At the time of writing, Argentina has been under preventive and compulsory isolation for 125 days and I must admit that, during this phase, my work is what saved me.
Earlier this year, I quit cinema distribution and cultural management - good timing - and I now work in the Acquisitions team of a TV channel. Although some people may think that television is losing force due to the uninterrupted growth of digital platforms, it still occupies a central role today, especially in some social sectors. In Argentina, cable TV has a penetration of 85% and is one of the countries in the region with the most subscribers in relation to its population.
During lockdown, guaranteeing programming for a screen makes me feel useful. Quitting work in distribution and exhibition, currently among the most punished sectors, did not steer me away from cinema. I have film projects in development, which once completed are likely to face "the New Audiovisual Normality," a different market which I would rather not think about right now. I choose to follow my impulsive drive and develop projects, which involves writing, reviewing dossiers, and applying for funds. Reflecting as little as possible on reality is a good tool to deal with anxiety. Spending all my time working is my anxiolytic.
I am not going to deny that I am still consuming news from the industry: the premiere of Tenet, the postponement of the premiere of Tenet and the cancellation of the premiere of Tenet, online versus on-site festivals, theatres that reopen and close again, the excellent second Netflix quarter versus Netflix terrible third quarter. A panorama of total confusion.
Because in the industry, just as in the pandemic, what seemed to be a certain two months ago is now uncertain. There is a succession of advances and setbacks that complicate any decision.
What is clear is that when this is over, we will all be poorer - especially developing countries, as usual - and that the film industry will have a hard time recovering. The shift towards digital platforms grew, generating extraordinary profits for the most dominant companies, but which will now face the problem of lack of content, due to filming having been suspended.
Continuing to work at this time is a privilege. In these past months, Argentine audiovisual technicians opened an instagram account promoting their skills (from canned goods, sauces, and hand-made masks to online courses) because they cannot work and are in a critical situation. Work dignifies people and it is known that in cinema, those who do not work do not get paid. Netflix's donation of USD 500,000 (AR $ 40 million) to help the sector right now is no more than a palliative. State aid also emerged, but too many months have passed and a more long-term solution would be ideal. The country is discussing a bill that would tax video-on-demand platforms, which Germany has already done and which would help nurture our film development fund during this time of crisis.
Meanwhile, we are seeing photos from Pedro Almodóvar’s shoot, which looks more like a David Lynch movie. More of the same: social distance, masks, and chin straps.
Every day I am more convinced that when we come out of this, as Michel Houellebecq says, the world will be the same, but a little worse, and the audiovisual sector does not seem to be the exception.