to those watching.
Heather (Weiss) Besignano
Icon PR founder and CEO
As a small business owner within the entertainment industry, the effects of Coronavirus have been felt drastically. In 2017, I was blessed to take my experience and clientele from the firm I was previously COO at and launch my own firm, ICON PR. January 2020 I celebrated two years of owning and operating a business doing what I love and supporting my client’s dreams and aspirations – all without ever having to take out a loan or go into any form of debt (something I still aim to do as we navigate through these difficult times). As the news of this virus began to travel around the world, I knew we were in for a bumpy ride. A friend of mine, a stylist in Milan, Italy who has styled two print magazine shoots for my client Mayim Bialik, warned me of the virus and its capacity to travel quickly and take people down even faster. He begged me to stay home and tell my friends and family to do the same. Within a week his words rang true.
I was in Houston, Texas surprising my best friend for her baby shower and visiting my almost 100-year-old great grandmother when major cities began to shutter the doors of restaurants, bars and other non-essential stores. I text my friend who works for air-traffic control at LAX and asked if there would be any possibility that they would ground flights. He said there had been talk, and while he didn’t think it would happen if the government could help it, he suggested I get home quickly. So, I boarded a flight back the very next morning (crying as I left my hometown knowing I wouldn’t get to visit my grandmother and not knowing when I would get to see her again). Upon arriving in LA, my husband would pick me up from the airport and give me the solemn news that all his gigs for the foreseeable future have been canceled (he’s a composer and live-gig musician). Within the next 36 hours I would hear from half my roster that they had to go on hiatus given the uncertainty of their shows, films, canceled tours and lack of funds. I felt the anxiety holding on to my back like an unwelcome parasite. While it’s unfortunate, I also completely understand the state of the world and where people’s finances are! I want nothing more than to make this time as easy as possible for my clients. A lot of them are like family to me and the last thing I want to do is put them in a position where they are struggling.
My husband’s uncle, who was a firefighter in Alphabet City during 9/11, has been diagnosed with coronavirus (he’s hanging in there but it’s scary). Our world has shifted entirely, and we are managing each day as it comes while raising our 19-month daughter. I’ve learned to count my blessings each day as the day begins. I have my family, my business (though it’s shifted), the time indoors has allowed us to spend more time connecting with friends and family virtually, have dinner together every night and find new ways to feel optimistic about the world and the situation we are all in together. As for business, it’s allowed me to be more resourceful and think outside the box. I’ve worked with other publicists in brain-storming sessions, each of us leaning on our community to do the next, right thing (as “Frozen 2” would tell you to do). Life is going to be a little different for a while, but we can get through this if we come together and help one another. Support your industry friends, be safe, stay healthy and stay home.
Actress from “Atypical” (Netflix)
A few weeks ago, when a friend told me, “Right now, meditation feels like worrying with my eyes closed,” I knew I wanted to help people take the guesswork (and worry) out of meditation and find some peace amidst all of the panic.
I’m fortunate to have a home recording studio, where I do voice-over jobs and have been creating guided meditations for actors for years, helping them thrive in all kinds of uncertainty. But now, I want to make sure anyone who needs help easing anxiety and improving well-being can access some relief, for free.
It felt so good to put the focus on how I could help others to create a sense of calm within the chaos, and in writing and recording the guided audio meditation, it helped me to do the same.
The Dalai Lama states that, “World peace begins with inner peace.” And yet, so many of us don’t know how to find that inner peace, even in our regular busy lives, much less in the midst of a tumultuous global pandemic. But here we are, being asked to take a global pause, to sit with ourselves, and our thoughts and our feelings about it all. I know how overwhelming that can be for so many people.
What has been comforting is knowing that every effort to serve others (no matter how big or small) has a positive ripple effect.
For years, I’ve been teaching an online course to actors worldwide, and I just learned that one of my students is also a nurse working in ICU treating COVID-19 patients. To hear that this 15-minute audio is helping her stay grounded in such a stressful environment means everything.
And just when I’m feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling my two boys or frustrated with the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I get an email from an actress telling me, “I listened to your guided meditation and I felt better than I had in weeks.”
So ultimately, what has helped me the most is uplifting others and shining some light in all of the darkness. Oh yeah, and lots of snuggles and walks with our rescue dog, Daisy.
My name is Jordan. When I’m on stage, my name is Sykamore. I’m a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, TN, and I’d just like to formally state for the record, that 2020 was not supposed to be like this. I had a lot of plans for this year, not the least among which included my major label debut with tours, concerts and media blitzes. But the universe took a hard turn and I am at home, baking and witnessing the implacable resilience of a small world.
Covid-19 made landfall like a tropical storm and in an instant, my year was a figment of a plan that only existed in my mind. Denial came first. The way this lockdown came out of nowhere made me feel like it was only going to last a few weeks, but the prognosis as far as “going back to normal” any time soon is bleak.
