As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the entertainment industry was forced to almost completely stop production. While the theater industry remains essentially inactive and personal productions are extremely limited, according to Ruthie Fierberg, BC ’10, film and television opportunities are beginning to emerge with strict COVID-19 protocols.

In a panel hosted by the Athena Film Festival titled “Entertainment on Lockdown: How COVID Changed the Industry”, three women who work in television, media and theater discussed the impact of COVID-19 on their respective areas and its impact on jobs and what the industry can look like after the pandemic.

Hosted by Elena Blekhter, BC ’10, a scripted podcast consultant to Spotify and more recently co-executive producer for Netflix’s new series, “Ginny and Georgia,” the panel examined the shift from March 2020 in-person production to remote work .

Fierberg, host of the Why We Theater podcast and former Executive Editor at Playbill, spoke about the large number of theater actors and crew members behind the scenes who are currently unemployed due to the closure of Broadway. Still, she was optimistic about a staggered reopening of shows, but acknowledged that smaller theaters in the community and in the region may not have the same opportunities.

“Broadway will be back. It is not a question of whether; It’s a question of when, ”said Fierberg. “These buildings are historic and many of them are listed so you don’t have to worry about someone taking back the space while smaller theaters on Broadway or in the area are unable to pay their rent to a landlord. they will close. “

Fierberg also noted that unlike the gradual reopening of indoor restaurants and cinemas, operating with limited capacity for Broadway theaters is financially unsustainable.

“Socially distant theater is definitely not profitable. Ninety percent [capacity] Depending on how long they run, theaters are sometimes not profitable, ”said Fierberg. “The nonprofits will have an advantage here.”

Now television is very much alive – with security precautions. Kelly McCreary, BC ’03, best known for her role as Dr. Maggie Pierce in the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” explained the series’ COVID-19 logs on set.

“The days are structured with a little less work while our hours are shorter – that is, keeping people healthy and making sure people can go home and rest,” noted McCreary. “In a way, it respects our humanity so much more than our habits in this industry in the past.”

Unlike many other TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy took over a COVID-19 storyline when production resumed in Fall 2020. McCreary explained this storyline adjustment as an opportunity to make a compelling statement about the pandemic and honor front workers.

“We have these meaningful connections to these people, to whom we keep paying lip service and saying, ‘Support them’ and ‘Encourage them’ [and] “Give our important people the resources they need, the emotional support, and everything,” said McCreary. “This was our way of actually putting our money where our mouths were and this season is really dedicated to the frontline health workers and telling their stories as they were told to us.”

In addition to Grey’s Anatomy, McCreary addressed the general surge in storytelling and creative opportunity due to the social isolation caused by the pandemic.

“Just look at TikTok: I mean, even bored people get incredibly creative and use their time to do things and express themselves and learn new skills so that they can create and express themselves. I don’t think that will go away. I think there is going to be a lot of really great content, ”said McCreary.

To wrap up the event, panelists looked at the rising awareness of racial injustice and violence against people of color that is at the forefront of entertainment in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and industry-specific initiatives like We See You White, American Theater, a statement by the Anti-racism and representation demands by BIPOC theater artists on the American Theater.

“We were also awakened to the existence of the other pandemic that we have lived [through in] This country since its inception has been that of injustice and violence against non-white people in this country, especially black people … but [also] Almost every other non-white ethnic group, ”said McCreary. “I think there have been a lot of stories about communities that have been on the sidelines. [which] People have developed an appetite for hearing that I don’t think will go away. “

Kelli Herod, Vice President, Post Production at Smithsonian Channel, spoke about the importance of increased exposure, especially in the media. While the pandemic has shed light on the racial inequalities that exist in the industry, artists have made it their business to reinforce underrepresented voices.

“There are also [the fact that] COVID has affected the color communities a lot more so I think the storytelling aspect is … this exciting new change we are seeing, “Herod said. “I definitely hope it stays that way because if people can’t really see their stories or see themselves in the media, then other people can’t see their stories either. It’s just one more thing that stands between us all and really gets along. “

Assistant Editor Katie Levine can be contacted at katie.levine@columbiaspectator.com. Follow her on Twitter @itskatielevine.

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