BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – This looks like friends having a virtual cocktail party, but Johannna Vanderspool has gotten some of her fellow television producer colleagues together to figure out how they’re going to survive.
“All of my friends are scrambling right now in some way, shape or form unless they had a tremendous amount of money in the savings account. We're all freaked out,” said Vanderspool.
Johannah Vanderspool has been a freelance TV producer for 18 years. She is so passionate about what she does that she helped create the first Non-Fiction Union one year ago. But for the past three years it has been difficult to get consistent work.
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“I’ve had a drainage on my own finances. So for this to hit is terrifying,” said Vanderspool.
One of the biggest concerns right now is that many people who work on TV and film projects are freelance not staff, so they are hired as 1099 employees and therefore don't qualify for unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave.
“I'm so scared about three months from now. I'm worried not just for like a handful of months or two months, I'm worried for like until July,” Vanderspool said.
As she tightens her financial belt, Vanderspool is growing her own vegetables and cooking simple meals at home. While her immediate future is unclear, there are some efforts being made to change that.
California Rep. Adam Schiff is leading an effort urging for federal financial relief for entertainment workers. And a number of entertainment unions like the Producers Guild and Sag AFTRA, along with companies like Netflix have set up COVID-19 disaster relief funds.
“It's really great to see that these companies are trying in Just even thinking about us, I just don't know how fast it will be to turn it around. And I also worry that not everybody is going to be included on it,” Vanderspool said.
With so much uncertainty facing her right now, Vanderspool is hopeful.
“I think there's positives that are coming from all of this that we're becoming more human. There are people helping each other. And also remembering what you value in your life,” said Vanderspool.
Vanderspool’s wisdom of valuing what we have in our life today is something we can all find some solace in.