Despite the circumstances, I decided to release new music during this weird time — though it was a scary decision to make. Trying to promote a five-song EP during the biggest economic upset in 100 years is uncharted territory. In some respects, the term “the show must go on” has taken on a whole new meaning. We are living in a “new normal” — one that involves a lot of “making the best of it.”
I’ve uncovered a surprising truth: the world is smaller. This virus has forced us as a planet to completely unite. I scroll through my newsfeed every day [well, multiple times a day], and it’s rife with stories of people finding ways to help, to grieve and to love amidst the chaos.
I’ve also noticed that my world has become considerably smaller. I used to see life in five-year plans. Nowadays, it’s in days — even hours. I go for walks, I promote my ‘California King’ EP on Instagram live, and I make turkey chili. I find things I CAN do in a sea of things I have no control over.
I’ve been forced to slow down, to enjoy – even SAVOR – certain moments that I used to wildly take for granted. In these ways, I think I’ve changed for the better. When this is over, I may not have the worries I have now. I may not be nervous to get groceries or wonder if I’ll ever get to play a show again. But I’ll always have the memory of the year our world went into survival mode — when all we had were street parades for graduation, watching church services on Zoom, banana bread and bike rides.
2020 is the year we learned what we are made of. Even in these dark moments, I’m filled with hope knowing that together, we are made of something unbreakable. No matter how big this virus is, it’s no match for a small world.
2nd unit director / stunt coordinator
We were six weeks into filming the much-anticipated fourth season of “Stranger Things” when we abruptly shut down. I think most of us saw it coming, but it still took the air out of the momentum we had been building toward an epic season 4. Productions all over the country began to shut down and I soon realized that the entire film and television industry was going to take a massive hit from this pandemic. It’s a small source of consolation that our work in this industry is one of the biggest sources of entertainment for people all over the world as they pass their time in quarantine.
I, myself can finally catch up on all the shows that I never have time to watch!
I like to think that all of the time I’ve spent bingeing Netflix is actually productive research. The blessing in disguise during this quarantine has been the time that I get to spend at home. I spend most of the year away on location and being at home in my own bed with my family has been rejuvenating. Those of us who work in the film industry are used to downtime between projects, so I’ve been filling it with constructive research to expand myself as a filmmaker by watching tutorials on VFX and 3D modeling and such. These are essential when I’m shooting my pre-viz’s because I like to make them as detailed as possible.
I’ve continued to have meetings with other departments within our production and we’re all in agreement. We can’t wait to get back to filming “Stranger Things.” What has been the most unusual is that we now have an entire season of a television show prepped. Which, anyone who has ever worked in TV knows, never happens six weeks into filming.
Like most composers, I’m used to spending vast amounts of time alone. I do the bulk of my music writing, orchestrating and production on my own in a quieted room — and so the biggest change for me has been seeing all these people suddenly around me every day. They tell me I should call them my “family”. This seems largely believable, as I do seem to recall running into them sometime earlier (must have been between scoring assignments).
The smaller humans among them require me to set aside music-making for many hours each day and instead focus on their education. Their tele-schoolwork involves things like: stretching alongside YouTube videos, pasting tree leaves onto construction paper, and counting coins.
My pride in their achievements is immense; for a few precious minutes each day I even experience little-to-no crippling anxiety that their academic progress will be irreparably stunted by this pandemic. When our makeshift school ends for the day, the older one (7) will sometimes play piano and sing with me, while the younger one (3) patiently builds a magnificent “farm zoo” out of magnetic tiles.
I like to see them being creative, it gives me hope that good things await us when life returns to some kind of normal. I have thankfully found some time to continue working– usually when an animated show temporarily inhibits the kids’ frontal lobes (except for certain critical functions, like frequent calls for pretzels), or after their bedtime. I’m composing some new music, and I’ve been prepping two recent scores for soundtrack releases. The first is for 1BR, a horror/thriller that hits VOD outlets this month after a buzzy festival run. I had been looking forward to the theatrical premiere, but giving that up seems like a minor concession in the grand scheme of things.
The second soundtrack is for YINZ, a sharp indie comedic thriller I scored for orchestra. As I listen back I imagine feeling the electricity of a large ensemble in-person once again. Yes, good things definitely await us.
At the top of my mind these days is a documentary I recently scored called DO NO HARM. The film reveals that doctors are suffering from extremely high rates of burnout and distress; they were being driven to (and, tragically, past) the edge even before this coronavirus put them in constant proximity to mortal danger. Let’s not forget that our heroes are human– they urgently need emotional support and fair working conditions so that they can provide the best care, and that is true now more than ever.
In the quieter moments I’ve been taking time to revisit the composers that shaped me. Beethoven, Debussy, John Coltrane, Ennio Morricone. I practice piano and guitar. I meditate on the memories of making music with my friends in the same room. I think about the timelessness of music and film in this moment when time has seemingly paused. It’s hard not to get sad sometimes, so I get sad. But I know that timelessness is real, and it compels me to keep creating. I can’t treat a patient, but I’m here to make music that helps us feel a little more human even while our lives are upside down. Time to build another Lego firetruck!
