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Frank Hegyi

How long do you think we're gonna be unemployed?

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Posted (edited)

Any guesses on how long it will be until productions start up again? The anecdotal evidence I've heard is that most LA shows are down until April 1, but I can't imagine anything will be back by then. The virus is just getting started. What are ya'll planning to do?

Edited by Frank Hegyi

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To speak completely coldly about the practicalities, there comes a point at which the economic hardship (which will itself kill people, indirectly, but kill them all the same) becomes worse than the deaths caused by the disease. In this context, I don't think the current restrictions can continue for more than a very few months without severely risking a situation in which there's no worthwhile society left to start back up again. Do this for nine months to a year, perhaps less, and things like the water, power and food supplies and the internet will begin to fail, at which point we'll be on a slippery slope towards a situation where movie work seems trivial in comparison to the concerns of not starving before next Tuesday.

What interests me is how this will be politicised. The people we have in charge of the world's most powerful countries (and I'm not just targeting the obvious) are generally picked using systems which prioritise short-term popularity. As a result, most of them are not very well-informed, not particularly intelligent beyond a sort of low cunning, and suffer a much greater disposition toward psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder than the general population. These are mental illnesses, and should be the subject of sympathy not scorn, but it is at least clear why senior politicians often seem incapable of understanding the amorality of their own behaviour. Most of our leadership would need proper moral behaviour described to them using simple language, as one would a small child, and might never instinctively understand it. Many people with these conditions learn to put on a public face that's sufficiently convincing to function in society but the results are horrible and have been for at least decades.

Right now, faced with a crisis they're manifestly incapable of handling, most of them are deferring extensively to much more qualified assistants. At some point they will become comfortable with the new situation and begin to take back control, at which point I would expect to see much more economically-minded thinking. I would also expect to see corpses stacked in ice rinks, and real food shortages caused by a huge glut of people being too sick to work. In the end nobody can be blamed for deaths from disease; it's impossible to prove what might have happened in other circumstances, and the leadership will make platitudes. It's difficult to say which approach is really best or most correct.

When that'll happen I don't know, but I'd say less than six months. Well, perhaps about six months. Three months for the economic screws to hit, a month to relax, eight weeks for cases to really peak in a less restricted world.

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I think you can write off this year basically .. if a vaccine miraculously appears all good .. but that has to be a year anyway before the public get it .. life will go on .. I mean even the Spanish flu, with little to no medical scientific attention lasted only about 2 years .. even the Black Death petered out .. all virus mutate to do this.. if they kill everyone they also die .. but it will be another nasty virus that will be around .. and we will need to get a jab every year ..

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I just don't see how we're all supposed to sit at home and twiddle our thumbs for the rest of the year without getting paid. No one's gonna be able to pay any bills. I guess some people are lucky to have savings or cushy remote office jobs, but everyone else is screwed.

The foundation of capitalism has always been an implicit threat that if you stop working you'll starve to death on the sidewalk, but this is different. I'm already hearing stories about supermarket cashiers working while they cough their lungs out because they can't afford to skip a paycheck. It's barbaric.

The inequalities of modern society are about to become so stark that when the bodies start stacking up outside the hospitals, the pitchforks might come out, for real. 

36 months from now, I have no idea what the world is going to look like. 

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Posted (edited)

Apparently, it'll be 18 months before a vaccine, but there are several promising leads in multiple countries with treatments working well against COVID-19. Several vaccines are being tested on humans right now, but it takes 18 months for that process apparently.

I advise everyone to watch Dr John Campbell's videos on YouTube, informed, clear, concise. Other promising lead is the antibody test Boris Johnson mentioned in the UK which would allow us to know who has had the virus, allowing some people to go back to work. 

Also, folks don't appear to be infectious after 10 days, SOME take a little longer to get rid of the virus. I think that's why most studios originally set a two week hiatus before going back to work. It might have to be a bit longer than that just to be safe BUT for example, on bigger productions like The Batman, FB3, those sorts of films, you can bet that the studios will have access to test kits and will be testing every single cast and crew member before resuming anything. 

So I think that with absolute precaution, ie you don't let any outsiders onto your set, some productions will be able to resume shooting in a few weeks, especially the ones shooting on studio lots where it's more contained. Location shooting I guess might be logistically more complicated.

It seems clear that billions of people will be infected, and yes, hospitals will (and already are in several countries, Italy for example) be filled to capacity and won't be able to treat everyone. The positive point there is that 80% of all cases should have no symptoms, we see it with Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, other celebrities, who are basically like asymptomatic carriers. 

