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Coronavirus survey part 2 - how are work & incomes going?


Andrew Reid
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How's peoples livelihoods going. How's motivation holding up?

Mine is on the floor!

Been a tough old winter for sure.

Is this a longer-term economic disaster in the making? I just can't make out how people's incomes are holding up from filmmaking or the arts and culture at the moment.

Everyone is impacted differently. Maybe you are on lockdown since November due to government incompetence or maybe you're a New Zealand citizen carrying on as normal?

I'd like to hear your stories...

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I’ll start.

The first thing to say is that I am extremely fortunate insofar as the pandemic has (with the exception of not being able to head north for the winter) been extremely positive. Working for a University the move to deliver lectures and other meetings online has been so much fun. An opportunity to build a green screen “studio” (around an Atem mini) and “play” with different techniques for online delivery. Everyone else in the institution has been screen sharing in Teams/Zoom - but it’s so easy with a little investment of time and money to dramatically improve on that.

Last week I discovered the Aida HD100A - so much more convenient to use than the P4k and the reduction in quality won’t be noticed. And since a Video Assist is doing the recording (HDMI output from Atem) the simple Aida is perfect.

Simple things like “top and tail” a video - adding a title sequence and some simple credits is a huge improvement over the usual first few seconds watching the lecturer fiddle around and settle. 
But... I am aware that not many will have been so fortunate. Yes, I need to get out more (I need to get to a post office!) but life at home has overall been positive.

”Filmmaking” has “saved” the work I do. Without being able to produce short films and negotiate live video sessions life would have been miserable. But that’s easy to say when ones income is not directly linked to the ability to create short films.

That’s my perspective. 

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My business is weddings. Destinations weddings as in I live in France and they come to France for their wedding.

Last year, actual work, I did 4%.

That figure is based on me doing 5% of what was booked and losses that make up another 1% from what I did not book for last year, during last year, because there was no last year. Other than the 1 job I did, ie, 1/20 when it should have been 25/25.

After some state assistance, my income ended up being around 30% of what it would normally be.

I also took out the maximum allowed state backed loan which for me was 9k. I cannot borrow any more and technically, my business is now 9k in the red.

2021 should have been a 'claw some of it back year' but now is at least a "50% at best" year re. bookings & turnover.

Worst case, 2021 is going to be a zero work year and realistically, it's going to be somewhere between 0-50% work.

I think it will end up somewhere between the 2 figures and be a workload of between 20-25% of what it should have been.

It depends on 3 factors:

1: The UK gov being correct and not backtracking on their 'everyone is free' from the 21st June.

2: France agreeing with them. Ha, miles...kilometres behind...if the UK really is that far ahead.

3: Travel. By July, folks in the UK may be able to do as they wish and us in France also, but we may (probably will) still have a travel issue that prevents couples from either going through with their weddings here, or deciding within the next month or so, it's too big a hassle for them and their guests and pulling the plug.

I have already lost approx 1/3rd of all this year's booked work through postponement to 2022 or outright cancellation.

I lost 2 more just today and expect all with dates prior to the end of June to go with a certainty (had 10, 4 remain) and at least 50% of the rest of the season which is July-early Oct.

Bookings for 2022 are quite strong but by my calculations, to claw back the losses of 2020 will take 4 years running at 120% turnover, ie, 5 years total to be back where I was at the end of 2019 financially.

Based on the fact that 2021 is pretty fucked already and is going to end up I'm projecting at 20-25%, at least another 3 years at 120% turnover...if that is even possible, making a grand total of: 2 'lost' years + 7 'trying to make it up' years...if it's even possible, for a total of 9 years to be back where I was at the end of 2019.

Or after our daughter finished school and hopefully goes to uni 1 year this September, we sell our house and downsize to something smaller and cheaper and bypass having to even attempt 7 years of recovery, which realistically would be very hard to achieve anyway.

Longer term, has it damaged the industry? 

Not really. A least not as far as I can tell. I'm not seeing any great rush to elopements even though social media is constantly chittering about it. Folks seem to be booking exactly what they would in any given year, but just asking hard questions about Covid policy for the future.

Mentally, it's not great. I'm not depressed. Just frustrated for want of a better term. Massively frustrated.

