As my first e-book is being released, the world is slowly emerging from a blanket of stay-at-home orders due to the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. At the time of this writing, the industry is still (mostly) on hiatus and many unions, networks, and studio executives are working on solutions that will enable productions to resume. Many questions remain, the biggest being: “How do we keep actors safe working on set in a pandemic?”

Working on Set in a Pandemic

Acting is a full contact sport, and in productions, actors are on the frontline. It now appears that testing will become a daily/weekly occurrence on set. It’s difficult to predict what the new norms will be, but here are some possibilities:

  • First audition rounds may be done via self-tape. If so, having credits from renowned productions will be more important than ever since casting directors won’t be able to assess actors’ readiness to go to set via in-person auditions;
  • Subsequent audition rounds may occur via apps like Skype that will allow directors/producers to work with the actor live but not in person;
  • To steer away from the red tape involved in live action productions, some funding could move to the animation sector where actors can work from home studios;
  • Since California is more stringent on its laws, many productions could move to other states. The reverse could also happen: actors will feel safer in California. If other states/countries mandate quarantines upon arriving, there will indeed be less filming out of state;
  • Many film sets are already opting to quarantine their entire crews;
  • Once a vaccine is available, being vaccinated may become mandatory to work on set.
  • Sets will likely be much smaller, meaning there could be fewer roles, especially smaller roles;
  • To compensate for this, there could be much more exposition in dialog, meaning more lines to learn.

I suspect that for actors to make a living in this new decade, a self-tape set up will be mandatory and a home studio to record voice overs will be a pretty good idea (read the Voice Acting series to learn about making a living with your voice).

At the moment, however, there are still many unresolved issues. For instance, when will acting schools specialized in theater and improv be able to start up again (in person)? Will working at restaurants still be feasible for actors? And where does the pandemic leave Canadians aspiring to move? It will, no doubt, be even more difficult to train, immigrate and breakthrough than it was before, at least for a while. But overtime, this may well pass.

So, in the meantime think about creating content that doesn’t involve many actors and locations. Shooting scripts with characters you’ve created and that you love may be your saving grace on a creative level. Plus, having good material online may be a great way for you to get discovered. Content distributors are scouring the internet for talent and ideas via feeds, and casting directors are seeing new actors via open calls for self-tapes. In a world where training and exposure are more limited, you can keep training with online classes. Audition training would be excellent right now. Many schools have found creative ways to teach online, including improv schools. You can also work on material at home by working on scenes with partners on FaceTime and Zoom. In other words, stick to your guns, work at your craft as best you can, stay healthy, and be ready to roll when things open up. You’ll be one long step ahead of those who weren’t able to stick it through.