The point right now is to flatten that curve and the only way to do that, as has been made clear by Dr Campbell and many health officials, WHO, CDC, etc, is social distancing, physical distancing as well. That way, you don't reach a peak in infections too quickly that hospitals can't deal with it. And as we see with China (whose numbers can be reasonably verified now by health organizations), South Korea, social distancing works and there are practically no more infections in China. The measures are drastic but it needs to be done. A town in Italy with 3300 people tested everyone, and then quarantined the infected bunch, the result: no more infections. Hard to implement on bigger scales but it can be done.

It's very likely apparently though that this will last for the rest of the year, and might come in waves but we will defeat it. 

By the way, Netflix created a 100 million dollar fund to help members of the creative community:

 

https://variety.com/2020/film/news/netflix-coronavirus-relief-fund-100-million-dollars-1203540530/

 

And I'm sure we'll see more of those kinds of solutions in addition to the packages being planned by Dems and Republicans (as long as some a-holes don't stall, hem hem). On another note, there's the interesting situation of the theatrical window collapsing with several high profile films that were in theaters for a week or two dropping on PVOD, and discussions being had for some of the bigger films coming this year, considering that there'll be a massive scheduling headache to fit those delayed films in the schedule.

Edited by Manu Delpech

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And I'll make an isolated post for this. 

 

SHOW this video to anyone you know, and especially ANYONE who isn't practicing social distancing. 

 

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I find it richly ironic that she says, in conclusion, that in America, healthcare is not about how much money you have.

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I've been practicing social distancing years before any big virus, it just feels like fear mongering. I'd rather be dead than broke.

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, Max Field said:

I've been practicing social distancing years before any big virus, it just feels like fear mongering. I'd rather be dead than broke.

Did you read anything I said, did you watch the video? Have you been watching what WHO and the CDC have been saying? IT'S NOT FOR YOU. It's for others. It's not fear mongering. Take a look at her calculations, and no, she's not the only one who came up with those. There are not nearly enough ventilators in the US, nor in any country to take on the demand. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING is to save lives. You might not give a flying f*** but with that attitude of yours, if you do not practice social distancing, you might wound up getting infected and infecting someone who will infect others at risk and you might end up being responsible for who knows how many deaths. You might also have a family, older relatives. Are the dots connecting in your head? 

We've got far too many idiots (like those clowns in Florida spring breaking, or those other clowns in the UK in pubs) not following the guidelines, not giving a crap. There were one or two such idiots in South Korea who did so, guess what? They're responsible for 80% of the cases in SK. 

Edited by Manu Delpech
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55 minutes ago, Max Field said:

I've been practicing social distancing years before any big virus, it just feels like fear mongering. I'd rather be dead than broke.

The problem with this, Max, is that it works fine for you, but it's likely to contribute to the death of large numbers of other people.

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31 minutes ago, Manu Delpech said:

SOCIAL DISTANCING is to save lives. You might not give a flying f*** but with that attitude of yours, if you do not practice social distancing,

Dude my post was like 2% of the words yours was and you somehow didn't read "I've been practicing social distancing for years". I never shake hands, never get near people, never touch public surfaces, always wash hands, etc.

 

3 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

The problem with this, Max, is that it works fine for you, but it's likely to contribute to the death of large numbers of other people.

I don't call it fear mongering for the elderly, but all I'm seeing now is millennials with the sniffles thinking they have a month left to live. The media needs to be less click-baity with their statistical headlines.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51982495
 

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I've talked to a lot of friends in the industry and some are still shooting, others don't quite know what's happening with their productions, they're taking it week by week. With that said, the vast majority of people are saying their projects are canceled indefinitely and they're using insurance to cover their losses when possible. This includes some pretty high profile television and feature film production. 

Current word on the street is May for production to start back up again, but I have a feeling that won't be enough time. 

My company is playing it week by week, but I'm working from home on two different shows. I've been to the office a few times to deal with some technical issues and our building was pretty busy, even though our company was on lockdown. 

 

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1 hour ago, Max Field said:

 

I don't call it fear mongering for the elderly, but all I'm seeing now is millennials with the sniffles thinking they have a month left to live. The media needs to be less click-baity with their statistical headlines.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51982495
 

Very quickly the article says what you're saying, it's them spreading the virus to people with underlying conditions, be they elderly  or younger, who's situation mightn't be helped by an over stretched medical system. 

