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Survey Shows Grim Coronavirus Impact to Film Creatives; 71 Percent Fully Unemployed

Much of the data comes from COVID-19 emergency grant applications.

The marquee for the Iowa Theater, closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak, is seen on John Wayne Drive, in Winterset, Iowa. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or deathUS Virus Outbreak Iowa Daily Life, Winterset, United States - 01 Apr 2020

The closed Iowa Theater in Winterset, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock

New survey data from Americans for the Arts released Friday offers insight into the grim realities film industry creatives, many now unemployed, are facing during the current global health crisis. Among the findings: 31 percent had no savings when the crisis hit and now a full 60 percent have nothing in the bank. On average they’re expecting a $44,000 decline in income for 2020.

Much of data was collected as part of the application process for Artist Relief, a coalition of nonprofits and foundations in response to the crisis that is awarding $5,000 grants to creatives in need. Some 11,000 survey responses have been collected, including 1,300 filmmakers and other creatives working in film.

Compared to overall respondents, those in the film industry started with a higher expected income for this year ($66,000 versus $43,000). But they’re expecting to take a bigger hit; on average they expect to earn just $15,000 in 2020.

On average, film respondents earned 74 percent of their money each week through creative enterprise; 37 percent work a non-creative job (like at a restaurant) in addition to their film work. Of those, 60 percent have been furloughed or laid off from their non-creative job and 34 percent have had their hours cut at those jobs.

The average financial impact per film worker to date stands at $17,450 and 71 percent are fully unemployed because of the pandemic.

Here’s how those who have lost creative income plan to cope:

-78 percent plan to apply for grants

-58 percent plan to apply for unemployment

-35 percent do not yet have a plan but will be making one

-34 percent are planning on using income from non-creative work

-23 percent plan to seek a loan from a financial institution

-19 percent plan to seek a personal loan from family or friends

The bright spot: over three-quarters of film respondents say they have or plan to use their art to address community need and will participate in the recovery using their creativity.

Artist Relief, a coalition of nonprofits and foundations, launched April 8 and so far has received 55,000 applications have been submitted by creatives working in a range of industries as artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and more. Organizers say the survey response data will help them better advocate for creatives on the local, state, and national stages as government and foundations dole out money for people in need. And the need is great: Artist Relief’s currently expects to be able to award funding for 200 artists. Since it launched with $10 million in funding, the effort has raised over $1 million.

Real-time survey results are available here. More information about Artist Relief is available here.

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