Throughout the coming weeks, NYWIFT will sit down with members of the film and television community for a look at how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the industry, particularly those who work in the indie and art house world. And how women are adapting, evolving, and growing creatively. If you would like to share your story please contact us at email@example.com. We are compiling a NYWIFT Emergency Resource Directory on our homepage – please continue to check back as we update it with the latest information.
By Heidi Philipsen
We first introduced NYWIFT blog readers to assistant director Isabella Olaguera, one of our youngest NYWIFT members, in April 2018 to talk about the film she worked on that was premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. What a difference two years makes. In 2020, of course, Tribeca, along with countless other events, has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus, and the production world has halted to a standstill as we shelter in place and practice social distancing.
Isabella sat down with us last week to offer insight into the new day-to-day of a production freelancer in the time of COVID-19. In the few days since this original interview (below), Isabella has been named Director of Feed the Freelancers, an initiative backed by F.E.E.L. (Film & Entertainment Emergency Logistics). Her mission as part of this organization is to use film industry labor and resources to distribute groceries to freelancers of all industries. You can learn more at feelusa.org, and donate to Isabella’s GoFundME for the project here.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your industry?
Assistant Directors start feature films in pre-production, several weeks ahead of shooting, then continue working through principal photography until wrap. As a 1st A.D., I usually get contacted around now for spring and summer work. These past few years, I’ve been contracted full-time by March. This year, I had several narrative and commercial gigs either postpone indefinitely or cancel altogether. I have no offers for work in the coming months. This is the first time I am facing my busiest work season without a single job offer lined up. After speaking to other always-busy A.D.’s, I discovered that this is the new norm.
How are people in your field reacting to the social distancing?
For some industries, work stays at work. Employees go to the office, clock their 9-5 time, and then go home to spend time with their families, socialize with friends, and engage in hobbies. In the film industry, freelance workers practically dedicate weeks of their lives to a production. I personally give 12-16 hours a day working and commuting, then come home to recharge before doing it again. My social life revolves around a film’s schedule, and my crew members become my best friends. I’m used to having jobs that fulfill my mental, social, and physical needs all in one. Without that for the first time in years, I feel lost. I imagine that other crew members like me are also struggling to feel fulfilled due to social distancing.
Are you able to work at all? From home?
As a 1st A.D., I rely on upcoming physical film shoots. Since we don’t know when it will be safe to start shooting again, productions aren’t setting dates. Without a clear shooting timeline, there’s no way or even a real reason to start scheduling a hypothetical.
I’m used to having jobs that fulfill my mental, social, and physical needs all in one. Without that for the first time in years, I feel lost. I imagine that other crew members like me are also struggling to feel fulfilled due to social distancing.
What would be of help?
I’ve been talking to a few friends about how we can help each other and the entire NY-based freelance film industry, but it’s really hard to do on such a large scale. Virtually my entire network is unemployed for the foreseeable future. We’ve thought about finding a group of professionals to focus on – for us, women in NYC film – and start making a list of names. Larger organizations could use that list to help come up with aid programs. Getting money to people who need it is the ultimate goal, but without an organized system or a source of funding we have hit a wall.
Whether you’re a seasoned film professional constantly working, or a newcomer just starting to make connections, [the] coronavirus puts us all in the same boat trying to make ends meet. Without support from full-time employers, freelancers (from all industries) are banding together so the people with resources can see we need help. Hopefully, legislators will come up with solutions to our unemployment. Until then, we’ll raise our voices and support each other as much as we can.
Additional reporting by Katie Chambers.
Welcome, Genevieve Skehan! It was a love of the outdoors that propelled Genevieve Skehan into filmmaking. After earning her BA in drama in the UK at the University of Exeter, she went on to work for years as a performer and even won awards as a director. But she grew tired of sitting in dark rehearsal spaces. So, she embarked on a career in film and television. Several years later she was working regularly in Boston and New York as a producer, writer, and director for commercials and films. Lately she has begun to write and direct more passion projects. Here she shares how her background in theater informs her directing and how producing gave her the practical experience she needed to realize her own work. Plus, a bit about why she adores filming outside in natural light.READ MORE
Please join us in welcoming new NYWIFT member Xochi Blymyer! Xochi was exposed to film from a young age by her parents, a movie hairstylist and gaffer. She found her first job with her dad as a stand-in. From there, she worked up the ranks of the Assistant Director department. She has been 1st AD for Animal Kingdom, Black Monday, and All American, to name a few. Her 2022 short film, Hey Alexa, won an Award of Merit at the Best Shorts Competition and Best Short Film at the New York International Film Awards.
Xochi told us about her life in film and tv, inspiration from her family, and her new documentary Red Dog & Bates.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Evelyn Fogleman! Evelyn is an NYC-based intimacy coordinator, writer, and content creator. For the past decade, she has worked on film and television projects for Netflix, Marvel Studios, Amazon Studios, Warner Brothers, CBS, and A24…. just to name a few! Before her current roles, Evelyn enhanced her filmmaking experience by production assisting, assistant directing, and performing stunt work. During this time, she worked as a Second Second AD for the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Jackie. She also earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination as part of the stunt team for her contributions on the Netflix series Daredevil and a Directors Guild Award for working alongside Bo Burnham in the 2018 critically-acclaimed indie hit Eighth Grade. Learn more about Evelyn as we discuss the gradual and much-needed omnipresence of intimacy coordinators on film sets and how she turned lemons into lemonade during the pandemic!READ MORE
NYWIFT Member Hayley Davis is a DGA Training Program Graduate and filmmaker from Atlanta, GA now living in Brooklyn. She’s worked on shorts, television, and feature films with the goal in mind to create an efficient and positive environment on set and is looking to continue that philosophy as an A.D. in New York City. Hayley recently worked on the highly anticipated series, The Walking Dead: Dead City as a DGA Trainee Assistant. The Walking Dead: Dead City is set to screen at the Tribeca Festival on June 13th, 2023 (OKX Theater at BMCC TPAC) at 8:00 PM and on AMC Networks on June 18th. Davis is one of 15 NYWIFT members with projects premiering at Tribeca 2023.READ MORE