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Be careful not to downplay the risk to young people. Yes, it's worse the older you are, but I personally know two people in their 20's who got it and ended up in the hospital. They're not going to die, but pneumonia is no fun. If the hospitals were full right now, they would both be dead.

I worked at Harvard Med School for a long time and sat in on plenty of epidemiology classes. There's a reason doctors sound like "alarmists" on this. Our healthcare system is not capable of handling a pandemic. We're hyper-vulnerable to spikes in demand. And we're hyper-vulnerable to disruptions to the global supply chain. We already can't get the chemicals we need for testing, and we've only just begun.

The emergency measures that governments are putting in place will save a lot of people, but it's not going to be enough. The poop has not yet hit the fan.

But remember, everything is a sliding scale. It sounds stupid, but every hand you don't shake could be saving a life. Seriously.

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7 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I find it richly ironic that she says, in conclusion, that in America, healthcare is not about how much money you have.

The pitchforks are going to come out once the insurance companies start sending bills to people. This is going to be the straw that broke the camel's back for America's "market-based" healthcare system.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Manu Delpech said:

Did you read anything I said, did you watch the video? Have you been watching what WHO and the CDC have been saying? IT'S NOT FOR YOU. It's for others. It's not fear mongering. Take a look at her calculations, and no, she's not the only one who came up with those. There are not nearly enough ventilators in the US, nor in any country to take on the demand. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING is to save lives. You might not give a flying f*** but with that attitude of yours, if you do not practice social distancing, you might wound up getting infected and infecting someone who will infect others at risk and you might end up being responsible for who knows how many deaths. You might also have a family, older relatives. Are the dots connecting in your head? 

We've got far too many idiots (like those clowns in Florida spring breaking, or those other clowns in the UK in pubs) not following the guidelines, not giving a crap. There were one or two such idiots in South Korea who did so, guess what? They're responsible for 80% of the cases in SK. 

Yes but this is a short term solution. I personally don’t have the money or resources for a 1.5 year isolation waiting for a vaccine or for this to ‘go away’. So, what’s next? 

Edited by Gabriel Devereux

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And that's the problem.

Frankly, and to be as callous as possible, this has so far been approached with a mindset which prioritises the preservation of life above basically everything else. What we're in right now is a situation created by the reaction to that, which is (quite understandably) to avoid the horror of millions of deaths.

But as Gabriel quite correctly suggests, we have no exit strategy. Herd immunity, vaccination or simply starving the disease of hosts through isolation will not be effective in reasonable time and may not be effective at all.

So, at some point, the consequences of relaxing the restrictions will start to look less awful than the consequences of continuing them. We will eventually crack, and a lot of deaths may be involved. It is unavoidable, especially if reinfection is possible.

What worries me is that we may end up with the worst of both worlds: economic disaster from the restrictions, and suffering the casualties anyway.

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But if we did nothing and allowed a lot of deaths, there might be an economic cost anyway, particularly if a lot of money had to be thrown at the problem. Personally I don’t value money more than my life or my family’s or my friends’ or, well, people in general!

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I find it somewhat amusing listening to the CA governor keep issuing stricter and stricter orders for people to stay home.  What is LA's 60, 000 homeless people supposed to do?  I know they are exempt, but even that is comical in a way....go to your house, if you have one.

Imagine if this thing, or any disease, gets into the LA homeless community in a big way.  I am still shaking from what I saw in LA from my week long visit there in December of last year.  The homeless situation is beyond describable, three levels of government have just thrown up their hands and said, *bleep* it we give up!

Oh as to the first question, I still plan on shooting in September.  I still believe this thing will start to die off once the hot weather hits, and the isolation methods begin to take hold.

It may simply be something we need to live with and accept that some people will die.  Just like tens of thousands of people die every flu season.  We obviously can't live under lock-down for 2-3 years.  I get on the HWY every day realizing that my life is in danger every time I do so, people die on the major Ontario highways all the time weekly in fact, but we are still driving fast on them.  No one is saying lower the speed limit to 30 KM-HR to make sure no one dies.  Our society won't stand for that, we want speed, and we are willing to accept the risks.

R,

 

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My parents are in their 80's, they both have limited lung capacity due to COPD and pulmonary fibrosis and they live in a small town with one ventilator in their hospital... so it's not a question about whether I want to take risks are not. I've spent too many days in a hospital watching someone I love be unable to take a breath and the fear on their face is something I'll never forget. So I don't really want to hear about calculating the risk to life versus financial gain right now.

