Resources for Film Production Freelancers During Covid-19

We hope you’re staying healthy and doing everything you need to in order to protect yourself. There is no longer any doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is set to dramatically alter our lives in the near future. 

The ramifications of this situation could be particularly challenging for freelancers. While there are many benefits of being a freelancer, paid sick leave isn’t one of them. There are, however, state and federal government resources, union benefits, and other tips to help those financially impacted by Covid-19 through these times.

On the brighter side, we all have been provided time to slow down, realign, and find a way to do something constructive with the potential downtime.  While productions are on hiatus, start planning and preparing for the restart of everything so you can hit the ground running when the curve does flatten and the town starts churning out content again. Make the goal to plan some work and then work that plan so you’re ready when it’s time to get back on set.

Let's think of these upcoming weeks not just as a crisis, but also an opportunity. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay connected (digitally), and let’s flatten that curve, so we can get back to work.  


State & Federal Government Resources

Infographic showing gov resources

If you think you’ve been infected with Covid-19 and cannot work: 

  • In California, if you have a loan out company (or you are incorporated), and pay yourself a salary, then you’ve likely been paying into the State Disability Insurance (SDI), which qualifies you for Disability Insurance as well as paid Family Leave programs. According to the CA EDD “If you’re unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim.
  • If you’re not incorporated, and have been getting paid via 1099, you will have had to elect to pay into the optional Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC) to qualify. 
  • The Rauschenberg Foundation is also launching emergency medical grants for artists who need help paying for healthcare.


Financial Services

If you are interested/need a loan:

  • Because COVID-19 has been declared a disaster, you can apply to the Small Business Association who “provide low-interest disaster loans to help businesses and homeowners recover from declared disasters.”  Loans are up to $2mm and interest rates are as low as 3.75%.*certain qualifications need apply. 
  • Another option is Opportunity Fund, which exists to "Provide Hard-Working Entrepreneurs with Access to Capital". You can apply for micro loans on their website. 

If you have employees, and are worried about making payroll:

    • Employers (with at least two employees) that are “experiencing a slowdown in their businesses or services as a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy may apply for the UI Work Sharing Program.


Union Benefits

  • SAG-AFTRA - if your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an unemployment insurance (UI) claim. UI provides a partial wage replacement benefit to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced (read more) .
  • As reported in Variety: “Guild workers who do get sick are entitled to benefits by filing Disability Insurance where they will be entitled to short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week.”
  • TEAMSTERS - Check out the Teamsters statement on COVID-19


General Q&A:


Q: What's the difference between a job being “cancelled” vs. a job being “postponed”? 

A: If it’s only postponed, the hiring company does not need to pay you any cancellation fees!


Q: What if you have a “force majeure” clause in your contract? 

A: Force majeure refers to a clause that is included in contracts to remove liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations.  
In common law systems such as the U.S. and the U.K., force majeure clauses are acceptable but must be more explicit about the events that would trigger the clause. Meaning, read your contract(s) and check the language. In most cases, a pandemic is not included in force majeure (read more).

Q: How can one budget for a crisis?

A: #1 imperative goal for your business to have 6 months of emergency savings. If you do not do this already, a simple place to start is to keep a spreadsheet to track your overhead costs. Salaries, health care, marketing, monthly subscriptions, studio rent, insurance costs, etc, should all be on there. Add 10% and multiply by 6. That's your minimum target number for emergency savings. 

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