Reflections On Quarantine Film Making

Today, I was reminded that art is alive and well. The Hollywood industrial process has been under tremendous pressure. The indie film world, also slowed, is still at work too, even though COVID remains with us. I say this because I’ve been judging the Quarantini Film Festival, a monthly fest founded by Dana Olita that supports and awards filmmakers making socially-distanced short films during this difficult time.

Quarantini Film Festival supports the indie film community during the pandemic with access to online screenings and awards.

I have learned and been reminded of a few things while judging the Quarantini entries:

  1. Art finds a way. I’ve seen some great films submitted to Quarantini Film Festival. Where there’s a will, there is a way, even under un-ideal circumstances.
  2. Sometimes, constraints embolden our creativity. Doing a lot with a little is part-and-parcel of low budget film making, but the constraints indie filmmakers are creating under are unprecedented. I’ve seen amazing creative risks taken on screen in the last three rounds of the Quarantini Film Festival. Some hit and some missed the mark, but when business-as-usual goes out the window, we have to ask what’s possible. I’ve witnessed tremendous creativity under the pressure of the pandemic.
  3. The pandemic has many people committed to speaking their truth, directly or indirectly. I’ve seen heart-wrenching drama shorts, contemplative docu-dramas and wicked comedies that all hit home. All of us have a story to tell that’s part of this larger pandemic narrative.

The truth is many film festivals and the whole culture of film festivals going forward is uncertain. Theatrical exhibition is still difficult and frankly, unobtainable in many areas. Your larger press outlets like Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood reporter, et al, are only really covering the larger festivals that have film markets. That gives sort of skewed picture of the filmmaking landscape in general. Indie filmmaking is alive. Indie films are being shown. It may not be on a large screen, but you can get your work out there on online fests like Quarantini. Seize the moment. You’ll never know what you’ll learn, how you’ll grow or who you’ll impact.

Thank you, Sherman Oaks Fatburger

In a world where so much is disheartening, Fatburger in Sherman Oaks, managed to make me happier–and not just because of the delicious burger.

While waiting in a socially-distanced line to pick up my order, I saw this posted on the window:

I am not sure if the manager chose to do this or if this is company wide. What I do know is that the business cares. In a time of callous disregard by those refusing to distance and refusing to wear masks, it was refreshing to see that this Fatburger location cared enough to spread helpful information to our community.

FatBurger at 14402 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA.

Please patronize the Fatburger at 14402 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 . They also have delivery through GrubHub, Postmates, et al. We need to support businesses that truly act on their message of “We’re all in this together.” Thank you, Sherman Oaks Fatburger, for connecting your customers to this helpful information during this difficult time.

the cost of covid for features

Most of you know me as an in-front-of-the-camera person. However, I also produce and line produce. Recently, I was tasked with working on two movie budgets. One was a completely new budget for a action-caper comedy. The other (which I am still working on) is a cost revision to reflect price increases for COVID-19 and adapt the movie to adhere to the guidelines.

Movie budgeting is part art and part science. In the Corona-scape, it’s also a bit of prognostication.

In the case of the action-caper comedy, as written, it’s nearly impossible to do it socially-distant according to the new guidelines with a crew of 80+, not including speaking roles, extras and stand-ins. I was specifically asked to project costs based on a post-Corona world, for filming some time in 2021 (or beyond, sadly).

If you’re considering a movie that fits into this category, consider inflation and scale-wage increases. I added an additional contingency for inflation, which is at 2.5% currently. Insurance rates now also have COVID riders as well. Insurance is up and I expect it to stay up for years after the pandemic. The memory of the pandemic is going to cost the media-making community for a long time.

Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak on Pexels.com

I am also still working on converting a pre-Corona budget I prepped to reflect the changes necessitate by COVID. PPE cost and availability are concerns. Shoots are going to be longer and will need more space.. The need for more distance means more trailers and more support space in general. More space means more cost generally. If you have budgets prepared prior to the outbreak of the virus, you will probably need to adjust it by 25% or more to accommodate the new guidelines. Until we refine best-practices for the virus, get with your directors and AD-s about how many pages can be feasibly shot with the new guidelines as well. You may also incur re-write fees if scenes need to be re-written to reduce crowd scenes, extras, et al.

For me, budgeting is not coming in at the lowest price. It’s about coming in at the budget that best protects the investors’ risk and gets the project made. We’re in a period of high risk. Budget accordingly.

POST SCRIPT: After publishing this blog, I happened upon this NY Times article about travel restrictions between states. If you are planning a production, take these travel restrictions into account as you budget as our COVID-19 response evolves in each state. Many of the top filming destinations in the US are affected. The cost here would be to quarantine an actor or crew member you bring in from an affected state, which would be a hotel cost in all likelihood and per diems-s and possibly compensation as work days for the quarantine days. Trucking equipment across state lines seems okay, but check with your film commissions and contact film commissions regarding COVID quarantining.

