Letter From the Desk of Julie Gallahue: Coronavirus
Coronavirus. It swept in like the wind and changed everything. One day we were going about business as usual, which meant models were booking jobs, looking forward to upcoming fashion shows and participating in collaborations with talented photographers and stylists and the future was bright! Then, boom, the majority of the models in my company lost their jobs or became front line workers in one day. A few days later, they were ordered to stay at home for an undetermined length of time.
Home. A place I personally love to be, because I own mine and live in it with three of my favorite people (husband Dave, and two adult sons, Alec and Ian) . Oh, yeah, and I have an abundance of projects that were just waiting for some kind of act of God to get them finished, and then there it is, an act of God. I’m doing find here. Life is good for me because I have what I need and I have something that the models don’t have; more years on this planet.
For any of my talent that is still in there 20’s, which is the majority of them, this is the first national level crisis they have lived through. Even 9/11 was an event that only peripherally touched them when they were in grade school. Except for one model, who grew up in New Jersey and went to school with a child who lost a parent in that tragedy. But, for me, I saw, in real time, 9/11, the Columbine shooting, the HIV panic and a few others to boot. I am at an advantage, because I truly know and believe that this too shall pass, and we will come out the other side intact and stronger.
It’s not as straight forward for my talent. Some of them live alone and don’t know how they will pay their rent without a job. Some of them live with roommates that on a good day, where a challenge to cohabitate with. Some of them have partners that they may decide are not up for the task of a lifetime journey with them after the dust settles from this. Some of them have very young children that they love to pieces, but would give about anything to be away from for a few hours and participate in a grown up conversation about grown up topics and not have to wipe snot of that persons face.
It’s stressful, to say the least, with food insecurity, rent shortages, unemployment, health concerns, and relationship issues poking them in the face daily, life has become a challenge. That’s where I step in. As the leader of the parade that is Goldie Mae Productions, it’s not just important for me to keep my crew of talent from slipping into pools of despair and depression, but to make sure that when this cloud passes, they are ready to jump back into life with both feet, whatever that new life looks like.
As a manager, my focus is not just on models earning money, but on the overall sustainability of their career. It’s my belief that the key to success is to be an active participant in one’s own life. Some days that means going to an audition even if you don’t think you fit the description 100% and giving it all you’ve got. Some days it means staying close to home and working on your abs in a family crunch-a-thon. And some days it means taking stock in the things you have and releasing your desires for things you do not have.
What do we have?
As of today, we have a safer-at-home order which allows one inch, and only one inch of wiggle room for us to participate more actively in our careers as models. Modeling is a difficult, but not impossible thing to do solo. Generally, a photo shoot consists of many people, most of them behind the camera. On average, a typical Goldie Mae Productions photo shoot has 6 people; 1-3 models, a hair and make-up artist, a photographer, a director and occasionally a production assistant. That number can climb quickly when we include mothers, escorts, stylist, clients and location owners.
None of that is going to work, if we can’t gather in groups larger than 10 people. And that’s just the challenge of people on set. The location of the shoot, typically being inside a studio, means those 10 people are hard pressed to find 6 feet of space between them, and how on Earth will the make-up get on the models face from 6 feet away? Should we just throw it at her and hope she can move her head in just the right way so the eye liner lands perfectly on her lash-line? Not gonna happen.
But, we are not quitters. GMP models have grit, nerves of steel, personal and professional drive and they are resourceful. That’s why I signed them, because I recognized these qualities and believed in each of their abilities to be tough as nails when the time came for them to do so and they have not disappointed me yet!
Taking a look at what we have, and what we can do with it, we have made some adjustment.
First, photo shoots will only have one subject, aka model, for the undetermined future, so the talent can do his or her job without standing next to another person for hours.
Second, the model will style their own hair and make-up and may even provide their own wardrobe. This means that they just show up to the location, step out of their cars and into the role with no fan-fare, no hug greeting, no small talk. In and out, get the job done and leave. If powder is needed, the model powders themself. If a flyaway hair is getting in the way, well that is what photo editing is there for.
Third, the photographer is the only other person present at the shoot and that person will have to get very good at verbal instructions and using the right lens for the task, because they will not touch the model at anytime…..Incidentally, models are generally feeling pretty good about this, because they get man-handled a lot and not every person touching and adjusting them are appropriate when doing so. Most female models prefer to adjust their own bra straps. Also, those pictures have to be taken 6 feet or more away from the model. That’s not really so hard to do, if you have a zoom lens.
Fourth, all shoots will happen outside in open air, where it is less likely that someone’s cough landed on the chair or countertop that everyone following will touch. There isn’t a lot of science-based articles to back this up, but reason tells us, right now, being in a confined room, sharing the same stagnant air is higher risk than that of the great outdoors. It also just makes us feel better emotionally.
This is how we will proceed with our in-house photo shoots until the covid 19 situation either A. Blows over and we are all able to reunite in groups of more than 10 or B. We experience a second wave and are ordered back to the home until our curves are manageable again. But, the key here for models, is to remain flexible, be prepared to wear more hats (and some masks) than that of just talent and if a shoot is cancelled last minute, you have to roll with it and know that it’s out of everyone’s hands right now.