Filming, events businesses discuss COVID-19 impacts

Property Master Dick Kyker of Studio Props in Santa Clarita prepares prop cameras for a movie shoot. Dan Watson /The Signal

Like many other sectors, the film and entertainment industries came to a halt amid the monthslong stay-at-home order. With business restricted under quarantine to only essential errands, these businesses felt the hard blows of the pandemic as they were among the last fields to resume operations. 

But those who are businesses specifically serve the film and entertainment industries hurt even more and only some have endured the effects of the pandemic. 

Take Studio Prop Rentals, a full-service movie and television prop house in Santa Clarita, for example. Four months ago, owner Dick Kyker described his situation as “a struggle,” especially not knowing when the film industry would be allowed to return. 

“We have actually been totally shut down, and I think everyone in the movie industry that I know is in exactly the same boat,” he said in May. “My savings is probably half gone now, but I have a bunch of stops that are part of my retirement, (and) if it comes down to it, I’ll sell them.”

Fast-forward to September and Studio Props reached the light at the end of the tunnel — but it came at a huge cost, according to Kyker. 

“We starved; we didn’t make a dime,” he said. “Thankfully, we got an extension on our lease, but we now have to pay $40,000 back in missed rent to the landlord. It’s been very tough and we were close to going bankrupt. The hardest thing we’ve had to do: spend all of our savings, sold all of our stocks and used pension to keep up with overhead.” 

The one-stop prop shop has operated in Santa Clarita for more than 15 years after Kyker retired from 35 years as a property master in the movie business. From aisles of vintage cameras to police badges, medical equipment and boxes of rubber prop tools like hammers, the studio has worked with shows such as “Castle,” “Arrested Development” and “24.” 

Before the pandemic, the business would work with 10-15 shows at a time with corporations, such as Paramount Pictures, Fox, ABC, HBO, Showtime and Netflix. And after six months without any activity, Kyker began to receive calls two months after the film and television industry was allowed to resume June 12. 

“We opened up again around Aug. 24. When we got that first call, it was really great,” he said. And while he won’t start seeing payments until October. “It takes 30 days to  to get payments, we’re going to make it through and we feel great about that.” 

Gold Room Props

Over in Valencia, Sean Ginevan with Gold Room Props expressed similar gratitude to recently opening after closing down in March. 

“We just started getting busier, so we’re really excited about that. Because if this would have lasted any longer, we may have had to close,” he said. Gold Room Props, which specializes in industrial set dressing, has been in business since 2013  and has been based in the Santa Clarita Valley for three years. 

“We have some that are renting right now for movies and commercials,” he said. “It’s definitely a slow start but from what I’m hearing is that it’s going to get really busy by early into the new year. With what we have now is enough to keep us afloat. We aren’t afraid anymore.”

Film saw another successful year in Santa Clarita despite a three-month stoppage, according to the city’s fiscal year-end figures. The city’s Film Office issued nearly 500 film permits in 2019-20, leading to 1,249 film days and $30.7 million in estimated economic impact, the numbers showed. 

“The city’s film program remains an integral part of the local economy, and we look forward to safely resuming filming on our sound stages, movie ranches and on location throughout the Santa Clarita Valley,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said in a previous statement. 

A call to action 

Film and television have returned, but many live events have not due to the large-group gathering aspect. Businesses serving the latter industries continue to find ways to stay afloat amid continued stoppage. 

Newhall-based Illumination Dynamics, a lighting and electric rental production company for studio installations, sports broadcast, television and motion picture has stayed busy throughout the pandemic in helping the local community and joining a national call to action in helping the struggling live events industry. 

On Sept. 1, the company joined others nationwide in lighting their buildings red as part of the RedAlert Restart initiative, which urges Congress to provide economic relief to the live events industry via Senate Bill 3814, or RESTART Act. 

“Like most industries, our industry has been greatly affected by this tragic pandemic. This is very important to us,” Scott Sawyer, sales and marketing executive at Illumination Dynamics, said of the Sept. 1 lighting event. 

“The live event industry in North America directly employs more than 12 million people and includes hundreds of thousands of businesses with a combined economic impact of over $1 trillion,” read a statement from organizers, We Make Events, Red Alert RESTART and Extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, of the RedAlert Restart initiative. 

“This likely includes someone you know, are close to, or it may even include you,” the statement added. “If we do not receive government assistance the live events industry will literally collapse, including all of the people involved.”

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