Coronavirus Cancellations in Entertainment: What Else To Do?
By Tom Warneke
It’s easy to think that 2020 might be a write off? At this point, we’ve narrowly avoided World War 3 between the US and Iran, we’ve been seeing the largest bushfires on record in Australia and then now, Coronavirus.
Sitting in my house in Dubai, it’s clear Coronavirus is taking hold even as an ‘info-demic’. It’s hard to read the paper or turn on your laptop without seeing talking heads from a million different directions all giving their 2 cents. So what to make of this virus and what it’s doing to our industry?
I’m not going to bore you with a whole briefing on COVID-19 and how it works nor how many people are affected. Let’s face it – by the time this hits the web, it’ll be out of date anyway. There’s all manner of views out there with people at both ends of the spectrum – some are suggesting it’s simply a bad flu while others are acting like it’s the new plague. I’m not here to arbitrate medical science.
What I can tell you though is that it’s having a big effect on the entertainment industry – regardless of how dangerous it actually might be, it’s all about perception.
Many countries are actually moving to ban mass gatherings (more than 1,000 people). Ironically, even the Council on Foreign Relations in the US cancelled their conference entitled “Doing Business Under Coronavirus” due to the spread of Coronavirus. As there’s still so much unknown about COVID-19, companies are doing the responsible thing and cancelling events. No one wants 20,000 people to be diagnosed with Coronavirus because they were at a festival, nobody wants that reputation following their event either.
The world over, mass gatherings are getting cancelled. SXSW has been cancelled with Coachella rescheduled for October, Italy as a country is closed and trade shows across Europe and Asia are being cancelled. Australia is a mixed bag of events but with more and more being cancelled on the daily. Closer to home here in Dubai, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a bit of a ghost town.
Events that have been running are maybe learning the hard way that it’s better safe than sorry. A man who attended the TOOL concert in New Zealand last week is now in isolation and authorities are attempting to contact trace everyone he may have come into contact with. In the GA area of a concert, that’s no small feat.
Our industry though has always been one to think creatively.
Where agencies and production companies can, they’re petitioning their clients to run events either virtually or via webcast, major sporting events are taking place (like the Bahrain F1 in a few weeks) as competitor only without an audience and where companies are truly quiet, there’s been scores of AV companies kindly throwing open the doors to allow out of work technicians and designers come and learn equipment, network and generally upgrade their skills (albeit BYO hand sanitiser).
So if you’re one of the many who are currently stuck without work seeing gig after gig cancel, what can you do?
One option is to (finance permitting), embrace the downtime and use it to pursue that long held to-do list (like finally write another TheatreArtLife article!) Maybe you want to start a blog, maybe you’ve always wanted to take up knitting, maybe it’s that university thesis you really need to pick up again? Perhaps the most mentally healthy route to take is to accept that for now (and potentially another month or so), the world is going to be shutdown. Not much to be done if gigs aren’t being produced.
Let’s say that’s not an option and you need cash coming in? Before you start printing off dozens of resumés to hand out at McDonalds, have a good think about all those skills you use on a daily basis and how they could apply to just about anywhere else. People on platforms like fiverr.com, freelancer.com or peopleperhour.com are always searching for people with our “entertainment industry” skills. What do I mean by that? Logical, thinking people with highly transferable skills – administrative work or maybe something more creative like some design or Photoshop. Everything from writing to risk assessment, teaching to consulting, design to voice over recording – you have loads of skills you use every day that can be applied in so many places.
If you’re not one for sitting behind a screen and you do need some $$ coming in, maybe it’s simply a case of thinking laterally about the hard skills you have. Maybe that’s working at a hardware store or a local trade, maybe it’s finding some local temp/administration work – every town has a local theatre company or a local pub (with a band night) or a local venue. Just because you’ve toured across 4 continents doesn’t mean those skills can’t be used at a grass roots level to keep you tied over. Even more so if it’s maintenance season in the place you live. (That console won’t PAT Test and clean itself!)
Lastly and somewhat tied into the previous idea of local labour is that of giving back. That local seniors centre, local community college (or TAFE), local theatre or local volunteer group would all love the skills you have to offer. So maybe if money isn’t an issue, take it as an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and see what you can do to help out locally.
While there’s varying opinions on the severity of COVID-19 and how long we might be feeling the effects, one thing is for certain – now is not the time to panic.
It is however an excellent time to think about Plan B and all the possibilities outside your day-to-day.