Small businesses with lots of video to edit and animation studios, which deal with less live-action material, are weathering the pandemic better than others
When the coronavirus pandemic first forced Lane and Rodney Holland to start doing their jobs in postproduction from home, they felt lucky to be spending more time with their children — and to have work at all. But for the first time since they started working in the television industry more than 10 years ago, the married couple isn’t sure when they’ll find their next job.
“I probably have about two weeks left of my job, which is unfortunate,” Lane, a story producer on a Food Network show, told TheWrap. “I don’t know, maybe there will be something else they can get me to work on. I’m full-time, but if there’s nothing to work on, there’s nothing to work on. I know that they have started laying people off.”
At the time this interview took place, her husband Rodney had been steadily working from home as a freelance editor on a reality docuseries. But just a few days later, his show went dark. He has since filed for unemployment.
“I think things will bounce back once this is all over, but who knows how long that’ll be?” Rodney said. “My hope is that there are people who are coming up with creative ways to start shooting stuff already. Once there’s a vaccine in place, this is all gonna bounce back pretty quickly. There’s a lot of pent-up demand, a lot of shows have already been sold mid-stream. They don’t want to lose those investments.”
But despite the setback, the pair remain optimistic. One silver lining has been being able to spend more time with their kids.
“The other day I was working at home, and I looked out the window and saw my son playing outside, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s why I’m doing all this,’ Rodney said. “And it helped provide some motivation to keep working.”
Lane is confident there will be a lot of opportunity “whenever this does end,” but added: “Maybe we’re being too optimistic.”
For others working in television postproduction, the work carries on — as long as there is footage that needs editing.
It’s a task made easier for animation studios, who deal with less live-action material and can record voice parts from home.
Chris Prynoski, founder and president of Titmouse, the animation studio behind Netflix’s “Big Mouth” and Fox’s “Bless the Harts,” said the studio has been lucky enough to be able to keep all of their shows up and running, and all of their employees on the payroll.
“We were tracking the spread of the virus along with the industry’s response while communicating with clients and other studios,” Prynoski said. “When the time came, we were prepared to rapidly convert to remote work.”
Todd Raleigh, a series editor at Titmouse, has also been learning to parent and work-from-home at the same time.
“Managing an active household while ‘in the office’ presents a unique challenge where my partner and I take turns feeding, schooling and playing with the kids throughout the day. It makes the workday a little like a game of Tetris,” he said. “But it also creates little forced breaks that can help offer some fresh perspective.”
As for the day’s workflow, Raleigh said the at-home situation can be more challenging.
“There’s just a lot more prep and tracking,” he said. “A lot of things that were easier in the studio now have to be more meticulously managed. It’s completely doable, it just requires a concerted effort to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the same time.”
Tatiana Orozco, vice president of production at Wallin Chambers Entertainment, which is under an overall deal with Lionsgate, said her company saw the writing on the wall and was able to get ahead of the curve.
“We kind of saw this work-from-home coming down the pike a little earlier than most people,” Orozco said. “We still have our office up and running, there are just no people in it. Think Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. If you were able to go into our office, you’d see the cursors moving around on the computers, but there’s nobody in the chair. It’s pretty cool we’re able to do this now.”
But Orozco expressed fears for small businesses who might not have the resources to continue to compete against bigger companies.
“The companies affected the most in this whole thing are small businesses,” she said. “Disney is not going to suddenly cave because of the coronavirus.”
She said the remote work has leveled the playing field for small businesses, where big conglomerates like Disney, Universal and Comcast also must have remote systems to continue creating shows.
“If we hadn’t been ahead of the curve, it would have been really hard financially to stay afloat,” she said. “So what happens is, this is the ultimate equalizer.”