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The entertainment industry has suffered a massive blow as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with lower-level employees being laid off with no relief in sight. While big-name celebrities may be able to live off of the wealth they’ve amassed over the years, there are many, many more employees who face poverty from joblessness.
Hollywood has talked a big game when it came to helping their crewmembers, but it seems like the promised support and funds have begun to dry up.
Following the shutdown of Broadway, Madam Secretary actor Erich Bergen began devising a plan that would help fund the lives of those who had suddenly found themselves unemployed. He reportedly rang up Rosie O’Donnell, who gushed over the idea according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“He said right from the get-go to do it as a benefit for The Actors Fund,” she recounted. “They give you actual money so you can live. That’s what we want.”
The effort resulted in a live-streamed concert that featured performances by the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Tituss Burgess and Darren Criss, and $600,000 in donations. Unfortunately, that appeared to be the peak for those who were interested in helping.
“The response has been slow from Hollywood billionaires, and that silence from them in many ways mirrors the silence and slowness that we are seeing from other types of billionaires in the country,” opines The Chronicle of Philanthropy staff writer Maria Di Mento. “But the stock market has been insanely rocky [with] deep, deep plunges. And so if they are bottom-line types, which unfortunately I think a lot of them might be, and if they have gotten hit, they might be focused on that right now, which is unfortunate.”
But that’s not to say that those in Hollywood have stopped giving. On the contrary, there has been a steady stream of donations to various charities to aid multiple parts of the country that have been affected by the mass shutdowns. For instance, actor Ryan Reynolds and his wife, actress Blake Lively are reported to have written a seven-figure check to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. Bob Iger, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg have all donated $500,000 each to a government fund in Los Angeles aimed at helping those in need. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts donated a whopping $5 million to helping Philadelphia students get the laptops they need to facilitate remote learning.
One anonymous studio reporter expressed his sadness that they aren’t receiving the support they need at this time.
“Isn’t this the time you actively say, ‘We’re going to do the right thing to sustain the livelihoods of the people who work for you?’ If you have a hundred, $200, $300, $400 million, why don’t you actively contribute to the funds that are helping below-the-line people who made those movies and made you rich? This is Hollywood’s Bernie Sanders question to me.”
But where actors and actresses have failed, entertainment giants such as WarnerStudio and Netflix have established multi-million dollar funds to assist their unemployed crew members. Unfortunately, below-the-liners who don’t work for those companies are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
To her credit, Rosie O’Donnell is planning another fundraiser in an attempt to generate more funds and while she may not be able to raise as much as is necessary in these uncertain times, it certainly seems to be a lot more than her peers can say.
“We have proposed to my agent to go sell it as a show to one sponsor or, if possible, five sponsors, like to come in at $100,000 or whatever and you’d get to sponsor that episode,” she explained. “It won’t be in a studio with me in hair and makeup [like some of the other recent celebrity-driven efforts]. The world has changed.”
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