While some areas of the country + world are still dealing with pandemic shutdowns, for most of the US, we are back to “normal”. We can go to movie theaters, concerts and even shows in large capacity theaters… all without our masks. As we settle back into the full variety of options available to us as entertainment consumers, here are a few things to keep in mind as the industry moves forward in a post-pandemic world.
Staffing shortages are still here
In our post this time last year, we talked about staffing shortages caused by the mass exodus of entertainment workers during the pandemic which included riggers, stagehands, technical designers, engineers and everyone in between. In 2022, those staffing shortages are still just as bad, if not worse. The folks that left the industry to find more steady work have stayed out as they rebuilt their lives around more traditionally stable careers.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of open positions across the industry that provide a buffet of options for skilled laborers with higher levels of experience. Similar to the wider workforce, entertainment workers are asking more of their employers and are less willing to settle down into long-term roles if they can get a better offer or benefits elsewhere.
- Skilled workers are in high demand and can afford to ask more from their employers (+ they’re getting it). As those workers shop around, companies need to commit to investing in the few highly experienced skilled workers that remain in the industry.
- For the younger incoming workforce, this can be a great time to get a foothold at a company that truly interests you. With a plethora of openings, make a commitment to a new firm and you could be climbing the ranks in no time.
Loss of institutional knowledge
Staffing shortages aren’t just about quantity – the amount of staff needed to complete the company’s work – it’s also about losing the staff that are efficient, effective + just really good at their job. As they left the industry, they took that knowledge with them.
As companies struggle to hire + retain that higher level of skilled employees, they’re seeing influxes of younger + less experienced workers. This is usually the natural way of growth + expansion; however, with fewer highly experienced entertainment professionals present to guide the younger generation, some in the industry fear a loss of the all-important institutional knowledge. Entertainment productions can be highly dangerous, unique + quick to turn around; the importance of applying creative solutions while maintaining safety + emergency protocols is of the utmost importance. At Schaefer, we combine our experience and deep understanding of the industry to work with project owners + designers to create spectacles that will simultaneously keep performers safe and delight audiences.
- As companies employ increasing numbers of younger + inexperienced workers, they need to invest in knowledge building training to fill in the gaps left by the loss of the older workforce.
- For newer + younger workers, take the time to learn from the more experienced professionals around you. So much of the technical production industry is learned on the job, so take advantage of mentorship + training opportunities.
Just as the production side of entertainment has lost and is still losing skilled labor, so is the fabrication side. Some production companies are seeing inconsistent deliverables from fabrication companies they’ve relied on for years. Without those experienced professionals, some fabrication outfits are struggling with tight timelines + additional costs associated with more frequent inspections of fabricated parts as new staff is trained.
- The industry is still recovering from the loss of productivity + knowledge caused by the pandemic. This is leading to delays + added costs in unexpected areas so productions would do well to budget appropriately.
The silver lining: a focus on experiential events
As traditional touring and resident shows get back up + running to full capacity, and temporary outdoor events continue to dominate the summer season, a new type of popular event has emerged post-pandemic: the interactive experience. People lost a feeling of connection during the pandemic, and big studios are monopolizing on the desire to reconnect in a more personal way. Between Netflix hosting the Bridgeton and Stranger Things Experiences, Warner Brothers continuing the success of Harry Potter, and even major artists like Van Gogh and Monet getting a piece of the action, we are seeing a focus on being able to step inside the world of our favorite shows, movies, and artists. These types of events can range from the technically simple to complex and are being well-funded by large studios. This means that they can afford to hire some of the highly experienced and skilled riggers and technicians that are willing to be wooed away from a traditional touring production.
- Keep an eye on where the money is going. Shows in Las Vegas or at major theme parks in Florida or California will continue to exist + thrive. But when it comes to selecting experiences close to home, some of the more personal and in-depth options provided by a major studio could begin to push aside traditional touring theater or circus-style productions. What can you do to bring your show to life for the audience?
The final verdict
The aftermath of COVID-19 is still felt in the entertainment realm. While we continue to ramp up to our pre-pandemic levels of production, we see that innovations made, like smaller + increasingly interactive events, continue to gain steam. Work done during shutdowns was not wasted as some of the biggest outfits have quickly debuted new themes + shows that audiences are impatient to consume. We’re looking forward to another year of creative entertainment events and continuing our collaborations with shops and shows alike to bring a post-COVID population back out to see a spectacle they just can’t find at home.