The Rona-Coaster

I want off the corona-coaster. I know that it’s not over. I just want off.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Right now, it’s okay to feel good and bad at the same time. That’s been the story of my day, literally and it’s not even noon yet as I type. I just learned that my hometown of 3,000 is having a surge of infections. At the same time, I am reaching for a professional milestone, one that’s been years in the making. I am elated and scared to death at the same time. My family has lived in Poteet several generations. I will know people affected by this surge.

In the corona-scape, it’s hard to allow yourself to feel good about anything. Perhaps it’s “surviving” guilt. Perhaps its feeling under-deserving of the good one is receiving in the face of such vast suffering.

It’s okay to feel a lot of things, even conflicted, I’ve had to make peace with that today, not to disown my own good in the face of so much pain. What good things can we own, claim and feel gratitude for?

Today, I encourage you to feel good about what you are achieving and not feel guilt, even when faced with bad news. Then, do something to help fight COVID-19. Donate. Spread reliable information about the virus. Encourage social distancing.

Today’s Happy Thought

I want to stress that in unusual times, our usual coping mechanisms may not be enough. I am feeling that now, today. The past two days, I’ve been trying to buoy myself up with my usuals: a heavy workload, music I like, stand-up comedy, yoga and gong baths. Nothing is taking. I awake today, a person who’s experiencing pain and anxiety.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

When the coping mechanisms fail, it doesn’t mean that you failed. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means that you’re encouraged to grow and try something new. I did not fail because “what usually works” failed to bolster me up. I am challenged to grow, try and experiment today, and that’s what I will do.

Making the COVID-19 Numbers Personal

I  am sick (not literally) and tired (quite literally) of hearing people say that the deaths from COVID-19 are not large enough to justify the stay-at-home orders. I am fed up with people being so blase about the death toll in the US alone, much less the rest of the world.

signboard informing unavailability of sanitizers

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As of today, April 30,2020, there have been 63,538 deaths in the USA, with roughly 2000 of those deaths occurring today.  Globally, there have been 230,804 deaths, with 3,400 of those deaths happening today.  Numbers of deaths remain abstractions until we put names to numbers, until we compare.   Let me make some comparisons.

In my own life, I identify strongly with three places:  my county of origin, Atascosa Co., Texas, the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater and San Antonio, Texas, the nearest large city that I visited as a child.

As of today, there have been 1,092,328 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.  Globally, there have been 3.2 million cases.  The city of San Antonio, Texas has a population of 1.5 million people.  San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the U.S.  This virus has infected the numerical equivalent of a large U.S. city.  Is that not enough?

Now let’s take a look at the deaths.  Deaths in the United states are at 63,000.  My county of origin, Atascosa County, Texas, has a population of roughly 49,000.  The University of Texas at Austin, enrolls 50,000 students.  It’s the 7th largest public university in the country.  Corona deaths have taken out the equivalent of a rural Texas county or a large public university.  Is that not enough?

fashion man people sign

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

By the way, the cities in my county of origin range in population of 2,000-10,000 people.  At the current rate of deaths in the U.S., it’s like one small town is dying off per day.  Is that not enough?

I say enough is enough.  We think of numbers as mere data, cold, hard and impersonal, but these figures get very personal when you compare them to what and who you know, where you came from and where you are.  Let’s stay at home, stay well, stay alive and come out safer and stronger with as many members of our communities alive and kicking as possible.

 

 

Fear of the Future

Create a brighter future…The future is yours…

round analog clock

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The “future” is an abstraction we often associate with positivity, progress and something we can shape.  The truth is we love the future and often fear it at the same time.  I read tarot cards.  I do astrology readings, which more often than not are ways of looking into the future or what’s possible.  However, I know and need to point out that fear of the future often motivates us more often than we care to admit and acknowledge.

As we look towards a post-quarantine, post pandemic world, there is a lot to consider.  Whether we fear future or not is our choice.  Resisting the present undermines our ability to shape the future.  We need to admit that we’re scared, we’ve been naive or neglectful about certain realities.  We need to admit that the world has changed, will not “go back” to where it was and where we were wasn’t all that great either.  We have to shape the future with clear eyes, open minds and open hearts.

How do we do that? We need to ask some questions.

Who am I now?  Answer this honestly.  Own the good and the bad and respect the neutral.

Who do I desire to be?  

What changes, adjustments or work do I need to close the gap between who I am and want to be?

NOW…

What’s the best step I can take, NOW, TODAY, to make those adjustments?