Having very little money to do anything...not that there is anything to really do anyway, but going into debt when after a lifetime of trying, we had just cleared it at the end of 2019. Seriously, - no mortgage, no car finance, no credit cards, no nothing. For the first time in 25+ years of adult life.

I had some funds banked from previous gear sales so have spent some of that on some kit as I'm still doing some very low rate commercial work and freebies plus a few personal projects to stop myself from getting too rusty, but otherwise, we are spending very little.

Perhaps the hardest part of it is having zero control or even ability to do anything that constitutes 'having a life' according to how I wish to live mine.

Pretty much just existing and waiting...

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Corporate event videos is down a lot vs the year prior

Normal corp/promo video is slightly down but within margins, got some jobs from Oz cause they couldn't come here to shoot.

Some other event videos (like concert) get caught up by the sudden lockdown (lost one last week cause of that).

Though I got a lot of livestreaming video jobs on my side, atm 50% of my side job is livestreaming, we got some livestreaming for the company but was ok, but yeah I am busy from jan til april this year.. booked almost every weekend, much more busier than last year which is a surprise to me lol

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3 hours ago, MrSMW said:

My business is weddings. Destinations weddings as in I live in France and they come to France for their wedding.

Last year, actual work, I did 4%.

That figure is based on me doing 5% of what was booked and losses that make up another 1% from what I did not book for last year, during last year, because there was no last year. Other than the 1 job I did, ie, 1/20 when it should have been 25/25.

After some state assistance, my income ended up being around 30% of what it would normally be.

I also took out the maximum allowed state backed loan which for me was 9k. I cannot borrow any more and technically, my business is now 9k in the red.

2021 should have been a 'claw some of it back year' but now is at least a "50% at best" year re. bookings & turnover.

Worst case, 2021 is going to be a zero work year and realistically, it's going to be somewhere between 0-50% work.

I think it will end up somewhere between the 2 figures and be a workload of between 20-25% of what it should have been.

It depends on 3 factors:

1: The UK gov being correct and not backtracking on their 'everyone is free' from the 21st June.

2: France agreeing with them. Ha, miles...kilometres behind...if the UK really is that far ahead.

3: Travel. By July, folks in the UK may be able to do as they wish and us in France also, but we may (probably will) still have a travel issue that prevents couples from either going through with their weddings here, or deciding within the next month or so, it's too big a hassle for them and their guests and pulling the plug.

I have already lost approx 1/3rd of all this year's booked work through postponement to 2022 or outright cancellation.

I lost 2 more just today and expect all with dates prior to the end of June to go with a certainty (had 10, 4 remain) and at least 50% of the rest of the season which is July-early Oct.

Bookings for 2022 are quite strong but by my calculations, to claw back the losses of 2020 will take 4 years running at 120% turnover, ie, 5 years total to be back where I was at the end of 2019 financially.

Based on the fact that 2021 is pretty fucked already and is going to end up I'm projecting at 20-25%, at least another 3 years at 120% turnover...if that is even possible, making a grand total of: 2 'lost' years + 7 'trying to make it up' years...if it's even possible, for a total of 9 years to be back where I was at the end of 2019.

Or after our daughter finished school and hopefully goes to uni 1 year this September, we sell our house and downsize to something smaller and cheaper and bypass having to even attempt 7 years of recovery, which realistically would be very hard to achieve anyway.

Longer term, has it damaged the industry? 

Not really. A least not as far as I can tell. I'm not seeing any great rush to elopements even though social media is constantly chittering about it. Folks seem to be booking exactly what they would in any given year, but just asking hard questions about Covid policy for the future.

Mentally, it's not great. I'm not depressed. Just frustrated for want of a better term. Massively frustrated.

Having very little money to do anything...not that there is anything to really do anyway, but going into debt when after a lifetime of trying, we had just cleared it at the end of 2019. Seriously, - no mortgage, no car finance, no credit cards, no nothing. For the first time in 25+ years of adult life.

I had some funds banked from previous gear sales so have spent some of that on some kit as I'm still doing some very low rate commercial work and freebies plus a few personal projects to stop myself from getting too rusty, but otherwise, we are spending very little.

Perhaps the hardest part of it is having zero control or even ability to do anything that constitutes 'having a life' according to how I wish to live mine.

