Chicago Commercial and TV Producers Talk Coronavirus

Chicago Commercial and TV Producers Talk Coronavirus

The headlines have been filled with news on the global coronavirus pandemic, and the impact is being felt worldwide, and also here in Chicago. SCREEN spoke with several Chicago commercial, film, and television producers for their take on the recent turn of events...

SCREEN: Has coronavirus impacted your business yet to date? 

LISA MASSEUR, Executive Producer/ Founder, Tessa Films: We had to cancel a sales / marketing trip to Seattle & Portland. Otherwise, our shoots the next two weeks are proceeding as planned.

SCOTT MARVEL, President, Daily Planet: We haven’t seen any impact yet. A worldwide conference we were supplying content for was cancelled, but has moved to a streaming platform that still needs the same content. 

SCREEN: How do you see coronavirus impacting your business the rest of this year? 

CHRISTINA VAROTSIS, Unit Production Manager, BATWOMAN, CANDYMAN, SHAMELESS: As soon as the US gets caught up with testing and the real numbers get published, I suspect that studios will reconsider shooting in certain areas and will also limit, if not eliminate, staff travel.

SHANE SIMMONS, Head of Original Content, Strange Loop: With a feature or two on the horizon for this year, it’s definitely something to consider. The biggest concern is travel shutdowns, which make it hard to get everybody together for the shoot. Nothing tangible to worry about right now though, and hopefully by summer we’ll be more in the clear. Right now, trying to be the best combination of reasonable and cautious while pressing forward with plans.

MARVEL: More jobs may be done remotely on the post side of things, which we’re fully capable of and prepared for.  Production may take a hit as far as travel restrictions go.

MASSEUR: I think the biggest impact in the immediate is the travel ban many companies have employed which will ultimately delay productions if the clients cannot attend. I hope it is temporary and that in the immediate that local corporations will perhaps shoot in Chicago during this time.

SCREEN: How do you see coronavirus impacting your industry overall the rest of this year? 

MARIA FINITZO, Producer and Director, SXSW 2020 Selection THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE: Filmmaking is a precarious business at best. Everyone risks that their film will sell and recoup the investment. But even in a world without the coronavirus that doesn't always happen. So things will change, and for awhile they won't change for the better. None of us knows what is coming. But we all know everything will be different. It will be harder to sell films. It will be harder to see films at festivals. But hopefully, the virus will play out its course, and all of us will return to normal. Here's to hope.

MASSEUR: I imagine there will be a slow down in the immediate - especially on overseas productions.

MARVEL: Business in general is going to get hit hard.  Travel business is already getting hit hard.  Look for more streaming of cancelled live events and other group affairs.  People won’t be watching less tv or streaming services, so I’d say we would keep providing content.

VAROTSIS: Premieres and Industry events getting cancelled, including the unexpected largest gathering SXSW calling it this past week.  

SIMMONS: I think it will be really hard for the next 1-2 months, and then we’ll begin to bounce back. I see a lot of spring/early summer productions being cancelled or in limbo, and then late summer/early fall we’ll be able to get back on track. Looks like across the board, in almost every industry, everyone will have a rough couple of months one way or another.

SCREEN: When do you see everything getting "back to normal?”

MASSEUR: Summer I hope.

VAROTSIS: By late spring/ early summer... but then again lots of unrelated worries will get in the way, specifically the WGA contract negotiations causing a chilling effect already being felt.

SIMMONS: Late summer / early fall.

MARVEL: Hard to tell. We’re in the early stages of this.