Dr. Holly Carter
CEO and Founder, Relevé Entertainment
As a producer, manager and CEO of a production company, my team and I are used to adapting on the fly to new and unexpected situations. But, none of us could have predicted how quickly we’d have to adjust to this new normal. In our business, we’re dependent on relationships built in-person. So as this situation unfolded, like many of my peers, we at Relevé needed to quickly adapt to find a way to stay connected and positive. Something I keep reminding my team during this time is, we may be shut in, but we are not shut out.
I have multiple Zoom meetings with my team each day to check-in and keep energies high. I am naturally still a kid at heart, and throughout my company, even during these challenging times, I encourage people to have fun. (I have blonde hair, and on my birthday one year, my entire team showed up to work sporting blonde wigs!). We make our Zooms themed — so we’ll show up in our faux fur coats, or change our background to fit our moods, and even have some group singalongs to Clark Sisters songs.
“The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” is a made-for-tv film project I’ve been working on for about 15 years. They overcame humble beginnings and endured much adversity to achieve international fame as one of the highest-selling female gospel groups in history. In the weeks leading up to the premiere of this film, our extensive promo push got canceled due to the pandemic. In moments like these, faith is what I always call back to — faith in mine and my team’s talents to succeed and being open-minded and creative enough to face this new landscape head on. We utilized every creative and innovative bone in our bodies to pull together video press interviews, and social media interviews and performances in place of in-person experiences.
We are also continuing to strive for as much consistency as possible through this unpredictable time, including frequent Zoom pitch meetings with networks to keep working towards our many family and faith-based projects in the pipeline, through our incredible partnership with All3Media America.
I have to say, by the end of the day, I find myself a bit “Zoomed out” – it’s easy to let the constant screen time consume your day. I’ve found solace in trying to focus on the positives and carving out times to re-center. I’ve been taking walks with my husband and dog while my daughter skateboards alongside us, and have seriously upped my game in the kitchen – I think by the end of this I’ll also go by “Chef Carter.” I’m so thankful for my family and our health and am praying for everyone affected by this situation. And, I’m hoping that we embrace this video technology in the long run, to allow everyone to spend more optional time at home once we reach the end of this. And I have faith that we will reach the end of this.
Actor, writer, producer
If I could go back in time I would slap my hand every time I said, “You know, I would write more if I had more free time.” Well, guess what “past Katherine,” you got your wish. Guess it just takes a pandemic for you to sit down at the computer and churn out pages… just kidding, every writer knows even that still feels like an excruciating task. It would be ideal if this free time were granted because I was able to quit my day jobs and summer in Saint-Tropez.
Auditions have come to a screeching halt. Potentially career-changing callbacks are a distant memory of excitement. As an actor, you wonder/agonize who you lost a part to—in this case I know I lost it to a virus sadly close in name to my favorite beer. LA’s “safer at home” ordinance doesn’t include the Groundlings, my creative home since I’ve moved here from New York. My prep classes for the Advanced Writing lab are now just a refund to my credit card … hey, on the upside, now I can afford to buy Trader Joe’s Movie Theater Popcorn, which I currently have a lifetime supply of. Every single job I have is officially on furlough or close to it. One of my jobs is at a Hollywood centric gym; I find myself missing the smell of sweaty armpits that are not my own of course.
This time two years ago I was in production for my short film “Ring of Fire,” which I wrote, produced, and starred in. This time last year I was at the Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia for the world premiere. What if this pandemic came only a year or two sooner? My first time in the festival circuit was an exhilarating whirlwind as I was thrown into the deep end and came out on top. Now, there are people being robbed of those potentially career changing moments. My heart aches for the people of my industry right now.
Stuck indoors I have learned two things; 1) I still have trouble cracking eggs and 2) Nurses are the real superheroes. I should know, my mom is a former hospital nurse. She has friends currently on the front lines. I talk to her everyday and some of the stories she tells me are horrific; some are heartwarmingly hopeful.
What to do in this challenging time? John Steinbeck told the late irreplaceable Terrence McNally after his first play bombed to “get right back on the horse. If you ain’t been throwed, you ain’t rode.” I keep that quote on my fridge and I’m nothing if not persistent. I get up, make a cup of coffee and sit down at the table to write. I find ways to make myself laugh on the page, in optimistic anticipation that the execs who hopefully will read it in the future will laugh as much as me. Because the world needs us when we return to normalcy. It will call for us to pound the pavement, circle back, work in our wheelhouses, and every other show biz expression that we all know and can’t wait to hear again. We better not be social distancing anymore by August 22 because that is Kristen Wiig’s birthday, my comedy deity… I have plans.
I’ve always been a hypochondriac so our current situation plays right into my lifelong germaphobia. Luckily, I was ahead of the curve on the whole hand washing thing. By about 40 years. But that still doesn’t quell the paranoid. Every time I feel a tickle in my throat, I’m convinced I have the virus. Whoever thought it was funny to schedule a global pandemic smack dab in the middle of cold, flu and allergy season is a real a–hole.
