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What Will We Do When Our World Returns?

world returns
By Sound Girls
Elisabeth Weidner

My last day of work was March 13, 2020, and I’m still just as confused and anxious about it as the day our industry shut down. Since I was 15 years old, I have never gone this long without working, and I really just don’t know how to feel about it. I work in the arts because it feeds my soul, but can I afford that luxury anymore? Is it fair to ask me to get another job? Getting another job for me would mean getting another career, which would mean starting from zero, but I can’t afford to go back to school or pay for new training while I’m unemployed.

And what if I and a bunch of other people like me in my industry have this thought? Then who is going to work in entertainment when it IS back? Maybe I should just apply my sound skills to a non-live sector, so podcasts, radio plays, editing, etc. Again, isn’t everyone going to be trying to do that, so won’t that completely oversaturate the market and make it impossible for most to work? If I just hang tight, stay unemployed, and wait for the world to reopen, how long will that take, and how long can I actually last like that?

These (and many more) are the questions circling my worried mind every second of every day. I’m watching companies fold. I’m watching venues lock their doors forever. What if that happens to one of my regular gigs? What’s going to happen to me and to my colleagues, friends, and family?

The entertainment industry is famous for using two phrases: 1. “There’s no business like show business” 2. “The show must go on.”

Since I have no control over what our future holds, I’m choosing to put my faith in those two mantras. They’ve gotten me through sticky situations many times in the past, it stands to reason that they will work their magic now. I mean, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had way too many notes piling up at the last minute, or not even teched the end of a show before the first preview, or listened to a host of sound gremlins making their presence known during that final preview, yet, opening night always comes, and the show always goes on. It’s the magic of theatre. Yes, you read that right, I’m openly relying on magic now.

So, let’s skip ahead to the part where entertainment reopens. We all know it will not be all at once, and we all know it will not be like it was before.

My plea for anyone reading this is to please be open, respect the process, and please be kind to each other.

We’ve been doing a lot of good work that needs to continue when we reopen. Jobs will be scarce, and we will all need them, but we need to remember what we’ve been working on for our community. We will encounter companies affected by the pandemic trying to hire entertainment workers for less than they are worth because “that is all they can afford right now.” We can’t let that happen. Look, I get it. We all need work, but if we sell our skills for less than they’re worth, that is the price those producers will start to expect from you in the future and everyone else that does the same work as you.

We’ve been working hard on solidifying our standards, and we can’t waffle just because we hit a bump (or hill, or mountain…) in the road. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for me, it’s not good for our community. We need to remember that we have pledged to be allies and accomplices for marginalized people. We need to continue that work.

Don’t take jobs from racist companies. Don’t keep quiet about discriminatory practices. Don’t turn a blind eye to misogyny and homophobia.

You might say to yourself, “I have to keep this gig, I need the money, I’ve been out of work for so long,” but just remember that the company you are working for needs you too. If you, if everyone makes a stand together, refuses to work in inequitable situations, who will they have to turn to? Those companies will be faced with two choices: Change their policies, or shut their doors. We need to remember not to be greedy. Don’t take overlapping jobs. Give one of your fellow community members a shot at survival too.

Brace yourselves, I’m going to quote High School Musical now….We’re all in this together.

I know that’s just about the most Pollyanna thing you’ve heard from me, but I really can’t convey the sentiment any other way. We really are all in this together. And we are stronger together. And we know that. So this is one of those times when it’s going to be really tough to always do the right thing, but that’s what integrity is – doing the right thing even when it’s tough and even when no one is watching. Stay safe, my friends. Keep your heads up, and keep moving forward. We will get there together.

Article by SoundGirl: Elisabeth Weidner

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Another great article by SoundGirls: You Are Not a Unicorn: The Transferable Skills You Already Have

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