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.

 

 

Hurricane Harvey Relief

http://gph.is/2x9xhRv

I was in Las Vegas as Hurricane Harvey was making its landfall, devastating Corpus Christi and Houston and a host of other small beach towns that I had been to.  I tear up when I see the footage still and think about the little seaside shacks outside Corpus selling goods that are there no more.

When I was a student at UT-Austin, Katrina battered New Orleans, and then weeks later, refugee college students from Louisiana were being welcomed into our classes.  I remember the face of one young man in particular, in our geology class, who had been through a lot.  During college, I worked at Texas’ largest grocery chain and suddenly we had new co-workers of all ages, all from New Orleans, trying to make the best of a bad set of circumstances.

Devastated areas need support long after the rain stops and the winds stop howling.  Please keep that in mind as you give to relieve the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey. Vet charities well.  I recommend Charity Navigator, and this article from Business Insider also helps.  I personally gave to the Food Bank of Corpus Christi and intend to give more.  People will need housing, jobs and most importantly, hope, to move forward. Texas and Texans are resilient and right now, many need hope more than anything.

I am reminded of the words of “Texas our Texas”

God bless, you Texas, and keep you brave and strong…

 

 

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

Peruse this article from the Austin Business Journal on the debate on film incentives in the state of Texas.

If you’ve ever done a professional film budget, the often invisible costs of making a movie are massive:  permits, feeding  people, putting cast and crew up in hotels, renting vehicles, supplies, location fees.  A film of any scale involves a massive infrastructure, often localized, to support it.  The last budget I prepped, I had to price out renting a local herd of goats, feeding said goats and the cost of a local wrangler and stable fees.  It’s this detail and minutiae that really make the cost of film what it is–and profitable for locals that can cash in on it.

I really want to film in Texas.  Why?  It’s my home state.  It’s where many of my stories are.  It’s what I know.  I probably won’t.  Texas’ neighbors have better incentives.  I want to do something for my community and filming could bring massive influxes of money to a very economically vulnerable area.

When I was asked at the San Antonio Film Festival why I hadn’t spent more time filming in my home state, I said at the time that, “It was not where my opportunities were, where my education led me.”  I keep returning to that question.  Here’s another reason why, one I couldn’t quite articulate in the moment:

The state doesn’t commit to its film community.  

Why should I commit to spend potentially millions of dollars in the state?

Movies aren’t made overnight.  They are long-haul projects.  It may take a screenwriter a year to get a camera-ready draft.  It may take us a year or more to get funded.  It may take us several months of pre-production, which will likely involve traveling back and forth.  We try to hire locally qualified people for the crew.  We will be in your state 30-60 days just filming, 12 hour days and paying for food and hotels and ancillary services, like dry cleaning, local assistants, etc.  We may be in your state several months after that if there’s a great post-house.  We may spend money on a Texas premiere if it’s a Texas subject.

The stability of state’s commitment to arts funding matters.  It’s a risk management consideration.  If you’re always threatening to pull a plug on your incentives, it’s not enticing.

 The counter-argument is that film jobs are temporary jobs and that is true to a point, but if you invest in creating a community, the jobs will keep coming.  Just ask Atlanta.  It seems there are some in government that would much rather have its denizens chained to an overabundance of low-paying retail jobs than branching out into a more highly skilled, better paid, film position.

I think it’s very shortsighted of the Texas legislature to nix film funding.  You could film almost anything in Texas, such is the geological and architectural diversity.  This is a whole state issue, not just an Austin or Dallas concern, where much of the film making takes place.  There are many areas that could benefit from more filming.  And frankly, it’s unnerving when New Mexico is standing in as Texas on film.  It’s happening more and more often.

 There’s a poster on the wall at the UTLA Center, an older poster, red, of all the great films made in Texas, which was a promo poster done by the Texas Film Commission a few years ago.  I hope they have to update that poster soon, with new, great films being made in Texas, but  the legislature must seize the opportunity.