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My Movie Shoot Was Cancelled Twice Due To COVID And I Have Advice For You About It

Money, jobs, safety, and security wasn’t promised in the film industry.

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I am the leading actress in a movie that was cancelled DAYS before the March 2020 COVID shutdown and then after months and months of planning, waiting, learning, adjusting, re-budgeting, and getting set for a December shoot in Nashville- our film was shut down DAYS before our shoot because Nashville the city had announced a shut down (and filmmaking isn’t an essential business in Nashville). And it was the HARDEST choice to do this to our cast and crew AGAIN after a very dry and jobless year. And ya know what? We’re ok.

While we were all in our own homes during the time we were originally supposed to begin filming in December, my director texted me that Nashville was reported as the highest spike in America on that day. So, we made a great call to back off and keep our people out of Nashville and our TN team members in their homes. Nashville is still a difficult place to work right now (down to 9% ICU capacity currently). As is Los Angeles (o% ICU beds available) where I live and hope to work. And thus I am at peace with delaying. We can call it cancelling, rescheduling, pushing back, whatever – no one is judging a project that is delayed or cancelled right now.

We have ‘planned’ on rescheduling a February shoot, but we are well-aware that the holiday spike will not have been resolved in a tidy re-open by then. We’re taking it month by month. That’s ok, too.

A while back our SAG rep emailed me (I’m the signatory) to ask if we had an official rescheduled shoot date and I replied that we did not have one just yet and that there was a death in the family of one of our team members and we are in flux, he sent me an email entitled ‘Project Void’ and I lost my sh*t and wrote him a very Karen email. I explained that the finesse of SAG’s wording is extremely important to people like myself, just saying a project is VOID by SAG is triggering. That’s ok, too. Big highs and big lows WERE actually promised in the film industry.

I have no news to share here, only support. If your project was cancelled, or 30% of your budget dedicated to COVID has given you pause about the outcome of your work, or a financier has pulled out, or your team has threatened to go non-union, or you’re scared that you won’t work again… I’m here to tell you that it is ok. You aren’t missing this impossibly wonderful ‘selling’ opportunity, you aren’t missing anything. Yes, people are working all over LA and the the world, but it’s ok to not be working, too. It’s ok. I promise.

The industry is in flux as if we are in the middle of the writer’s strike of 2007 X10,000. Everything is going to change and being at the forefront of that isn’t necessary. Developing deeply interesting projects ‘ready to go’ is plenty. Staying safe and keeping your community safe is necessary. Staying home or giving in to The Great Back Home Migration or learning a new off-set skill is ok.

We CANNOT hit the ground running in 2021. Starting and stopping and starting and stopping is much worse for our mental health, our day-to-day living, and our dreams. Take this time to breathe, serve meals at a local place for people in need (Hollywood-based opportunities posted below), use your hands and feet and talents to serve the community, help focus that energy towards ending the suffering and bringing people together virtually, or just keep your family above water.

I urge you to consider pushing back a project for at least 3 months MORE than you want to right now. What could be accomplished in those *extra* 3 months? Fundraising, confidence in COVID treatments and breakthroughs, fully story-boarding out an animatic for testing the flow of the piece, developing the complimentary series, or… and stay with me here… not doing anything else but maintaining and being and living and thriving?

You are a real person. You are not missing out. You will come back stronger to a completely new film industry that will be shaped by the people who are developing now, not necessarily those who are working now. You don’t need to consider 2021 a loss if you’re unable to do anything until the country re-opens completely. You are a person first and all your work will suffer if you ignore your personhood.

I’m gonna repeat that, Your work will suffer if you ignore your personhood.

Tell me what was cancelled or postponed, I am making a list. Hit me up on Instagram @JennicaRenee or @TheDrillMag and I’ll add you and your project to a listicle this year.

Serving opportunity from BlessedSacramentHollywood.org:

Genevieve’s Garden at BSC, https://blessedsacramenthollywood.org/volunteers

Genevieve’s Garden opened this week to allow a place of rest for those being challenged with living on the streets. This resting space is open from 12 – 2 PM, Monday thru Friday and the participants get a free lunch and drinks. There is plenty of opportunity for volunteers and there is a need for ice, plastic forks, napkins, cups, fruit, and of course we could use help to pay for security. Call Br. Henry at the parish with any questions. (323) 462-6311

Serving opportunity from TheCenterInHollywood.org:

Volunteer Inquiry – The Center at Blessed Sacrament is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to ending isolation and homelessness in Hollywood.

During COVID-19 we have limited our activities on site, and therefor have changed our volunteer program to meet the current needs of our participants. Please reach out to our Volunteer and Relationship Manager to find out what on-site and virtual opportunities will be right for you. Thank you for your interest in supporting solutions to isolation and homelessness!

We offer interactive groups and activities on weekday mornings and participate in Los Angeles County’s Coordinated Entry System.

Mental health support & resources from a friend in the film industry:

More Than You See is a platform providing resources, personal stories, and a place to start diving into your mental health. Because we are all More Than You See. #YESiAmMore

Explore resources HERE. Explore more about More Than You See HERE.

More Than You See was created by Deborah Lee Smith, an actor and entrepreneur, who felt the desire to create a “Help Desk” for mental health. As she explains,

“As an actor, I got really good at putting on an inauthentic face, after all, that was my job. But, as things got really tough in my life I realized that this mask wasn’t serving me. In fact, it was doing me a lot of harm. When things got to a breaking point, I started looking for ways to cope because I was drowning in my helplessness and depression. I realized that everyone is putting on a face. I started having honest conversations with my closest friends, and I realized how much we are all “faking it.” This is so damaging to our society and our selves. As social media has allowed us to craft a vision of our “perfect lives,” we are leaving out the shit that matters just as much: the pain, the mental health, the struggles of everyday life.”

When dealing with our own mental health issues, it is hard to know what may bring you out of the darkness. It could be a song, a meditation practice, therapy, a podcast. This catalyst can be something you can hold on to as you start to heal yourself, and this platform is a library of catalysts and stories to remind you that you are not alone. Find a resource that speaks to you, and dive into your healing. You never know what might help you feel seen and understood.

If you feel so compelled to share your story or resources with our community, please contact us. Remember that we are all More Than You See. #YESiAmMore

Jennica Schwartzman, Managing Partner at Purpose Pictures Productions, Co-Founder of Little Sister Entertainment, and a member of The Producers Guild of America, SAG/AFTRA, and Moms-In-Film LA, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution as a multi-hyphenate actress-writer-producer. Jennica has been published in the Producers Guild Magazine "Produced By," Legacy Arts Magazine, Paragon Road, Bustle, and she is a guest writer for the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion Pictures' #WomenKickAss Forum, and WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a workshop teacher for The International Family Film Festival's Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has produced ten feature film releases. Jennica and her husband /producing partner /writing partner Ryan have two kiddos and reside in Hollywood.

The Drill is Copyright © 2020 Little Sister Entertainment.