Hollywood's Army of Craftspeople Take on COVID-19: 'We're the MacGyvers of This Industry'

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

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.

Coming Together

"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.

Contributing

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."

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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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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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