Creatives and freelancers affected by COVID-19 cancellations come together to help one another

On top of dealing with lost jobs and postponed projects, some have even extended a helping hand to affected clients and creatives in the industry.

Wan Munirah (Admin)

Published: 24 March 2020, 6:46 PM

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to escalate in Singapore, many creatives and freelancers are suddenly finding themselves out of jobs. Some have their projects cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

Fortunately, some have started coming forward to share their resources online, such as starting support groups on Facebook and creating a website, I Lost My Gig, to consolidate data from affected creatives while offering them help.

Youth.SG spoke to several creatives, including wedding photographers and freelancers, to find out how they are coping with the situation.

Projects postponed as early as January 

At the start of the year, freelance producer Alastair Anthony had multiple projects lined up till June. However, as news about COVID-19 started to grow, his projects started getting pushed back.

Over the subsequent few months, he has lost five to six different projects, ranging from local to overseas shoots.

The 27-year-old, who worked as a location assistant for the third season of Westworld last year, said: “Since COVID-19 hit, the same projects that were pushed back were slowly being cancelled.

Alastair worked as a location assistant for Westworld from June to July last year. PHOTO CREDIT: ALASTAIR ANTHONY

“Since February, I had a really good project that allowed me to travel to different countries to shoot. I have been working on it for three months, but the project was postponed till further notice and has put me out of job so suddenly.

“It’s really crazy how the projects are all disappearing one after another. But if Netflix can halt all productions, why can’t we?”

Freelance cinematographer Ibrahim Zubir shared that he usually works on four to five projects each month prior to COVID-19.

Since the second week of March, the 29-year-old started receiving news about his upcoming projects – all had to be cancelled or postponed.


“I felt a little disappointed but I understand that our well-being is of utmost importance during this period. It is every individual’s responsibly to make sure that we follow the rules and regulations accordingly,” said Ibrahim, who recently worked on short film, ADAM.

Meanwhile, Tariq Irfaan, founder of wedding photography service The Vanilla Project, said his team of eight used to handle an average of six to eight weddings per month.

The 29-year-old also observed a recent decline in sales and enquiries since COVID-19.

“After the suspension announcement was made last Friday, we are preparing ourselves to hear from our clients about their plans to postpone their bookings. We deal in Malay weddings and the number of invitations can go up to 1,000 people.

“However, my peers in the industry had it worse. Some received postponement notices right after DORSCON Orange,” said Tariq.

Tariq (pictured) has been in the wedding industry since 2011. PHOTO CREDIT: TARIQ IRFAAN

Sudden loss of income

The one thing most creatives struggled with was dealing with the sudden loss of income due to the sudden cancellations and postponement of projects.

“This really affects us full-time freelancers as we depend on the projects for our monthly salary. It can break smaller companies like ours,” said Tariq, who is revising their photography packages to sustain the company.

To brace himself from losing more projects, Alastair tried sourcing for new jobs but was unsuccessful.

“It’s tough as a freelancer whose income is already inconsistent before COVID-19 hit. As a workaholic who enjoys working, it gets mundane knowing that I’m going to wake up tomorrow and still not have a job.

“Thankfully, I have invoices of previous jobs that have not been paid yet and I will be able to get by with the money I have made over the past few months. I do have to be extra frugal with how I spend my money now,” said Alastair.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim keeps himself going by keeping himself productive: “I still have some editing work that I’m working on from home. I guess I’m approaching this situation with a silver lining. I’m going with the flow and meeting my daily responsibilities in a thrilling way.

“No matter the outcome, I will always ensure that I keep a positive mindset.”

Some creatives also took this opportunity to pick up new skills while spending some quality time at home.

Alastair said: “I’ve been studying film a lot more since I’ve joined the industry, but this time, I can study the different directors and understand the art form a little better.

“I have also been able to spend more time with my family as shoot hours are very irregular. Sometimes I don’t get time with my family because I either leave the house early in the morning or return home when everyone’s asleep.

“Being able to spend time with them has been really nice.”

Helping clients and industry friends in need

With no time to waste, most of the creatives we spoke to reached out to their friends in the industry for help.

Alastair shared: “I’ve a few good friends who are in the same position as me. We’re all freelancers and we depend on a constant flow of projects to get by, but some still recommend me for projects.

“Everyone’s spreading the word and trying to get each other work. It’s really heart-warming to know that everyone understands the struggles we go through, but would still try their best to help someone else in need.”

Alastair (pictured) has been working in the media industry for two years. PHOTO CREDIT: ALASTAIR ANTHONY

Some creatives even went the extra mile by helping new clients affected by recent travel restrictions, such as Malaysia’s Restriction Movement Order (RMO).

Tariq and his team received eight to nine enquiries after posting several updates on Instagram offering help for affected couples.

“Most of them hired photographers and videographers from Malaysia and their vendors could not leave their country. We reached out to them when they were scrambling to find alternative options.

“We exchanged messages from morning till night to answer their questions regarding our services. The three couples we managed to help were appreciative and thanked us for saving their weddings [this weekend],” recalled Tariq.

Looking forward to brighter days ahead

Considering the growing spread of the pandemic, it is hard to predict when life will resume normalcy, but some creatives are already looking forward to returning to the daily grind.

Once the situation eases, Alastair shared that he is looking forward to being on set.

“I enjoy my job so much that being on set makes me the happiest. I would love to be back and interact with everyone again and getting to watch them work. Film-making is such a beautiful art form and I am so happy to be a part of it,” said Alastair.

Meanwhile, Tariq hopes to see his clients celebrate their weddings without any worries in the future.

Tariq (pictured) looks forward to see couples and their family and friends being happy and merry. PHOTO CREDIT: TARIQ IRFAAN

“As we look forward to seeing weddings being festive and loud again, we also hope for our business to resume as per normal, so that we don’t have to worry about any cancellations.”

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