New York state and city tax incentives led to a boom in production, and the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ meant there were barely enough qualified people to fill all the jobs.
Now, almost all of those 76,000 people are unemployed.
The total payroll for all these workers soared past $5 billion per year before the outbreak.
"This has definitely brought us to our knees," said Florence Mitchell-Brown , the Chairperson of the New York Production Alliance.
It's a freelance economy that is unstable in the best of times, but Mitchell-Brown pointed out that television and film workers proved their resilience after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy. However, they face unprecedented challenges right now.
In the meantime, some have been helping out by making personal protection equipment for grateful healthcare workers on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, unions, management, and city government are looking ahead to when production can resume.
"We're trying to put together some guidelines for our new normal," Mitchell-Brown said.
Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, said she is optimistic because she is confident everyone involved will use their imagination.
"I think it will look different in terms of how many people have to be on set," she said. "(Employees) need a level of predictability to feel safe. They need to know what the expectations are and what the standards are...the richness and diversity of New York City's creative sector is one of the pluses in trying to weather this crisis."
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