I was about to start pre-production on a new film when the world’s wheels came off. My biggest film yet as a writer/director. Of course, I was beyond disappointed to put it on hold, but my next thought was that continuing to create entertainment in the face of tragedy feels trivial. The barrier between social order and biblical chaos, a membrane we’ve taken embarrassingly for granted, has revealed itself to be terrifyingly flimsy. But in light of this catastrophe, where actual superheroes reveal themselves to wear personal protective equipment instead of capes, I remind myself that storytelling is relevant. A shared experience is cathartic. Medicinal. A cinematic escape from the true horrors of life is helping me and so many others from losing our collective minds.
I’ve been watching a lot of end of the world films. I watched “The World, the Flesh and the Devil”. Harry Belafonte is the last man on Earth, and somehow still remains tres cool, and even sings. I rewatched “Dr. Strangelove” because we’re all living in a Terry Southern script. I also watched “The Omega Man,” which was eerily applicable. On the way to the store for my mother, fully suited up for battle, I felt like Charlton Heston racing down desolate LA streets. Entering the supermarket was like a scene from “The Walking Dead”. The look in everyone’s eyes was of shared humanity. We’re all lost in the same nightmare.
I‘ve been writing like a demon. The words of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” echo in my brain. “Someday this war’s going to end.” It’s true. When it does, I’ll be ready. The artist in me wants to create something impactful and reflective of our common experience but “Sullivan’s Travels” taught me that sometimes when circumstances are most dire people just need to laugh. So, that’s my new plan….to save the world one fart joke at a time.
Hosts Locally Grown Comedy in The Feinstein Room at Vitello’s in Studio City
After doing stand up comedy for more than 30 years, I was hit by a car in 2018 and was unable to get back on stage again until February 2020. Little did I know that my first show back would be my last live performance until who knows when. The irony is while humor is essential for getting through this confusing spell, my job is dangerous for everyone involved. So I’ve had to adapt.
While hunkered down in Southern California with my two Jindo dogs and my husband Jeffrey (who has been busy composing and writing, and cutting his own hair — I’ve been trying to get an appointment), I’ve done sit down comedy on a show on Zoom, scheduled a few more, signed up for Cameo, and have been recording daily video updates for followers across social media, all while not wearing a bra.
We’re set with cans of tuna for ages, a healthy supply of toilet paper (when I recently found 18 extra rolls under the sink I felt like I had found the Golden Ticket), and wi-fi. I’m beyond grateful this didn’t happen in the 80s — virtual community has proven to be, for me, the key.
Even though I work out daily, my sweatpants are too tight because I’ve been eating my weight in Cheez Its (white cheddar). But I’m focusing on the positives: I never have to worry if I’ve locked the front door or turned off my curling iron, every day is Casual Day, and at least I’m not stuck inside with Ted Cruz.
When I couldn’t smell or taste my dinner one night I was nervous, but then I took off my mask. (I should have kept it on — I’m not a great cook.) Joking aside, I learned last week that a classmate from pre-school had died from the virus, and even though I hadn’t seen her in years it hit me hard. Things that don’t seem so important now: Things. Timing is important, but time is everything. I am reminded that I need to love, create and entertain while I can.
And I just might never put on a bra ever again.
Actress & Co-Founder of We The Women Collective
Three weeks ago, I thought to myself, “What a s—-y time to be running a theater company.” Two weeks ago, I thought to myself, “What a s—-y time to be going through a break up.” This week, I thought to myself “What a s—-y time to be burying a family member who was perfectly healthy just last month, before this seemingly random, unbelievable pandemic took him from Us.”
It’s been a long month. Summoning the energy to pull myself out of the often-self-indulgent depths of sorrow to even write this, seems impossible. Yet, it is the very action of writing this that momentarily alleviates the sorrow. Even in grief, the thing that I find most healing is to be useful. To have some sort of purpose or task in front of me which helps me to forget the “Zoom funeral.” Yes, that’s a thing.
We The Women launched an initiative to commission twenty pieces of original work, ranging from music, to dance, to poetry, to short plays, all from female-identifying artists. We received over two hundred submissions. Reading through them, I felt less alone. Suddenly, I felt connected to these distant strangers. These women who now feel like friends. Women who also needed to find purpose, who also said yes to a task, and in doing so, created something beautiful. This overwhelming sense of unity moved me. Finally, tears of joy and not of grief. I found comfort in the reminder that during uncertain times, art brings us together, regardless of where we’re from or what we’re going through. And for this, I am profoundly grateful.
Our world is forever changed, we are forever changed. But with change, comes resilience. Our company vows to continue to create a space and a platform for female identifying artists, live, or remote. Until we meet again, elbow to elbow, and enjoying the show…
Basketball Hall of Famer
I was in New Orleans on March 11 and had just finished the pre-game broadcast for the Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings. We knocked out the half-hour show like we normally do and I was walking out of the studio and our bosses said, “You have to go back in. They just suspended the season.”
