In the wake of stay-at-home orders, major film studios have reorganized, postponed and canceled productions, creating complications for USC’s School of Cinematic Arts students. With COVID-19 shutting down the industry throughout the country, some SCA students are unsure where they will find work in the near future.
Cinema and media studies junior Eloise Rollins Fife said that she would like to work at an agency and build connections in the industry, but she is also thinking about attending graduate school since the fate of Hollywood is uncertain. She said that starting as an assistant is a challenge in itself, and now that production companies are experiencing financial crises, it may be even more difficult for students to enter the industry.
“People are just going to take whatever work they can get, and the money and the abuse and everything isn't really going to be on the forefront of their mind,” Rollins Fife said.
As productions close and students scramble to find work, some are turning to post-production and animation for experience and a source of potential income.
“The virus has already put my career advancement on hold,” said Jay Goldstuck, a junior film and TV production major who aspires to make documentaries. “I was planning to work as a PA on my first feature film over the summer, but films are no longer shooting. That puts a massive
gap in my resume.”
Tiffany Li, a senior cinema arts and TV production major, said she was interviewing for work in New York before the outbreak, but has been unable to contact her recruiter since companies began instituting hiring freezes.
“I'm sort of leaning toward pursuing animation because there's more remote production that can be done,” Li said. “My future work might look more digitally based where it's either like post production where I'm doing more editing or doing animation, motion graphics, illustration — stuff that I can work on remotely as a freelancer.”
Some SCA students are hoping that the future of Hollywood will bring about new production. Goldstuck is optimistic about the opportunities COVID-19 has created for documentary filmmaking.
“Already there are funds, grants and fellowships for documentary-making in the time of COVID-19,” Goldstuck said. “I am hopeful that the success of documentaries continues to grow, and therefore job and grant opportunities in the documentary field will increase.”
Finn Kobler, a writing for screen and television major sophomore, wrote in an email to Annenberg Media that he is fortunate that he has at least another year before worrying about transitioning from a degree to a career. Kobler also thinks that the sentiment about the entertainment industry undergoing “radical changes post-COVID 19” is false.
“I think the circulating predictions of ‘Zoom content is the future of media’ are completely incorrect. I think the minute people are given the opportunity to abandon the platform, they will,” he wrote . “In fact, I expect the drive to return to normalcy to be so fervent, content creators will do their best to lean far away from even mentioning the virus.”
Richard Whitley, a screenwriting professor at SCA, said he believes that while things will be done remotely for a period during and after the pandemic, things will also eventually go back to the way they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Spanish Flu epidemic happened, and we got through life,” Whitley said. “But I think the next couple of years are going to be different."
Though times are uncertain, Whitley stressed that most students right out of college have an idea of what they want to do and the uncertainty in the film industry should not stop students from doing what they want to do.
“Everyone's got an iPhone now, and everyone can make a movie and everyone can sit down and write a script,” Whitely said.
Whitley emphasized that though he is not able to predict what the future holds for the film industry, there will always be a need for new stories.
“Everyone needs scripts, and everyone needs stories,” Whitley said. “My God, look at how people are just devouring content. They’re gonna need them more than ever, and that’s where writers come in.”