Jennifer Naughton.

Jennifer Naughton, RGM Artists’ head of literary, explains how the agency’s clients are coping with the pandemic and addresses the lack of JobKeeper support and the exciting prospect of making content with Australian talent to export to the world.

Q: In these unprecedented times, how is your talent roster coping with the lockdown and production shutdown?

A: Everyone is doing the best that they can, given the current circumstances. Many are looking at what they can develop themselves and who they might collaborate with to stay connected.

Q: Noni Hazlehurst is among the most vocal critics of the Federal Government’s decision to exclude freelancers and contractors from JobKeeper. I assume most of RGM’s clients aren’t eligible?

A: Our industry is almost exclusively based on fixed term contract engagements and that unfortunately means the vast majority are ineligible for JobKeeper. It’s a shame that the content that has continued to entertain, amuse and support people whilst in lockdown isn’t valued more highly by decision makers.

Q: Hoodlum Entertainment’s Nathan Mayfield expressed concern for the mental health of cast and crew when Harrow 3 and Five Bedrooms 2 were forced to shut down. You share that concern?

A: The mental health implications of the shutdown will be felt by many but the camaraderie created by the way in which our industry works together will hopefully mean people can reach out to each other for support.

Q: Support Act’s Wellbeing Helpline has now been expanded beyond the music and theatre industries as a resource for all artists and arts workers across Australia. A valuable initiative?

A: Any initiative which seeks to assist anyone in the arts with wellbeing at this crucial moment and free of charge is hugely important. We can’t underestimate the benefit of a program such as this, tailored to address mental health related concerns for those in our industry and in the arts more broadly.

Q: With Neighbours shooting and Home & Away resuming next Monday, we are seeing a gradual ramping up of production?

A: No one has a crystal ball about when, but there are many positive signs that production companies are planning a tentative return in the coming months. There are obvious hurdles, most pressing being insurance, but I think this presents us with a unique opportunity to be making content exclusively with Australian cast and crews to export to the world.

Q: As you know, nationwide health and safety protocols are being prepared by AFTRS, Screen Australia, SPA and the guilds. Have you seen the draft guidelines and will they be effective in ensuring the safety of cast and crew?

A: I haven’t seen the draft guidelines as yet but look forward to seeing them.

Q: On a personal note, how are you coping? Spending a lot of time talking to clients via Zoom or text?

A: COVID-19 has taught us all to very quickly embrace new technologies and clients and industry alike seem to be preferring video calls so they can see another human. Now that the restrictions in NSW are slowly being relaxed, it would seem we are heading towards the ‘new normal’ more and more each day.

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