Lights, camera, COVID!

Film critic Radheyan Simonpillai speaks on how COVID-19 has impacted the future of film reporting

Radheyan Simonpillai talks to Jessica Powell about the future of film reporting through zoom call.  Jessica Powell/Toronto Observer

When the world came to a complete halt and COVID-19 sent people scurrying into their homes to self-isolate, Radheyan Simonpillai was already there.

“Here’s the thing- I’ve always worked from home,” said Simonpillai. 

Simonpillai, a husband and father of two, is a film critic for CTV’s Your Morning. He’s also a culture writer at NOW Magazine and a regular contributor to CTV News and CBC Radio.

Radheyan Simonpillai’s setting up his workspace for his segment on CTV’s Your Morning.

As soon as COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, he orchestrated his TV segments from home using Zoom, a microphone and a ring light. He is also writing about real estate and finance during COVID-19 due to the lack of revenue at NOW Magazine.

With blockbuster films on hold, Simonpillai, who before COVID-19 went to press screenings at movie theatres, believes the pandemic has amplified a wave of film releases on digital platforms such as Bell Fibe TV and Netflix, something he says has caused a “rift” between film companies such as Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres.

Besides this collision, he says film critics were usually sent destructible links of “not-so-big” films to review at home before the pandemic.

“The technology was already in place and the format was already in place, but the danger is when things start to open up, will movie theatres survive if they only wait for big blockbusters?” he said.

The Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) approach to navigating the festival through COVID-19

With Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) around the corner, Simonpillai is confident that it will still be happening but is concerned of its lasting impact due the possible lack of sponsorship if borders are restricted for business buyers, talent and international film critics.

“Now that there are less people, how many advertisers will sponsor the festivals?” Simonpillai wonders. “If that mass audience is not there, are the advertisers going to care?”

Having dealt with COVID-19 for the past three months, Simonpillai shares that journalists as well as many media companies — including NOW Magazine — have been dealt a huge blow. He believes it is “the end of journalism as we know it,” leading many media corporations to be on the brink of closing, with reduced office spaces and many job losses.

Hasan Minhaj on how the news industry is being destroyed on his Netflix original series, Patriot Act.

Fearful of losing his own job, he reiterates an important lesson learned from an episode of Hassan Minhaj’s Patriot Act in which he discusses journalism to be so much of what we know from small local news sources, which are the ones dying out.

With COVID-19 being a definite pinnacle in history, the future of journalism is also at a turning point where it may no longer be about storytelling, but a final ultimatum which many journalists are not ready to face. From what Simonpillai has experienced over the past few months within his own beat, he has come to the conclusion that print media will change drastically.

“It either dies or turns into advertising,” he said. 

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Posted: Jul 6 2020 11:06 am
Filed under: Features Living Room Newsroom