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Company Town

Hollywood has few jobs, but these companies are hiring workers idled by the coronavirus

Venn
Venn Chief Technology Officer Scott Gillies, at the company’s L.A. production studio, plans on hiring about 30 more people before its summer launch.
(Venn)

For Hollywood’s workforce, the coronavirus has been devastating. The pandemic has decimated many industries, especially entertainment.

Tens of thousands of workers — grips, actors, theme park workers, ticket collectors, agents and studio executives — have suddenly lost their jobs as the industry has been roiled by the mandated shutdowns in movie theaters, productions and live events and shows. Major media companies such as Walt Disney Co. have announced substantial cuts, deepening the economic fallout for Los Angeles’ signature industry.

Foundations, unions, businesses and celebrities have launched relief funds and emergency food drives to ease the pain for families and help them obtain benefits from the $2-trillion stimulus package. But those relief efforts will go only so far.

Making matters worse is that jobs in other sectors that would normally be a backup source of employment — restaurants and retail, for example — also have disappeared.

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“The problem is there are very few industries that are hiring, especially in relation to the overall demand for jobs,” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the the Milken Institute’s Center for Regional Economics.

A record 6.6 million people filed for initial unemployment claims in the U.S. in the week ending March 28 — double the record 3.3 million from the previous week. Klowden estimates 100,000 entertainment workers in L.A. county have been affected and at least 250,000 nationally.

Still, as bleak as the jobs picture is, some entertainment companies, especially those in animation, video games and streaming, are still expanding.

Here’s a look at who’s hiring:

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With Hollywood on hold, so are the livelihoods of thousands of workers who depend on the film and TV business that has halted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Animation/interactive

Animation and interactive media have been a lifeline for some studios as other film and TV productions have halted. Notably, most members of the Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) who were employed when the coronavirus hit, are still working, said Steve Kaplan, the union’s business representative.

“The animation industry is lucky,” Kaplan said. “Many jobs can be done effectively at home, and so the transition has been relatively smooth, especially during a time of crisis when many studios had to scramble at the last moment to adjust to a new workflow.”

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Among those hiring is North Hollywood-based Bento Box Entertainment, known for its work on the Emmy-winning TV series “Bob’s Burgers.” The firm employs more than 500 artists and production staff across its studios in Los Angeles, Atlanta and London. It has openings for about 20 freelance production personnel

Santa Monica based Skydance Media, the production company set up by David Ellison that earlier this week acquired Madrid-based animation firm Ilion Studios, is actively hiring in several areas.

Independent animation house Titmouse, known for such edgy comedy series as “Big Mouth,” recently expanded its L.A. operation, leasing a new building in Burbank. The company has openings for 23 work-from-home positions in L.A., New York City and Vancouver, including for producers, production coordinators, storyboard artists, episodic directors, animators and compositors. “The needs change on day-to-day basis, and new projects are continuing to commence,” said Timouse Chief Operating Officer Ben Kalina.

Scopely, the L.A.-based maker of “Star Trek Fleet Command,” the new “Scrabble Go” and other games people can play on their mobile phones, says it is “actively hiring” for its offices in Culver City and Playa Vista, Boulder, Colo., as well as London and other international locations. Scopely, which recently raised an additional $200 million from investors, lists more than 40 positions working on Star Trek, Marvel and Avatar projects.

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Podcasting

Podcasting, another area where staff can easily work remotely, also is still growing. One of the drivers is Spotify, which has been rapidly expanding its presence in the space, acquiring several podcast production companies, including Gimlet Media, the Ringer and Parcast. The Swedish audio company has a number of jobs open in L.A.

New York-based Wonder Media Network, founded in 2018 to create podcasts covering politics, business, and culture, is recruiting in various areas, including production and marketing.

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Streaming

The surge in home entertainment has been a boon to streaming services.

“We’re hiring to meet Tubi’s rapid growth and expect to add positions in the coming months,” Tubi Vice President Valerie Arismendez said. The company, which operates a free streaming service with ads, has open positions at its San Francisco headquarters as well as other locations, including L.A.