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I, unfortunately, think this will be a long time for all of us.

120000 IATSE members unemployed already here in the US. All freelancers. How long before they can no longer pay for their mortgages? How long for them to fall out of the union health care system (we need 400hrs/6month period to qualify). By May with no work, half of them are already there, most likely and it will snowball from there.

 

120000 unemployed IATSE

 

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Whether this is a good thing or not, almost everyone is in the same boat. There are hardly any industries not affected.  Freelancers or steady full-time workers, either may or may not be living paycheck to paycheck. (Of course, it's not a good thing but I just mean that it's not just one or two groups being affected and thus perhaps would be ignored.)

OK, it's time for a break -- I have to go back to watching my box set of blu-rays for "Space: 1999"...

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42 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

So I don't really want to hear about calculating the risk to life versus financial gain right now.

Can you last 5 years without a salary? 4? 3? 2?

What about the young guy with a baby, mortgage, and another on the way?  How long should be be expected to hold out?

We're all going back to work at some point, making people lose their homes is worse than COVID-19 in my view.

Effects of a prolonged lock down could be particularly devastating in the US, as the US doesn't have the social safety net that Canada and the EU nations have.  As evidenced my the massive army of homeless that wonder the streets of LA.

R,

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12 hours ago, Frank Hegyi said:

I just don't see how we're all supposed to sit at home and twiddle our thumbs for the rest of the year without getting paid.

Adam Schiff and Doug Collins, both opposite ends of the political spectrum in Congress, are calling for relief specifically targeted to the entertainment industry simply because of how the business works.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't expect this relief to cover the bills nor would I expect to come at all. The unemployment that states offer aren't equipped for gig economy unemployment (like the entertainment industry); they're designed for single employer unemployment. (Long story about this below for those who are interested in context) Even if you do get unemployment, it still won't be enough to cover your bills; the US Social Safety net was never designed for an industry wide shut down like this.

Will the work start to return? Yes. When? No one can say for sure. We won't know the economic repercussions of COVID-19 until after the fact; it's currently just starting.

Freakonomics has an excellent episode of their podcast that came out recently discussing this very topic: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/covid-19-effects/

The best snippet is this one, from Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford. He's discussing with the author, Steven Dubner, the immediate and long term effects of COVID-19:

Quote

BLOOM: So there are two things that I think are happening now. First is, there’s clearly the tremendous negative shock on both demand and supply. Businesses are shutting down. Transportation, tourism is falling. So that’s what’s called a first-moment effect. We know for sure that’s bad news. But there’s a second factor thrown on top of that, which is, there’s incredible uncertainty, in particular left-tail risk.

DUBNER: What does left-tail risk mean, please?

BLOOM: Left-tail risk is very bad outcomes. So risk can, in theory, be on both the good side and the bad side. So there’s upside risk and downside risk. The COVID-19 really only has, obviously, downside risk. It’s hard to see anything good coming out of this. And this additional uncertainty, historically, has turned out to be really costly for the economy because businesses pause hiring or investing. So I’d be pretty confident in saying I suspect we’re now already in a recession. How bad it will be is hard to tell.

What we do know, from 2008, is that when investment goes down, so does film production. Market research company, IBIS World, made this summary of the film industry from 2014 - 2019: https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/movie-video-production-industry/

The key highlights are these two economic indicators:

Quote

Since movie production relies on funding from outside operators, high interest rates have affected producers' willingness to invest in movies.

Operators are also relying on state and federal government assistance to bolster movie production revenue, since companies are able to write off production-related expenses and receive grants, freebies and tax breaks.

Even though interest rates have been slashed by the Federal Reserve, it was already too little too late. Again, Nicholas Bloom:

Quote

Bloom: The primary reason why the Fed’s move wasn’t consequential, is the damaging impact of COVID-19 is so large. There’s not much the Fed can do. The other thing that’s worth bearing in mind is, of course, before we went into this two weeks ago, interest rates were already very low. We just fought a war against the Great Recession in 2008, 2009. We really hadn’t reloaded our arsenal. And suddenly the biggest meanie in sight appears on the horizon. So economists had worried about this for a while. One of the reasons people wanted actually the Fed to put up interest rates a bit, over the last two or three years, so that we had some ammunition.

