Creatives find new path forward in industries rocked by COVID-19

By: Brett Kelly

Organizations like Art City have adapted their programming to fit the constraints of the pandemic./DANIEL HALMARSON

For some, the inside of a theatre is a distant memory. Movies, live theatre, music, galleries were all affected by the pandemic. Their closure forced many people to find new ways to be creative.

Tea Nguyen has worked as a COVID-19 safety specialist on television and movie sets for six months. Nguyen is part of a growing health and safety segment in film and television. The 29-year-old said she enjoys being back on set after several months hiatus.

“It’s not the work I imagine I would be doing, but I’m glad to be doing it,” said Nguyen.

In her free time, Nguyen is developing a comedy series. She said she and her group plan to pitch the idea for distribution on CBC Gem, CBC’s digital-focused platform.

“On one hand, lockdown’s forced me to figure it out,” said Nguyen. “On the other, it’s shown me and, I think, everyone how important the arts are.”

In April 2020, the Canadian Media Producers Association projected a $2.5 billion loss to the media and entertainment sector, affecting upwards of 172, 000 jobs. Manitoba-based productions restarted on June 1, 2020 after a complete shutdown. A second limited shutdown, lasting from Nov. 12, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2021, came with the province’s second wave.

Limitations, however, often breed creativity. Shaun Vincent, owner and founder of Vincent Design, said his hobbies are different types of creative activities.

“I think it’s important to have something like hiking, or fishing, because as a creative person, it can feel like you’re always creating,” said Vincent.

Nguyen and Vincent said they felt creative burnout more frequently through the pandemic than they have in the past.

“I always worry if I’m not producing or creating, then I’m doing something wrong,” said Nguyen. “It’s hard not to be hard on yourself.”

She said socializing with other creators online helps her set realistic expectations for herself.

“I can’t be and do everything, in or out of lockdown,” she said.

“When everything stopped at once, I realized how much energy I was spending in service to other people,” said Vincent.

Nguyen said the safety of creating at home and alone has helped her take more creative risks.

“Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it sometimes feels like creation does,” she said.