Pretty much just existing and waiting...

I feel for you man. What a disaster.

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I had one of my few clients hit me up for a huge series of online PR videos to use with their Zoom meetings.  Being out and about with people during a pandemic here in the red states (and red corners of blue states) is ...ah... different; not a reassuring way for me.  So, the work was lucrative, but the risk was unsettling.  Just dumb luck I avoided the virus so far.

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After Effects has saved me.

I do corporate and weddings. Had 5 weddings in 2020 (amazed to have any!) and probably about 15% of the corporate filming work I usually have (events etc).

Last summer I got a big job making a series of 5 fully animated in house training videos for a pharmaceutical company. All After Effects. That one job saved the year otherwise it'd have been a total disaster.

I was also able to claim 3 months of government grants for freelancers which was a godsend. 

My wife has a tourist accommodation business and you can imagine how that is going.

2021 and just earning enough to get by each month, pay the mortgage, food, electricity, all my subscriptions (work related like Adobe etc. Had to dump Netflix, CelticTv etc).

At least spring is in the air here in Madrid! A bit of sun always helps!

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While my main bread-and-butter retainer client put a hold on our contract for most of 2020 (which put a sizable dent in my expected yearly income) I'm happy to say that we've been able to resume video-work since October. 

Freelance-wise, I have still had a reliable trickle of jobs here and there, mostly small, corporate clients, keeping things interesting, not to mention that I recently had the opportunity to take on a full-time gig DP'ing at a local production company, so while ultimately I did lose a few jobs I was excited about, throughout The Covid-Era as a whole I've actually earned more video-related income than I ever have before, which has been a very welcome surprise. 

That being said, Covid has also never really hit that hard where I'm located (Northern Utah), so I've certainly had it easier than most, no lockdowns, no travel restrictions, even mask-mandates are only on a county-by-county basis, as most of my state is quite rural and almost completely unaffected. 

I sure do miss the movies though. The only films I have seen at the cinema since last spring were Tenet and a forgettable Vince Vaughn slasher comedy. Me being someone who is typically at the theatre at least once a week, every week, seeing something new, this has been quite the unfortunate development. Some folks miss going to church during this pandemic, but what I have missed the most is my own personal cinematic sacrament of hot, buttery popcorn, ice-cold coke, and the old, familiar feeling of rising anticipation in my chest as the lights dim, the speakers start to rumble, and the first preview starts... 🍿📽✨

I feel kind of bad -- but also extremely lucky -- that not being able to go see movies and maybe having to cancel a few vacations is pretty much the worst thing that has happened to me during this pandemic, as others have had it so much worse. My heart goes out to everyone who has been severely effected. Let's hope things get back to normal soon. 

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The middle half of last year was very rough, just being in lockdowns with no work whatsoever. Was dark, very depressing. But life is looking up, 2020 eventually (later on in the year) ended up being quite the career breakthrough for me with some key realizations too. Currently I'm solidly booked out for months and months into the future. Turning down work left and right, for instance just for this upcoming weekend I've had SIX shoots I could've gone on instead if only I could clone myself instead of having to say no. Am honestly quite glad that tomorrow's doco shoot got cancelled! Gives me a little breathing room, and a chance to catch up on some errands tomorrow after a sleep in. 

The situation is still very precarious though, you never know when we might get slammed back into a long term lockdown. Thus got to make hay while the sun shines! Just last week we had another three day lockdown in Auckland, I lost a couple of thousand dollars worth of work because of that. 

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36 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

with some key realizations too

 

This is the one positive I can take away from the last 12 months and that is you get a certain clarity in regard to both what you do not have, but also do have.

There are elements that I can't get back such as the loss of income etc but this period of time has given me more focus on what I wish to do once this shit is over.

I just need to:

A: Work out how to juggle the finances to achieve it and

B: Wait this fucker out.

Other than some evolution of this disease into something else, I really do think we can see light at the end of the tunnel now and we are maybe 6 months from seeing hospitalisation and death rates below that of flu.

At least in 'The West'. The World needs to ensure the poorer countries also get vaccinated ASAP or risk mutations and new strains etc.

So I think we're still in for some bumpy and restrictive times until the middle of the year but should then see some serious easing and a return to something resembling normal life, albeit with a few minor changes.