It happened so quickly. We were back on air within a few minutes and explaining what was happening: the basketball season was suspended because of COVID-19. Once that happened, I had 17 flights to cancel. I was supposed to be traveling through September for various television and speaking appearances and NBA commitments but now it was, “Cancel, cancel, cancel.”
As all of this was happening, I was working on getting my son, T.J., back home to Dallas. He plays professional basketball in Israel and I wanted to get him back in the U.S. before stricter travel restrictions were put in place.
When he was safe and back at the house, we began making workout videos together and sharing them on social media. We wanted to show people that they could still exercise even if they don’t have the money to buy free weights or resistance bands. We did curls with milk bottles and cartons of orange juice.
Then on garbage day, we borrowed some trash bins from our neighbors and lined a row of them across the street. Our neighbors watched us — from safe distances, of course — as T.J. and I played in what we called the “Quebec Open” because we live on Quebec Lane.
At the same time, my foundation, Nancy Lieberman Charities, began to implement plans to serve first responders and local businesses in north Texas. I’m proud to say that in the last month, we have provided hundreds of lunches for Dallas police officers and firefighters as well as doctors and nurses at the Baylor Scott and White Hospital.
Muhammad Ali was a lifelong friend and mentor. He would often say, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your time on earth.” I truly believe that and I will continue to do what I can to help us get through these unprecedented times.
The most important thing right now is that people stay safe and healthy. We’re not sure what is going to happen yet with the rest of the basketball season, but I can’t wait to see everyone back on the courts again. We want to be able to play. We want to be able to do what we do best.
I just finished writing a screenplay about Clementine Churchill. My office is full of history books, maps of London and my dogs Bowie and Milo. We haven’t had a world event that has been bigger than we are in a very long time. It takes a beat for the shock to wear off. To get our sea legs in a new reality. To re-prioritize our priorities. I feared a serious problem would arise that was beyond Trump’s skills. He’s not a politician but a real estate developer. A pandemic is not a business opportunity.
This is beyond his intellect and empathy levels. It requires humility, a quality he doesn’t readily demonstrate. A previous president, FDR, was a rich kid from New York who knew nothing about real people. Hardly presidential material. Another pandemic, Polio threatened to ruin his career but when he went to seek out a miracle cure in the backwoods of Georgia he saw famine, poverty, racism the likes of which he’d never knew existed. This is where the humbling came for him. This is where his leadership was forged.
When the war in Europe started in 1938-39, FDR was running to get re-elected to a third term. Political polls showed getting into another war was not a winning position. A non-interventionist pressure group called “America First,” against entry in World War II sent out messages that were pro-fascist and anti-Semitic.
Britain needed aid desperately or there would be no England for America to save if and when they decided to get into the war. German U-boats surrounded the island, there was no food coming in. They were bombed 57 nights straight. Clementine Churchill set out to change one person’s mind and that was FDR’s right-hand man Harry Hopkins. The son of a harness maker from Iowa, he hated the class system. But he understood human catastrophe. He designed and implemented the New Deal at the height of the Depression. He created all the programs to put America back to work. FDR sent him to find out if was England worth saving.
Clementine understood the power of the personal gesture. She spent six weeks with Hopkins. She took him everywhere. He saw the war up close and personal. He had originally discussed aid for England at 3 million dollars. After his visit, he changed the amount to 30 million pounds. Great Britain would survive until America got into the war. Then there would be more.
I miss First Ladies like Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. I see Angela Merkel in Germany and what female leaders in New Zealand, Iceland and Taiwan are achieving. It’s impressive. We come from an industry that responds well to disaster. We can set a tone and example for the world. Diplomacy is key. Humility is key. Creativity is key. Kindness is key.
“Filthy Rich” on Fox
I recently spent six months working in New Orleans, on a new show called “Filthy Rich,” that provided an incredible escape from my own reality. I happily lost myself in the wild character of Ginger Sweet. Escaping into realities that are not your own is a strong tool for understanding the unfamiliar, it’s why I love acting more, the more I do it. We were very lucky to have completed all our filming on time, to have been paid, to be safe back home now, our show was supposed to premiere this May, but a few weeks ago we found out our premiere date moved to Fall because of this pandemic. It’s nerve-racking to have to wait that long, but crew and creatives are used to a life of disruption, after all… and I’m focusing gratefully on all the health-care and essential workers who are risking everything for the rest of us.
One thing I’ve been increasingly thinking about, is how astonishing art is. This period in time has illuminated how powerful creativity is, and how adaptable artists are in the blink of an eye. The arts always find a way to keep going, and a way to be generous when necessary. Everything is being shared online, mostly for free. Ideas are being born every second, materialized every day.
