ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Hollywood workers have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s estimated more than more 100,000 industry workers are now out of a job.
The virus has caused hundreds of shutdowns in the entertainment industry from television shoots to film productions. Crews that were living paycheck to paycheck are now dealing with a new reality.
Some of Hollywood’s biggest movies have been filmed right here in Georgia. Key grip Chris Birdsong has been a big part of several blockbuster productions.
“The grips are like the gaffer or the head electrician brings in the lights they plug it in and then we come back behind them and we shade, color cut, and fuse the lights to give it good, pretty quality."
On set, grips are known as problem solvers.
“A joke on set is, if you can’t figure it out get a grip,” said Chris.
So when productions halted nearly a month ago due to coronavirus Chris had to put his ingenuity and years of experience to use.
“Because we were so caught off guard and they were shutting down so quick, we just have no way of planning if you know, like everybody else, and everybody else is like okay go home now. What do you do for money?”
The shutdown threatens to leave below-the-line workers without income for months. But Chris’s 15 years of experience and the nature of the movie business has helped him prepare for tough times.
“I always tell all my guys, especially the younger grips, save your money because November, December, January, those are really slow months for us anyway. So, you should always have a minimum of three months worth of bail money socked away for a rainy day,” he said.
The stimulus package promises to cover gig workers adding a much-needed economic buffer. But just in case the industry overhaul goes on longer than planned, Chris is already planning his next move.
“I’ve definitely been talking to some of my friends. How can we we weather the storm, how can we create content from home? I know a lot of people are doing it, a lot of the talk shows are.”
In the United States alone, film, television and the streaming industry supports 2.5 million jobs and 93,000 small businesses.