 

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It's been really bad, but fortunately I own my house and all my equipment, so I've been able to get by on remote editing jobs and other side hustles since I have no mortgage or anything to pay.

Events and sports have been dead for me, and have been since the second week of March 2020. I didn't accept any weddings for this year because I have a poor autoimmune system and just won't risk it. Very few people have been calling anyway so it's not like I had to turn a bunch of offers down either. I don't really expect this year to be much better than last year unless things get more under control by the end of the year and events can resume. Maybe I'll be surprised, but the way the US has handled this doesn't give me much hope. 

Still I am in a much better position than a lot of people I know who have had to sell equipment, close their offices/studios, etc. The things they've worked so hard to build are gone and it's truly heartbreaking. 

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What a f**king roller coaster.

I was sitting in a broadcast truck editing packages for an international surf event in early March when the first Gov "recommendations" came through. At about 10am, producer comes in and says "we just got word, we're wrapping this today to be safe", which meant they ran through the final 2 days of the competition in one and had about 14 hours live on air that day.

Driving home the next day (8hr drive), every time I pulled over and checked my phone, another Gov update and another job cancelled. $80,000 of bookings gone by the time I got home. 2nd child on the way, wife just gone on maternity leave, and a contract signed for a house to start building, and suddenly all my income for the next 8 months was gone.

This was immediately following 3 months of bushfires where basically no video production other than news had happened because the entire state was blanketed in smoke, and you couldn't even go outside without having a coughing fit. And that surf contest had been my first job in months.

I picked up a few other jobs closer to home, mostly editing stuff for Zoom conferences, but barely enough for bills, until things finally started to pick up again in September. Throughout that period the biggest issue was that I live close to a state border. Many of my clients are interstate, even though they're only a 45 min drive away. Any rental gear I need comes from across the state border. If I have to fly to my own states capital, I usually drive over the border and fly from there. But that state border was closed. My state was open to them, after the initial 6 week lockdown, but I could not travel there to access gear, flights, clients, locations, etc. So even if clients did want to shoot, I couldn't.


Then from Sept to Dec I was probably the busiest I've ever been (not counting single jobs where I'm booked for several months), with lots of stuff for local business, or international brands that simply didn't want to risk any travel to the area (which was also becoming famous as a celebrity destination where Hollywood stars were moving to escape the pandemic). I'd spent a lot of time during the bushfires perfecting my SEO and local marketing, so it was good to finally see all that pay off once filming was possible.

Then in the week before Christmas, another outbreak (an outbreak here is considered ONE single case, who is not a returned travel in quarantine; usually a worker at a quarantine hotel) meant that my last day of work for 2020 was basically spent fielding cancellations for Jan/Feb, so again I was back to nothing after barely struggling to get on top of bills and thinking that I might have enough spare to take the wife out to dinner for the first time in a year.

That was a tough couple of months and my wife made the decision to go back to work earlier than she'd intended, but she's also a sole trader so that's not earning us any money yet while she gets everything set back up.

And then finally last week, bookings started to roll in again to the point where I'm now at capacity (beyond it, actually, but I'm not in a position to say no) from next week through the end of May. I'm just crossing my fingers that state borders stay open moving forward because some of that work in interstate.

Talk about a train wreck of a year.

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16 hours ago, MrSMW said:

Not really. A least not as far as I can tell. I'm not seeing any great rush to elopements even though social media is constantly chittering about it. Folks seem to be booking exactly what they would in any given year, but just asking hard questions about Covid policy for the future.

Mentally, it's not great. I'm not depressed. Just frustrated for want of a better term. Massively frustrated.

Having very little money to do anything...not that there is anything to really do anyway, but going into debt when after a lifetime of trying, we had just cleared it at the end of 2019. Seriously, - no mortgage, no car finance, no credit cards, no nothing. For the first time in 25+ years of adult life.

I had some funds banked from previous gear sales so have spent some of that on some kit as I'm still doing some very low rate commercial work and freebies plus a few personal projects to stop myself from getting too rusty, but otherwise, we are spending very little.

Perhaps the hardest part of it is having zero control or even ability to do anything that constitutes 'having a life' according to how I wish to live mine.

Pretty much just existing and waiting...

It's the psychological side I find most difficult at the moment.