The curious thing about art is that there is no winning or losing, and there is space for everyone; it’s not as precious as people might think. Unlike so many other industries where value is determined based on productivity or competition, artistic value is determined by whether an audience is moved or stimulated, and that has been an incredible thing that has come to full bloom lately. It’s quite the utopia, if you let it.
It is such a paradoxical feeling, to feel despair for the suffering and fear that so many loved ones and strangers are experiencing, but also proud to witness creative voices take flight. I would invite those who invest in the arts to take a look around right now. Remarkable auditions are happening all over the world, in every medium. Artists being bold, making something out of nothing. And I would also implore those who don’t support the arts to recognize that these are the same people who are providing the absolutely essential relief for everyone who is stuck at home. Painters, actors, writers, editors, graphic designers, musicians, poets, photographers, animators, the list just goes on… that’s the value of art. That’s why artists (and crew) should be getting paid, supported, and commended. While we can’t actively save lives right now, we do provide a distraction, or a smile, or a much-needed cry. The arts are everywhere. They are relieving and stimulating, and essential for our minds.
Co-Founder and CCO of MAS Event + Design
By early February, we had an inkling that some of our events would be cancelled, but we never imagined it would hit our industry or our city or our country the way it has. We certainly did not expect the total cancellation of all events. And, therefore, of the event business as we know it. So in early March we called it, closed the MAS offices, and sent everyone home to shelter down.
You know when you think, “if I only had time, I would…”. So I sat down and made my “if I had time” list. It was long. And it was ambitious. From yoga three times a day, to baking with my kids, to hot and all-the-time sex with my husband. Sounds like a great way to quarantine, right?
Somehow it didn’t play out as I thought it would. Try as I might, I couldn’t shut out the grim realities of this pandemic: the infection rates and death count, the layoffs and furloughs my business (along with countless others) had to roll out, and the realization that the industry I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my life to will never be as it was.
But there was a beautiful irony staring me in the face. In the event business, when things aren’t quite right (in our opinion or our client’s), we pivot. If the client doesn’t like the placement of the stage, we move it; when the event strategy changes, we re-conceptualize. So guess what? Time for me to pivot. To shift my thinking. To find a way through this new reality so that I could come out of it with more than germophobia, a homemade mask, and a serious wine habit.
So I made a new list. A list that got me moving forward into the unknown as I have done countless times in my life. It’s how my partner and I started MAS, taking it from zero events to over 100 annually. And how we built an amazing team who knows, in every situation, when and how to pivot. So the MAS team retooled our R+D shop to make medical-grade face shields to distribute to hospitals. We’re also developing ways to make the virtual experience more personal, more connected, more tactile, and we’re really gaining ground in this space. Beyond MAS, I have been donating where and how much I can to make a small difference.
I have made one batch of cookies and even did an online yoga class. (My sex life hasn’t caught fire but, to be fair, I do spend my days in house slippers and baggy sweatpants.) So while I may not be yogi flexible, I’ve got pivoting down. And that’s really the only thing that should be on my list.
Editor, “We Summon the Darkness”
“I don’t think we’re going to South By Southwest.” I said this to a coworker on March 4 and by March 6, SXSW was cancelled. Two films I had worked on, “Critical Thinking” and “The 24th” were both set to premiere there and were getting a lot of buzz. I’ve edited over twenty films but having a “twofer” at a major festival is a special thrill and I was super excited to go.
On March 6, I was heartbroken. But within three weeks, with a staggering number of Covid-19 cases in New York and our hospitals beginning to be overwhelmed, my heartbreak over missing South By felt akin to the memory of being dumped by my seventh grade girlfriend: laughably unimportant compared to what was happening in my life now.
Now, thoughts about my career (I am not currently working) mostly revolve around whether or not there will even be films or tv shows for me to edit in the foreseeable future. How do you assemble a crew, let alone shoot something as intimate and potentially risky as a fight or a love scene? When production does come back, can directors plan a two-shot or will everything be shot in singles to satisfy social distance guidelines? These are real, yet bizarre conversations I’m having with folks.
I’m trying really hard not to overthink things day-to-day. I’m trying to embrace moments when they present themselves. Today my daughters decided to serve my wife and I breakfast as if we were in Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. They wore princess dresses and everything. Why not, I thought. Where else do I need to be? The irony is not lost on me that while this is one of the most frightening, uncertain moments in generations, my daughters will likely hold this time with both their parents as one of their most precious memories.
I see a lot of people posting about all the films they are catching up on or tv series they are finally discovering. Most of those people, I suspect, are single or childless. As a parent, my days, though seemingly open, are in no way idle. Between helping my kids with their remote learning (aka school), taking a daily walk outside, responding to emails, joining Zoom meetings, checking in with my elderly parents and participating in the daily 7pm Cheer for front-line workers — all in a one bedroom Manhattan apartment — I’ve never been busier. By the end of my day all I can manage is a glass of wine with my wife on the couch and something funny on TV. Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to work my way through my Criterion Collection blu-rays, but that’s not my reality.