We must also take up these questions as communities, states, and nations.  Who we are today shapes who we become.  We only ever have the present, no matter how much we speculate about what the future could or should be.  It’s time to get deeply present about what our pain points are and what we can do to change them, for the better, in a changed world.

The future is ours, once we fully invest ourselves in the present.

 

 

 

 

 

Quotes for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

It’s the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.  With the corona virus still keeping us indoors, it seems the earth itself is healing too.   Here are some great food-for-thought quotes about our relationship to Earth.

  1. sky earth galaxy universe

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi

  2. “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” Khalil Gibran
  3. “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” Henry David Thoreau
  4. “Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” Gary Snyder
  5. “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Neil Armstrong
  6. “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  7. “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” David Brower
  8. We knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard.” Chief Luther Standing Bear
  9. “We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.” LeeAnn Taylor
  10. “Someday, I hope that we will all be patriots of our planet and not just of our respective nations.” Zoe Weil
  11. “What have they done to the earth?
    What have they done to our fair sister?
    Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
    Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
    And tied her with fences and dragged her down” Jim Morrison
  12. “If you really want to remedy the earth, we have to mend mankind. And to unite mankind, we heal the Earth. That is the only way. Mother Earth will exist with or without us.”  Suzy Kassem
  13. “Life is a dance between heaven and earth, the ebb and flow of life.” Maurice Spees
  14. “The planet was being destroyed by manufacturing processes, and what was being manufactured was lousy, by and large.” Kurt Vonnegut
  15. “Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe.” Ron Garan
  16. “Deep under our feet the Earth holds its molten breath, while the bones of countless generations watch us and wait.” Isaac Marion
  17. “When you look more generally at life on Earth, you find that it is all the same kind of life. There are not many different kinds; there’s only one kind. It uses about fifty fundamental biological building blocks, organic molecules.” Carl Sagan
  18. “We’re reaching the point where the Earth will have to end the burden we’ve placed on her, if we don’t lift the burden ourselves.” Steven M. Greer
  19. To define perpetual growth on a finite planet as the sole measure of economic well-being is to engage in a form of slow collective suicide. To deny or exclude from the calculus of governance and economy the costs of violating the biological support systems of life is the logic of delusion.” Wade Davis
  20. “From the Moon’s surface, the Earth is but a tiny, blue teardrop in the inky blackness of space.” Stewart Stafford

Happy Earth Day!

Admitting My Fears

I’d be lying right now if I didn’t admit I was scared.

pexels-photo-3952231.jpeg

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I am scared everyday.  I am scared by the lack of leadership and coherence.  I am scared by the lack of unity.  I am scared that there’s no vaccine and not enough tests for this virus.  I am scared of the halt to most filming.  I am scared for loved ones who live in states where social distancing isn’t respected.  I am scared when I sneeze or cough, or feel just plain icky.

Once again, it’s time to inventory what I can and cannot control.

  1.  I can lead by example by social distancing and wearing masks and gloves.  I can post about what I am doing to stop the spread of this virus.  I can set a standard for my family to follow and take proper precautions.
  2. I can choose not to add to the din of social media right now.  I can choose not to attack my neighbors, friends and strangers online or offline.  I can choose to add helpful, factual information from credible sources and actionable tips and advice.  An ignorant person has to choose not to remain ignorant. I can instruct the ignorant, but its not my place to scold or punish those who are willfully and dangerously ignorant.
  3. I am not a scientist.  I choose to trust the science and the scientists, doctors and nurses.  When I need expert advice, I take it.
  4. Many of our industries will bounce back after a time.  It may not be on my preferred timeline, and there will be changes, but the film industry is resilient.  I am resilient and I will adapt as best I can to the changes that will inevitably take place.
  5. I cannot choose the actions or inaction of the federal, states or local governments.  I can share what I know to be true with my family.  They can make their choices in accordance with their local laws.  I may not like what other states are or aren’t doing, but I believe in democracy and I believe people DO get the government they DESERVE.  If you believe you deserve better, vote and act differently.
  6. I can keep my risk of contracting COVID-19 down by maintaining social distance, washing my hands, disinfecting surfaces and keeping myself minimally stressed.  A sneeze is not a death sentence.

When we keep facing our fears, we can be more honest with ourselves.  There is no “okay” right now.  It’s okay to be “not okay”.  However, we can’t just let our fears spin around in our monkey minds.  We need to get curious about them, like we would a new, intriguing species or a first date.

I’ve found Therapeer to be a free, valuable resource to discuss your COVID-19 fears with supportive peers.

Join me on Therapeer to receive peer emotional support, and to support others in need. Follow this link to get your own private support room for free https://www.therapeer.app/invite/xupg3

I am still scared, but I am supported in moving through and beyond my fears.