What the recession will mean for filmmakers.

At this point it’s not a matter of if we will hit a recession, but more-so a matter of when.

Most recently, some of the wealthiest decision makers around the world have been quoted acknowledging that we are headed towards a recession. The list includes Bezos (Amazon), Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter), and Dimon (JP Morgan) just to name a few. According to Bloomberg, a US recession in the next 12 months is effectively certain.

But not everyone is impacted by a recession the same way. There are some industries that are considered “recession proof”. Industries like consumer goods, healthcare, and grocery stores are just a few examples of industries that are recession proof. These are safe from a recession because regardless of an economic downturn, people will always need to purchase home goods, they will always have health needs, and they will always need to eat food.

But exactly how “recession proof” is the video production industry?

In short, video production is not recession proof.

For example, according to Hollywood Reporter, there were two major trends that happened in the film industry in the 2008 recession. The first was that movie attendance actually increased from 2008-2010 (along with ticket prices). Both increased by 10% from 2008-2010. On the flip side of that however, there were massive layoffs in the film industry. An estimated 57,000 U.S. workers in the arts lost their jobs in the 2008 recession.

So TL;DR, the industry performed better in terms of the bottom line but there were massive layoffs.

While we consider video production (filming for clients) to be different than box office or Hollywood, it is still safe to say that in this recession will see a downturn in this industry for a short period of time.

So now the question is, as filmmakers, what do we do?

During a recession, people (and companies) are going to pinch their budgets. According to Investopedia, companies first make cuts in capital spending, marketing and research. Video production falls right within their marketing budget so it is very reasonable to believe that video production budgets will be slashed too.

If you work in video production and are scratching your head as to what you should do to gear up for the next few months (and years), here is a few things to start thinking about and implementing now to get yourself ahead of the curve.

1. Consider bartering for what you need

If companies (and people) are cutting slashing their marketing budgets then the best way to leverage yourself is by bartering your skills as a filmmaker to accomplish your non-monetary goals.

Whether it’s filming at a heavily reduced rate for a nonprofit that will give you a sponsorship package at an annual event (and exposure to tons of decision makers), or filming for a design agency that will, in exchange, create an incredible website for you – these are just a few examples of using your services for non-monetary goods/services that will still push you forward.

2. Consider buying used gear

The market will undoubtedly be flooded with people who want to make some extra cash from their gear. This is a great opportunity to not only purchase gear (in great condition) at reduced rates, but also a means to help filmmakers who have decided to sell that gear. It’s a win-win. Some great places to search for used gear are Facebook Groups.

3. Adjust your rates

What you would have typically charged in economically thriving conditions is most likely not what you’ll be able to charge during a downturn. Reducing rates is a great way to not only still keep a healthy pipeline of work coming in, but to also let clients know that you give a damn. It could be as easy as a 10% discount during the negotiation stage to solidify the contract. NOTE: Make sure you’re emphasizing your discounts in your contract so your client knows that is not your standard rate.

4. Document this experience

Some of the best films have come out of documenting depressions and recessions. A short list includes: The Big Short, 99 Homes, Inside Job, and Margin Call. The reality is that during economic downturns, everyone has a heightened and lived experience that needs to be documented. So whether you’re a documentary filmmaker capturing interviews of friends and family members as they navigate these uncertain times, or a narrative director writing a script about this recession – use this time to stay productive and take notes. The feelings and sentiment captured during this time is invaluable.

5. Keep your head up

Remember that you will get through this. As a filmmaker, you’re constantly reshaping others’ stories for video but for once, take the time to spend some time on your own story. Make sure you’re in-tune with yourself, check-in with yourself daily, and still make small yet meaning full strides towards your goals.

Lastly – remember this

The upcoming recession will impact all of us in different ways. Most of us will see harsh times ahead and there will be a small percentage that establish themselves and make a fortune. Take a page from Scott Boilen, who founded the Snuggie. According to reports, the Snuggie’s popularity is directly tied to people wanting to feel comforted during the stressful times. Now it’s up to you to figure out how you’ll create opportunity during this next recession.

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