Not knowing if the world will ever fully recover or if we get our travel freedoms back without restrictions.

Also, going stir crazy stuck inside with no social stuff going on has been very difficult.

The last time I was in a bar, was back in March in Barcelona and meeting @BTM_Pix at the F1

I have barely seen any friends apart from a few locally since, and I think if it wasn't for being able to spend winter with my girlfriend in Berlin I'd have topped myself by now to be quite honest.

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26 minutes ago, Andrew Reid said:

It's the psychological side I find most difficult at the moment.

I agree, I rate myself as one of the stronger people psychologically yet even I was beginning to go stir crazy during parts of 2020 and being on the verge of catching cabin fever. 

Was fortunate that thanks to my contacts in the logistics industry I had an "essential worker" job I could get an official pass to get out of the house for. Even if it was only one day a week, and was only minimum wage, and was merely back breaking work shifting boxes of food around in a frozen warehouse. At least it helped keep cabin fever at bay. That I didn't go ("more") mad. 
 

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1 hour ago, Andrew Reid said:

It's the psychological side I find most difficult at the moment.

Not knowing if the world will ever fully recover or if we get our travel freedoms back without restrictions.

Also, going stir crazy stuck inside with no social stuff going on has been very difficult.

With me it's the waiting, - I have a moderate amount of patience but absolutely zero tolerance and the world seems full of idiots. When I say 'full of', I mean enough to fuck it up for those who are not idiots.

Yes it will recover. Think The Black Death, Spanish Flu, WW1, WW2...stuff comes back. Usually, it's so gradual we don't really notice it until we lose it again. And we will lose it again, ie, be living in some future shitstorm at some point in the future whether it be financial, war or pestilence.

I'm quite fortunate in regard to the social side of things being something of a social retard anyway. I'm one of those that could actually live on that deserted desert island, but I do appreciate that for many...most even, the lack of social contact etc sucks.

Hang in there. I don't know if 'the good times' are coming back and there are bound to be some changes, but I think that once most of the cloud has lifted, we will be able to see clearly a lot more of the positives than we can now.

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3 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

It's the psychological side I find most difficult at the moment.

Not knowing if the world will ever fully recover or if we get our travel freedoms back without restrictions.

Also, going stir crazy stuck inside with no social stuff going on has been very difficult.

The last time I was in a bar, was back in March in Barcelona and meeting @BTM_Pix at the F1

I have barely seen any friends apart from a few locally since, and I think if it wasn't for being able to spend winter with my girlfriend in Berlin I'd have topped myself by now to be quite honest.

I'm one of the amateurs here; my job is TI, government company. Very, very lucky in the financial side - moved to home office since March 2020 (a thing that I would want even without Covid - ZERO needs to waste 1h30 commuting every day, and have more resources, like better monitors, than in my workplace), no income cutting, could stay safe.

Work exploded in pressure though - our team take care of two systems, one that demanded 95% of the work (10 people in the team), the other make a statistical report and basically ran once a year.

But this 5% system became used as the database of the government emergency money distribution, and now take most of the team (that is constantly making 10 hours day shifts). I'm one of the few that is taking care of the larger system - my workload almost quadrupled.

With a 2 year old that could not go to school (it opened this week, but opted to keep her in home - the Amazon variant of Covid is starting to spread throughout Brazil and already collapsed some smaller cities near here, in one week the ICU cases simply DOUBLED), my wife taking care of her (and not working), one of our cats dying and probably another one dying soon, and almost no outdoor / resting time, the head is melting away.

And I REALLY could consider myself fortunate - a father of a friend died from covid last week, several friends got Covid, even staying at home (none have serious problems, thank god), most of my friends are having VERY hard times to pay the bills. And we have a genocide president here that is doing almost nothing to get people vaccinated.

Just hoping to get through this with sanity. And moving out of the country when possible (Brazilians will became the parish of the world because of the criminal government) and when economy rebounds. There is no hope left here.

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I'm in Florida.

We've been back to normal since May.

I know lot's who have been diagnosed with covid, but I know no one who's died. 

My dad fell from a high latter in July (in California) and suffered SEVERE brain damage. Also PTSD from staying in a hospital for 2 months with next to no visitors. He is still not even close to recovered.

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