Another sunrise in sunny Hollywood is on the way as quarantined actor Jon Klaft prepares to start his work day in search for any possible new roles. Klaft opens his laptop as he is barely opening his eyes. In search of potential job auditions and checking up on pending auditions, Klaft checks emails to see any work that has previously been sent. Every week for Klaft looks the same these days. He wakes up, checks emails from his agent and auditions for countless roles.
Klaft is not the only actor suffering in Hollywood. As Los Angeles tries to survive the devastating blow from COVID-19’s massive job loss, actors are also suffering since shut down of productions began. According to Deadline: “Los Angeles has regained 16,000 jobs but is still down a total of 252,000 jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data also indicated that the entertainment industry has been hit much worse than other sectors in the region.”
Weeks and months without any work seemed to be the new norm in Hollywood during the pandemic. Movies, shows, and some media outlets had been shut down and out of work, causing many to experience job loss with unpredictable answers as to when they would return.
Recently, studios have been opening up under strict regulations, and actors are able to audition for roles from their homes. Klaft, a Detroit native and now Hollywood resident, is one of the many hopeful actors trying to get a job or two to pay his bills and make a name for himself during this global crisis.
Klaft, 34, started acting in high school in Detroit, Michigan, and later realized he had to make the move to Los Angeles in 2011.
“I knew there was more opportunity for T.V. and film for younger people,” said Klaft, who has been acting for 10 years now. In addition to acting, he also works an office job, and is a residential DJ at a popular bar in West Hollywood. The pandemic took away all three of his jobs, making it even more difficult for him this past year.
“All productions, and audition stuff shut down probably until September 2020,” Klaft said. “Production figured out what COVID rules they needed to have for sets that were approved by the Screen Actors Guild. It was months upon months of hearing nothing.”
Actors and media production employees had to turn to unemployment benefits, which was not guaranteed. When the Coronavirus pandemic hit the globe March 2020, most people thought it would only last a couple weeks.
One year later, of this month, roughly 165 million vaccines have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC. Gov. Gavin Newsom is announcing daily on social media networks about where and when residents are able to get their vaccines. Vaccine handouts and extensive use of safety precautions are making it easier for those who were unable to work, to get back to work. Hollywood has to follow strict guidelines in order to get their actors back on screen and in the studios.
SAG-AFTRA let members know via letter in December that “most” film and TV productions will stay on hiatus through at least the middle of January. SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris wrote: “This means that the number of our member performers working on sets right now is reduced. Our safety protocols ensure appropriate precautions for the holiday hiatus period including additional time for testing prior to the resumption of production.” Daily COVID tests will play a big role in on-set requirements. If anyone on any set tests positive for the Coronavirus, then the entire set needs to shut down for days until they are able to recover. Not only does this cause a financial strain, but it causes delayed working schedules.
According to reporting by the Los Angeles Times in September 2020, Hollywood was able to come to terms with pandemic regulations and employment. “Under the deal, all union employees will receive 10 days of COVID-19 paid sick leave, per production, which can be used for time for testing, or self-isolation or if a family member tests positive. The agreement ensures those who go on COVID-19 sick leave will be reinstated once they are cleared to return to work, alleviating any concerns among some crew that they may lose work if they reveal they have tested positive,” the story read.
In February, Klaft finally booked a gig among all of the hectic pandemic shutdowns. His agent had him audition for the TV show “Dear White People,” which is in its fifth and final season. Auditions started again in the fall, once rules were regulated, and he auditioned via email and sent in a self-tape for the role. Usually, Klaft said, an actor will get a script and practice until they audition in person. This time, everything was flipped upside down and done online due to the virus. Klaft booked a role on the series and started to film early 2021.
“I had to let them know I was in Los Angeles because they didn’t want anyone from any other city, like New York or anywhere else. They didn’t want to deal with traveling and quarantining because of the quick turnaround time,” he said.
Auditioning and getting tested were just the first few tasks required to get onto a set. Once on set, Klaft dealt with more COVID instructions.
“I got a COVID test beforehand, I got a COVID rapid test when I arrived on set, and masks were mandatory. Masks were mandatory at all times,” Klaft said. “I had to wear my mask when I was on camera and not in the scene. All of us had a set chair spaced out from each other, and each had a zip up plastic so we were not in the same bubble space. We were all in bubbles and it was so weird. I felt very safe and everyone in the crew was also extremely safe. It was definitely a crazy experience.”
Actors all over Hollywood are all going through the same precautions and regulations. Brian Dare, a 36-year-old Hollywood actor, also had the same experience when he filmed the TV series “Shameless” during the pandemic. The episode was filmed during quarantine so even scenes had the actors up to date wearing masks while they filmed scenes in public places.
“I think Hollywood and sets have everything under control with every guidelines they were given. Series have ordered less episodes lately because of budget loss due to using their money on COVID tests. They found a way to make this work,” said Dare. Although it will probably take years for precautions to come to an end, actors still have their place in Hollywood.