Connecting in the time of COVID-19
As we settle into the ‘new normal’ of life under lockdown and allow for the shock of the decimation of our screen sector to sink in, the irony is not lost on us – now more than ever, people are consuming our content for comfort, entertainment and, most importantly, a sense of connection to the outside world.
The screen and arts industry has taken a massive hit as a result of COVID-19, with more than 20,000 out of work and hundreds of projects put on indefinite hold. High levels of uncertainty and anxiety are commonplace. Now more than ever we need to stay connected and support one another.
For many of us, one of the key motivations to work in this industry is the desire to be part of a team. With gatherings of more than two people now forbidden, our sector has resorted to some excellent ways to remain connected and informed.
As an ex-producer turned screen sector coach, I’ve made it my business over the past few years to track and engage with our industry’s online beating heart as a way of not only being able to offer guidance and links to my clients, but to also ensure that I’m across the latest in initiatives, trends and connection points.
Over the past few weeks of this crisis I’ve seen a proliferation of new Facebook groups, online webinars and websites spring up to support the work that our agencies and guilds are doing. I hope that the list at the end of this story will provide you with some new ways to stay informed, inspired, employed and, most importantly, connected during these uncertain times. Please feel free to add further links in the comments if there is something useful that I may have missed.
But before you head there though, let’s look a little more at why staying connected is so important during this period and some key tips and strategies for doing so.
Not only are we social creatures that require connection and belonging as a core human need, but we’re also creatures of habit. Currently all our usual habits have been disrupted.
Try to keep your routines and habit in place as best as possible. Replace activities like catching up to socialise with setting up a phone date with friends, and walking and talking at the same time.
Technology has many limitations and pitfalls but this is an area where it can really help us so embrace the tools that can help us all stay connected. While we can’t see people in real life, we can try to see images of their faces. FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Instagram Live and Houseparty are great free apps to experiment with.
Last weekend we switched our Book Club to a Zoom Club and once we’d all got the hang of it, we had a great evening complete with wine and cheese. Virtual dinner parties are popping up everywhere and Pub Choir is doing beautiful things online for those who want to sing together.
You could also try sending voice memos to friends as a way of creating more connection than just writing a text.
And consider creating group text chains as this can be a great way of getting conversation, humour and information flowing. You can ignore it when you want or when you want to jump in there’s usually someone around immediately to respond.
Frequency is more important than duration at the moment, so consider switching out the weekly catch up call with your Mum to more frequent, quick check ins.
It’s also okay to be boring. The one thing we’re all missing is companionship. I’m noticing how my daughter, who’s currently doing her HSC, creates an online group with her study friends. They all do their work silently but they can see each other and un-mute when they have something to say.
Sometimes it feels like there are only streams of bad news and this does little to help calm our anxiety. We need to actively balance this out with conscious efforts to be little rays of sunshine – not just for ourselves but importantly for others. Share funny jokes and videos, inspiring podcasts and soothing music. Send fun items – letters, postcards and care packages, and loving gestures for others will lift your spirits too.
Check in on elderly and isolated people in your neighbourhood. That small gesture may be the thing that makes their day right now.
These are tough times and they’re going to get tougher. We may have to be 1.5m apart but we can still reach out and connect with one another and that’s what’ll get us through this period.
Stay safe and get connected!
- Australian Arts Amidst COVID-19: A platform for the arts sector to share ideas, information and ask questions
- Artstasker: An Air asker style set up for the creative sector to share skills and offer services to one another
- I Lost My Gig Australia: Tracks and compiles the dollar value of lost income as well as the heartbreaking stories of our arts and creative industry workers.
- Art2Biz: Provides an opportunity for artists and performers to provide micro performances particularly to teams and businesses.
- Screen Producers Australia is running live webinars on Facebook daily, with CEO Matthew Deaner and industry guests providing advice and opinions
- Monica Davidson at Creative Plus Business did a fantastic webinar last week called I Will Survive that was brimming with practical resources and tips.
- TV producer turned keynote speaker and trainer Maz Farrelly did a brilliant webinar last week on pitching and how to stand out now more than ever in these challenging times
- Denise Erikson and Ester Coleman Hawkins from Media Mentors have teamed up with ACMI to provide twice weekly free online skills workshops called Running Free.
GUILDS & AGENCIES
Now more than ever is a time to be subscribing to newsletters and social media for your guilds, state agencies and Screen Australia as there are huge efforts being made by their comms teams to provide up to date information and advice.
Agencies have been quick to pivot their programs to supporting development of projects in order to keep funds circulating in our sector.
Of particular note is the Google sheet SA Film/TV Industry COVID-19 Information & Assistance put together by producer Kirsty Stark that provides links, up dates and connections and encourages anyone to contribute. It is not just SA specific.
WIFT and Screen Vixens are hosting a free webinar with wellbeing expert Kyla Austin April 7. Members can register directly with Diana Fisk.
Screen Australia has also compiled a directory regarding government stimulus measures, with a list of FAQs around the Producer Offset and the agency’s operations, and launched a Facebook group where it will post events and opportunities.
We’re in for a marathon and not a sprint by the looks of things so take this opportunity to get as connected online as you can to our industry and to support one another virtually.
Importantly, also use this period of content consumption to watch Australian-made and home grown content and support great online portals such as OzFlix.
Ellenor Cox is an Emmy and AACTA Award winning producer turned screen sector executive coach, and a regular contributor to IF magazine. Subscribe to her Facebook page for her regular blogs on strategies and tips for coping during this time.