WarnerMedia, which recently pledged $100 million in relief for crews affected by the coronavirus shutdowns, also has open positions in its offices in Seattle, L.A. and New York. “WarnerMedia is recruiting for over 200 positions for HBO Max in the areas of product and growth marketing and engineering as we head towards our May launch,” a WarnerMedia spokesman said.

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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi, which is heavily advertising new shows, recently posted jobs in communications and other areas, according to its website.

As more consumers choose to stay at home to avoid the coronavirus, services that deliver home entertainment and food could see a financial boost, experts say.

Streaming giant Netflix, which has a large presence in Hollywood, is bulking up globally."We continue to hire, particularly customer service staff who work from home to provide support to our members around the world,” a Netflix spokesman said.

Amazon Studios, the tech giant’s division that produces movies and original series, has more than 40 job openings listed in Culver City, including executive and managerial roles. Amazon’s entertainment content database, IMDb, which has an office in Santa Monica, also has a handful of openings.

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StreamElements, which provides tools and services for live streamers, says it has several job vacancies in L.A. The Palo Alto-based company noted that the increasing demand for livestreamed content on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and other platforms had helped boost its business.

Livestreaming platform Twitch said it was actively hiring across the board, listing many job openings in California, including in offices in Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Social media

TikTok, which has seen its popularity surge as consumers sheltering at home show off trendy dances on the video sharing app, is recruiting. The China-owned company has various openings posted on its website, including for brand marketing manager, art director and project designer. TikTok recently expanded in Southern California, moving into a new Culver City office earlier this year.

“We are proud and humbled to offer a platform that can provide levity and connectivity in an uncertain time,” TikTok said in a LinkedIn post. “To support this need in our TikTok community, we are actively hiring for our team. We welcome those who are job searching, whether by choice or due to changes in their industry or company, to apply for roles with us.”

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Snap Inc., the Santa Monica-based social and camera company, is searching for more than 200 people for its content, engineering and product design teams. Nearly 30% of jobs listed are L.A.-based and include such positions as augmented reality design and engineering, user research and product design, a Snap spokeswoman said.

Esports/Gaming

At a time when studios are pushing back movie release dates and productions, demand for esports and video streaming has skyrocketed as more people shelter at home.

For example, Venn, which creates programs about esports, has moved up its launch date from September to July. The company, with offices in Playa Vista and New York, said it will grow its staff from 35 to 65 full-time employees by July and plans to stream 35 hours of original programming a week. Some of the jobs may require work out of the company’s production studio in accordance with social distancing guidelines, the company said.

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“Something we’ve known all along is that gaming and entertainment are extremely important and there is a big marketplace for them and people love it as both entertainment and diversion from all the craziness that’s going on in the world now more than ever,” Venn co-CEO Ben Kusin said.

The company has several L.A.-based openings posted on its website, including director of on-air talent, games editorial director and live broadcast producer.

Activision Blizzard Inc., the Santa Monica gaming company known for such as franchises “World of Warcraft” and “Call of Duty,” also listed a number of jobs on its website.

Gaming could provide an opportunity for performers, noted David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA. “Obviously [there is] not a lot going on ... at the moment, but there could be as it relates to those performer-related jobs that are seeing an uptick, such as video games, audiobooks, podcasts — things that one can do at home,” White said.

Warehouse and delivery work

Although jobs outside of entertainment are limited, some work is available. Entertainment unions, including SAG-AFTRA, are compiling sources of work opportunities for members from sources such as America’s Job Center of California, Business and Worker Help Center, and Women’s Creative Work Center.

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“Although we continue to connect our members with potential employers in other industries (grocery, bottlers, packages and warehouse), it’s been challenging to place our people because so many more folks find themselves looking for work as well,” said Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of Teamster Local 399, which represents location managers, drivers and casting directors.

Companies, including Amazon and Kroger, and government entities such as the Census Bureau are accepting applications.

Walmart said via email it was hiring about 5,000 new associates each day. It wants to add 150,000 by May to work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. See a list of openings.


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