What about state and federal government assistance? Before we speculate, let's keep in mind what Bloom also said:

Quote

Bloom: Yeah, with benefit of hindsight, it was a mistake in particular to have massive tax cuts over the last two, three years, because we’re actually growing very fast. What would have been much better is to push down the government debt so that right now when we really need it, we could spend money. Normally, you want to have big blowouts in recessions to support the economy, and earn your savings back in the booms. And instead, we’re in the hangover from spending in a boom and suddenly you’re hit with a recession with very little money left in the bank. So the fiscal position, I think, is much more worrying because there we should have been generating a surplus, and instead there’s a big deficit.

On a brighter side, some states have begun to refill their rainy day fund and have been putting money away for a budget surplus: PEW Research. Of course, times are going to become incredibly difficult for nearly every state's economy and those governments will need to focus on rebuilding all of their affected industries. Will the tax incentives enjoyed by the film industry for nearly the past two decades hold up? Or will policymakers eliminate/change those subsidies to balance their books (Arizona did during the Great Recession). Only time will tell.

As of today, no one has a clue of what the final economic impact will be overall, though all signs are pointing to bad. All we can do is prepare ourselves to pick up whatever work we can while pulling up our sleeves and rebuilding our industry. At minimum, the industry will be forever changed.

---

I've personally got asthma and, according to the CDC, am one of those individuals who are at high risk of death from COVID-19. I was slated to shoot a feature next week, but that film has since been postponed by the producer. I'm thankful that the production took my crew and I's health and safety into account, finances be damned.

Do I want to get back to work? Of course. Do I want to watch my friends and family suffer from the disease? No. Absolutely not.

---

Context on unemployment in California

This isn't the first time I've applied for unemployment in California before. In early 2017, I was suddenly removed from a month long gig at the beginning of the project. It was February, which is a notoriously difficult month for me to get work, so I filed for unemployment. It was a clerical and logistical nightmare.

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) was expecting me to submit a simple W2, pay-stub or two, and some proof of identification. However, I worked non-union, so some gigs were paid through a traditional payroll company (W4) while others just cut me a check directly (W9). What I didn't know was that only my W4 jobs were paying into the state's unemployment program. My W9 jobs were classifying me as a business and that the taxes I paid yearly on those jobs didn't apply.

After all the dust was settled with paperwork, I think I was getting roughly $200 a week from unemployment. However, the money came in slowly and I didn't receive anything until almost the end of the month. By then, March was approaching and more work was getting lined up. I ultimately only received about two weeks of unemployment before stopping, partly because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of proving I was applying for work in an industry that is mostly run on referrals and, ironically, because my referrals were eventually working again.

The program really left a bad taste in my mouth, particularly because I qualified for such a low amount. However much one puts in is however much one pulls out. Because non-union mostly pays via W9, I wasn't contributing anything into the state's unemployment program even though I was working. Additionally, the painfully slow process of applying for unemployment while trying to explain the film industry's unorthodox hiring practices to the government. Mind you, I had to do this on a weekly basis.

I did learn, however, that productions are misclassifying cast/crew as independent contractors when they pay them via 1099. Before 2020, it was a bit of a legal question mark until California passed the AB5 law, which clearly outlines who is an independent contractor and who isn't. How that will be enforced is yet to be seen and it puts me in a particular hard spot to address the issue with productions who want to pay via W9. (Paying people via W4 is more costly to productions)

I've since gone through submitting my unemployment paperwork again for the COVID-19 crisis. Even though I knew what to expect, it was still a painful process (and I'm not done yet). The system asked me to list all prior employers, but it maxed me out at 10 total. For the past 18 months, I've worked for 35 different companies. It's clear that the system wasn't designed for the gig economy and I hope this gets addressed ASAP.

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Yes, of course at some point we'll go back to work and there won't be some obvious "all's clear" line, it will be a calculated risk that it's relatively safe because the rate of infection is manageable.

But the notion that we should just all go about our business on Monday and let the chips fall where they may no matter how many thousands may die, well, that doesn't strike me as very responsible or ethical.  You would think that death is pretty much a worse-case scenario for someone since you can't recover from that. It's not something to be taken lightly.  Hospitals are getting pretty full-up right now and some health workers are going home sick -- and it's still early in this pandemic.  Hence all the talk about "flattening the curve" so the rate of people needing treatment stays at a manageable level.  Do people really want a situation where people are suffocating on gurneys in hospital corridors because there is a lack of ventilators or beds or doctors and nurses?  Do you really think that could never happen? 

I don't get it -- what's the point of money for your family if your family is sick or dead? Is the paycheck going to shield them from infection?  And what if it's the person earning the paycheck for the family that gets sick?  There are already people working in the film industry who have gotten sick and some have died.

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