I’m asked often by friends if we considered leaving the city and we did. But in the end, the desire to stay close to the best medical care in the world (God forbid we need it) won out. For me, though, it was more than that. After 9/11, I needed to be here to both grieve with and help my fellow New Yorkers in whatever small way I could. And to prove to myself that I could stick it out. And that’s the view I have now.
As Sinatra says in the song that a neighbor blasts from his window each evening at 7:05, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” That is truly how I feel and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Tony Award-nominated actress, singer and writer
When coronavirus hit the news, I was flying from NY to Ft. Lauderdale on 3/9 to begin a six-month concert tour of my new album (Legrand Affair: Deluxe Edition) singing the music of my mentor Michel Legrand.
Next stop was Palm Springs, London, Vegas, LA, Paris and more. 3/12 at Lincoln Center was to be the release of the brand-new limited-edition vinyls — which now, of course, sit in boxes in my living room, in piles. I did that Florida concert, but things moved quickly. Within a week, my three daughters — ages 11, 11 and 13 — were homeschooling, taking ballet online, and my husband had Covid-19. We quickly shifted him to the basement. His symptoms have stayed mild, so far, Thank God, but it was very stressful having him living in quarantine in the basement, away from us all, for what has become a month.
All my concerts dropped completely…and all I could do was…well, I had to start cooking! I mean cook seriously! I hadn’t ever really had to cook – I had never even opened the box of the Cuisinart we’d gotten as a wedding gift 21 years ago. On the road all the time, I shared the task with babysitters, or grabbing food on my commutes. Mealtime wasn’t the art form of our home. Suddenly…21 meals a week, for five people! — and I wanted those meals to reflect a sense of wellness.
I called friends, I googled, I set out on a journey. Someone sent me a recipe for Katharine Hepburn’s brownies and I turned on my video camera and started filming, just for fun. One of my daughters walked into the video, and I drank some wine and started to ruminate about show business and suddenly it was a talk show, a form of performing. I posted it on Instagram and friends kept me company, laughing (and many made brownies the next day). Over the weeks, I compared prepping boeuf bourguignon to the way Broadway performers are rehearsed in different studios until they come together, beautifully.
I told slightly saucy stories about co starring with Jeremy Irons in “Camelot” while I made sauce. Viewers seemed to identify both with my apprehensions and my ambitions, offering titles like “The Honest Cook” and “Finishing Melissa’s Hat,” both a reference to Sondheim (my other favorite composer) and the chef’s hat, the toque, which I wear at the start of each recipe on my Instagram.
Turns out performers have to perform, even when we’re performing for an (immediate) audience of four. (I’ll be taking off my apron for a special at home concert benefiting The Actors Fund later this month, and an episode of PBS’ Poetry in America about Sondheim that I am featured in premieres May 9.) But, cooking and bringing us together at the table is really the big show that must go on.
And my still-recovering husband shouts up from the basement every night, “It’s the best dinner I’ve ever eaten!” I’ve gotten worse reviews.
Co-Founder, Double Elvis
Like most, I’ve been experiencing a complicated mix of emotions since early March. I’m grateful my family and I are healthy, I’m sad about all the people who are being affected physically, emotionally and financially, and I’m proud of the many friends and strangers who I see stepping up to help.
As a lifelong fan of the arts and someone who works in entertainment, I also feel inspired by the amount of creativity that’s being deployed against uncertainty and constraints.
At Double Elvis, we’ve tried to do the same. As a media company rooted in podcasting we are extremely fortunate because we can continue producing and delivering our content remotely. That said, it certainly hasn’t felt like business as usual.
Jake Brennan, my co-founder at Double Elvis and creator/host of “DISGRACELAND” initially didn’t feel like continuing to tell stories about true crime and rock ‘n roll. So the first thing he did was tell his audience how he was feeling with a raw and honest message he posted to his podcast feed. In addition to continuing to make episodes to hopefully provide some escape and entertainment during this difficult time, he also shared that he was personally donating to MusiCares Covid-19 Fund and offered to use his platform to help spread the word for any other causes his listeners were championing. He then proceeded to inject a little comic relief with two special episodes, including a dive into the music career of the now infamous Tiger King.
All the while our Double Elvis teammates rallied to continue making their other shows — “27 Club,” “Dear Young Rocker” and “Citizen Critic” — and noticed like everyone else they were convening on video conferences more often. In an effort to continue building on the entertainment Jake was providing we released our own April Fools Day Zoom backgrounds featuring artwork from our shows as well as a few generally promoting podcasts as an antidote to the increased screentime we’re all experiencing. This coincided with a renewed focus on our email newsletter as a way to connect with listeners in between episodes and spread the word about other creators providing happy distractions.
While all of our existing shows continued, it became clear one of Double Elvis’ forthcoming travel-related shows hosted by musician Will Dailey was going to have to be postponed. In lieu of this, Will developed a virtual livestream fundraising tour to benefit venues and a youth music school in Boston that netted almost $20K.
