Hollywood's Army of Craftspeople Take on COVID-19: 'We're the MacGyvers of This Industry'
The glorified version of a nation at war evokes people coming together, contributing to something larger than themselves, and collectively willing a victory in pursuit of a worthy cause.
Though the coronavirus is no traditional enemy, this feels like war. The battles rage in hospital rooms, biomedical labs and ICUs. The heroic soldiers don scrubs and wield microscopes. Meanwhile, the cloistered public tries to keep calm and carry on.
On the home front, one inspiring community is assembling its creative might, which has fallen into disuse amid the Hollywood shutdown, and joining the fight.
"We're the MacGyvers of this industry," said Nickolaus Brown, President of the Motion Picture Costumers Local #705, whose website reads: "If we can't buy it, we build it."
Now, working alongside the Costume Designers Guild #892 (CDG), Affiliated Property Craftpersons #44, and a host of theatrical groups, these "fabric nerds obsessed with creating the exact shade" just might save your life.
"We have a huge army of costumers and volunteers who've stepped up to the plate," Brown told dot.LA. They are coordinating to make masks, gowns and booties for delivery to the front lines.
"It started organically," said Salvador Perez, President of CDG.
Like virtually everyone in the motion picture industry, costumers and set designers cannot work due to social distancing. As infection counts climbed and news of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) began to surface, people wanted to help.
"Members started reaching out to me about these desperate pleas for PPE for medical professionals," recalls Brown. Though it surely feels longer, that started in the middle of last week. "I put a post on Facebook, a call to arms." Following an email solicitation to the #705 membership, about 130 people had enlisted.
As for #892, "it was just going to be 10 or 12 of us doing this," said Perez. "Now we have signed up about 100 people."
The participating unions, which also include Locals #80 and #768, began working independently. CDG received help from some of its suppliers, including Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michaels. Western Costume and Kagan Trim sent rolls of elastic to #705. In true MacGyver style, two CDG members watched a do-it-yourself YouTube video on mask design then improved the process and sent out guidelines to members.
"Everybody knew they had to act," said Brown.
IATSE, the umbrella guild comprised of numerous local affiliates, caught wind of the groundswell and got involved. Things began to streamline and scale.
"Their arms have a much greater reach to reach out to the governor's office or mayor's office and to have substantive conversations about what people need in the field," said Brown.
Now there are daily conference calls, where representatives from the locals and the west coast office of IATSE coordinate.
As the union offices procure supplies, they will divide the fabric, thread and elastic into kits. These will either be delivered to the members who've signed up, or picked up by members in staggered shifts. Completed masks will be dropped off at the CDG office in Burbank, before being delivered to hospitals.
Maintaining social distancing adds to the challenge, but the process has been designed accordingly. "We're trying to protect our members, but still help," said Perez.
Each kit, said Brown, will yield 24 masks. The first batch out of #705 will be 32 kits, meaning 768 masks, which should be completed and ready for delivery by early next week. Perez expects CDG members to make about 50 each on a similarly ambitious timeline.
"Mind you, we're the people that make the Batsuit," he crowed.
Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the costumers learned over the weekend that without the proper supplies they could not make PPE of the quality required for high-risk situations like surgery. So, the first shipment is bound for lower-risk workers, like those in grocery stores, senior homes, homeless care facilities and auxiliary health practices like physical therapy.
But, said Perez, "we have a contract with 3M and we're trying to get them to give us the filter fabric" that's needed to make the higher-quality masks.
Still, noted Brown, supplying PPE for lower-risk situations could be extremely useful, since it theoretically should keep the higher-quality masks available for use in higher-risk situations.
As the costumer effort progresses and continues to streamline, more participants will likely volunteer. More requests will come in for supplies. And more things will be made. According to Brown, Local #44, which makes props and designs sets, "is working on making face shields."
Beyond helping others, the work is also helping the costumers.
"People at this time need a way to focus on contributing and to have a purpose in this really difficult time," said Brown. "They are champing at the bit to feel like they're doing something. Having this project has given a lot of people a purpose."
Sam Blake is dot.LA's entertainment and media reporter. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake
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Lots happened in the L.A. tech and startup community this week. In a rundown of the top headlines, Chief Host and Correspondent Kelly O'Grady takes you through the key stories:
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Coronavirus Updates: Netflix Buys Egyptian Theatre for Post-Pandemic Premiers; TrueCar Lays Off Staff
Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.
- Facing twin threats, TrueCar lays off 40 percent of staff
- Netflix buys Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre to stage post-pandemic events, movie premieres
Facing twin threats, TrueCar lays off 40 percent of staff<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjgzMzYzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzg5MjUyMX0.Wx6LVxNhx4WbcMFiQkuylQLs5AO2G-_4iQtc61SrdRQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="dc12e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f06205606520be18d44ae28069fd271e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Santa-Monice based TrueCar laid off 219 employees Thursday, which represents 40 percent of its workforce. The cuts are partly a reaction to Covid-19 and fewer people buying cars. They are also a response to the loss of a crucial partnership with USAA that expires at the end of September. That deal accounted for 29% of cars sold last year. </p><p>The cuts will save TrueCar $35 million a year, according to an analyst note from JMP Securities. </p><p>While TrueCar would seem to benefit from car shoppers wanting to have less face-to-face contact at dealerships, the company is not immune from the large pressures the industry is facing. With that said, auto sales have bounced back more quickly than analysts anticipated. </p><p>"With website traffic and purchase intent returning to pre-COVID-19 levels for the last two weeks of April and these trends continuing into May (and likely June), auto's recovery has surprised us," wrote Andrew Boone, vice-president at JMP Securities. </p>
Netflix buys Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre to stage post-pandemic events, movie premieres<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM1NDU2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMDAzNzAxMn0.5nzkeqvFWx6-IduqjB4jCvwwfc9n2uLSieXjpOj7i-E/image.jpg?width=980" id="e09dd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d367203996d299149d47684f5b2122e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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As FaZe Clan prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary on Saturday, it's no great wonder why chief executive Lee Trink describes the fact that the company has even lasted a decade as "mind-blowing for a lot of people."
On the heels of recent milestones like a $40 million series A funding round led by Jimmy Iovine, which pegged the firm's value around $250 million, and a partnership with Sugar23 productions to form FaZe Studios, "It feels like we finally have the appropriate attention that we deserve," Trink said. He has big plans for L.A.-based FaZe Clan to become an international powerhouse that dominates the entire entertainment industry.
FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink
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