The global health crisis taught us that the systems we have in place only exist to forward the interests of the wealthy and the powerful and to keep the one percent safe and cozy in their towers. However, it also showed us the exemplary actions we can take to rally help for our frontline health and service workers, the backbone of our economy.
Speaking of economies, I guess it would not take an Economics degree to know and simply see that we are struggling in all aspects. In fact, as you’re curling up on the couch right now streaming the new season of Money Heist, audio-visual and entertainment industries are grappling with millions of dollars of losses in revenue — not to mention how this affects workers like cameramen and other on-set laborers.
Although the effect of this pandemic on other sectors are relatively drastic, the audio-visual entertainment industry is also barely scraping by. Within the past month, we saw the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival and SXSW, among other film festivals in the world. Disney postponed the releases of the much-awaited biopic Black Widow (slated for release on May 1) and the widely-debated live action adaptation of Mulan. Late night shows who are typically reliant on the ooh’s and aah’s of the audience stopped taping. Both the release dates of Hollywood blockbusters A Quiet Place Part II and Fast and the Furious 9 have been moved to a later date. You get the picture. And, no, we are not in an episode of Black Mirror.
Although the above are true, a large chunk of the film industry forges on with online premieres and in-demand pay-per-view digital releases. That means that movies and TV shows are still being watched and streamed right now (and in fact needed more than ever). So that leaves us with the question: How are the movie and TV-show makers and the people behind the camera being supported? In the Philippines, here are a few initiatives and grassroots efforts:
The council announced on their Facebook page the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Action! program, which provides a one-time cash aide worth P8,000 to displaced audio-visual film workers, be that freelance or self-employed.
Spearheaded by film writer, producer, and director Carl Chavez, the LCC aims to raise funds helping vulnerable members in the filmmaking community during the COVID-19 pandemic. It started off with 500 beneficiaries as its initial mark, but as donations from different donors grew, so did the number of beneficiaries.
The proceeds are intended for freelance daily wage earners on a film set who earn less than P2,000 per day such as headcrews, electricians, crews, camera grips, caretakers, clappers, utility personnel, production assistants, art department carpenters, art department assistants, assistant wardrobe, assistant hair and make-up artists, crowd control personnel, location sound, post support staff, post production assistants, and the like.
“I started asking friends and colleagues if they had short films they would like to share online for free, including Southeast Asian filmmakers I met in various film festivals and workshops, but as word grew, a lot of filmmakers I didn’t personally know, not to mention students, started pledging their films as well. Our programmers, Dodo Dayao and Pam Miras, curated the works that were pledged, but also sourced out works from their own filmmaker friends and colleagues,” Carl says
Not only is the Lockdown Cinema Club a lump collection of films that the founder has easy access to, it’s also curated and programmed to include different sensibilities and diverse stories from the regions.
“We decided to band together with Directors Eduardo Dayao and Pam Miras to help with the programming and collation of films from other filmmaker friends and colleagues in the industry. The Volume 2 collection has short films from Lav Diaz, Erik Matti and other filmmakers across Southeast Asia. When it comes to handling the beneficiaries, we seeked help from Pat Sumagui (producer), Maolen Fadul (production designer), and Xeph Suarez (assistant director),” LCC social media manager Hans Piozon says.
Like most initiatives taking place at the grassroots level, word about it went widespread and sort of functioned as a gateway for other film support initiatives.
Soon enough, after the LCC’s first installment, the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Ang Lupon ng Pilipinong Sinematograpo, and The Ricky Lee Scriptwriting workshop, started their own efforts to raise funds in their respective networks as well. Ricky Lee started an online writing workshop which garnered around a thousand applications from aspiring screenwriters across the country. Student film organizations like the UP Cineastes, UP Cinema, and UP Cinema Arts Society eventually volunteered to help the Lockdown Cinema Club in furthering the cause.
As of March 25, the Lockdown Cinema Club has been able to raise over P1.7 million.
“[Beneficiary] film workers come from different regions. Some are from NCR, but a big chunk are from the provinces. We have film workers from Pampanga, Bulacan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan De Oro,” film worker and actress Camille Aragona says.
A cool Cebu-grown film festival is also holding an online film festival called “The Distance Between Us” which aims to help raise funds to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) at Vicente Sotto Hospital in Cebu City.
The online film festival is a Facebook watch party, among others, of curated films that are mostly made by Bisaya filmmakers. It features a two-channel video art by Ernest Diño and an impressive lineup of the best films to ever screen in the IRL Binisaya Film Festival, as well as the whole film archive of Binisaya from 2009 to present.
“If you have nothing more important to do, now’s a good time to catch up on the TBA films you might have missed” is how director Jerrold Tarog encouraged us to stay inside our homes on March 15. Back when we all thought that there would be an end in sight to this. A good public service announcement, if you ask me, unlike some public officials who audaciously shop at S&R (with a fever) and endanger the lives of everyone at a hospital.
It’s almost a month after said tweet, but the films are still up for free viewing on their YouTube Channel. May this make staying inside more thrilling.
If you, like me, are a floating head of anxiety and worry, the distraction that movies and TV shows give is next to priceless. We need them more than ever. When all this is over, we’d still need them more than ever because they will provide canonical media for our histories and tell stories of how we lived through it. In such a critical time like this it is necessary to uphold and support the people who make it possible for us to binge-watch entire episodes or swoon over lovable movie characters that take our minds away from the increasing apprehension. So if you are willing and able to donate cash to any of these initiatives, please do, because above all else, beyond every dystopian news headline that pops up, movies and TV shows and the human filmmakers behind every one of them remind us of what we have and what we are capable of as human beings.