I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks, but there’s one key insight I’ll definitely take away from this period no matter where it leads. That is a renewed belief in the power of artists. At Double Elvis, we focus on music content and our team is made up almost entirely of lifelong musicians. Their unique experience and skillset have set them up to be the kind of leaders we need in this new reality and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful to work with them. As Leonard Bernstein said, “Musicians can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
Ronnie Valentine and Robert Pagnotta
Union Leaders for the Entertainment Business L.A.
These Coronavirus times have been worrisome as the days go on with a current non-existent entertainment business. No doubt it will return and thrive as it did before, it is just on “Pause” at the minute. During the Corona Crisis, Robert Pagnotta and I have been keeping busy by approaching our employers with “Effects Bargaining.” We have to thank our employers for being more than happy to talk to us to see what they can do to help to put a little more money in the members pockets. Which in return is good for the economics of the community.
I have to say our members are doing a lot of thinking about others before themselves. Proud of them. Local 33 joined together with our Brothers and Sisters of IATSE, Los Angeles Federation of Labor, L.A. Food Bank, and fellow Unions to start a food distribution program during these times. Last week volunteers from our Union and others joined together at the Inglewood Forum and our West Coast main IATSE office in Burbank, Ca. to distribute food for people in need. This was very spiritually uplifting for all. Over 6000 people in cars got a bag/box of needed food that day between the locations. Local 33 has also joined a newly formed response unit named E.I.R. ( Entertainment Industry Response) This was created by Joe Lewis of the Joe Lewis Company to supply qualified technicians and crafts personnel from our industry to set up emergency sites such as a tented quarantine area, First Aid area, or any other kind of need in time of disaster or crisis. Our members are ideal for this since we work on enormous size productions that must be set and struck in a short period of time during our live events. The amount of phone calls we had received from our membership when Coronavirus first started, asking to help the city in some way was overwhelming. Local 33 is here for Southern California.
I would not dare to proclaim myself an authority on many things in this age of COVID 19, but playing the role of Noa Hamilton (the ‘Beauty’ on ABC’s ‘The Baker and the Beauty’) has provided me with an opportunity, and dare I say responsibility, to reflect on our concept of ‘beauty’ with new and honest eyes.
We live in a society that has relegated “beauty” to a few genetically or surgically blessed humans who live on our screens and magazines. We place excessive importance on celebrities and their lives, obsessing over the latest fashion trends, Instagram filters and contouring tips.
It didn’t take COVID 19 for some of us to see how misplaced our values are. But in light of this global pandemic, more of us are beginning to reassess the things we once thought important and finally starting to value the things that are truly worthy of our attention, like our collective health, health care systems and our brave health care workers. And the silver lining of this global tragedy is that when we emerge from this crisis, we will have the opportunity to imagine a new future and a society built on different values.
So, what does pass the values test? Truly beautiful qualities like compassion, the sharing of our time and resources to help our fellow humans, advocacy and speaking up for the vulnerable. These days nothing is more valuable or beautiful than our health. We must build a world where everyone has access to fresh, healthy and pesticide free food, a world where our farmers and our soil are honored and respected.
But for me to even have the time to ponder such existential questions is a luxury that most of us do not have. Like the other half of my show – the ‘Baker’ and his family of hardworking Cuban immigrants, most people just want to survive this pandemic with their health, families and businesses intact. They represent the backbone of this country, anxiously waiting to receive bailouts to save their small businesses, parents who have worked hard and sacrificed so that their children could fulfill their dreams of a good education and career. Dreams, which have been deferred if not shattered by this pandemic.
It is my hope that all beauty not rooted in love, compassion and kindness can hopefully become a relic of a bygone era, in the new post-Corona world.
Actor “Bosch” and Founder, Moving Mountains
I’m committed to the people and it’s tough. Fortunately for myself, I’ve been quarantined with my family. You have those on the frontline, all three of my sisters and brother are on the frontline. Watching that is tough and not forgetting their struggle.
When Covid-19 started, I was about to travel to LA, but my wife said to be careful. When I got back from that trip, we heard more about it and I started to be more cautious about it.
I was reading about this and seeing it on the news, so I decided to make a few calls and partner with Moving Mountains. I could see how my sister was being overwhelmed and I wanted to partner up with someone so we could provide food for my sister and her co-workers.
Moving Mountains delivered 300 meals on the first day (March 27), and throughout the week, they delivered over 1,000 meals.
These people are putting their lives on the line. I don’t want to be selfish, but you can always get another job. I was thinking about that. I was meant to go back to work in May, but I’m not even thinking about that. I’m thinking about the people affected by it.
I’m home with my children and they’re not at school. I’m homeschooling them and they have a ball of energy. One of my sons is on the staircase and I’m on the staircase with them.
I’ve looked at photos that needed to be hung. So, I’ve been hanging those. I’ve had a chance to look at those and do what I needed to do. Previously, I’ve always been traveling.
This has given me the time to interact with my family. I was always focused on other things and always on the go. This has bunkered me down.