Capturing an audience without a crowd

A video revealing how entertainers have struggled through Australia’s COVID restrictions in the past 18 months has gone viral.  

Sydney comedic juggler James Bustar in action. Photo: supplied by James Bustar

Organised by Sydney entertainer James Bustar, the video titled The future of the entertainment career in Australia highlights the hardships a variety of performers faced in 2020. The emotional 10-minute video, which now has 40,000 views across social platforms, features entertainers around Australia telling of their despair as COVID restrictions shut down their livelihoods.

Bustar said 2020 was to have been his busiest year as an entertainer after 15 years in the business.  

“Within a day everything was kind of gone. I went from having my busiest year of cruise ships booked to nothing, my diary was wiped overnight,” he said. 

The self-described “million-miles-an-hour” man didn’t waste time during the early 2020 lockdown in Sydney, rather he kept busy launching a series of entertaining videos, that gently reminded audiences that performers shouldn’t be forgotten. 

“I did collaboration videos through the whole journey of lockdown, they were more focused on being funny with the message that we are still here, and we still matter. But when Sydney went into this last lockdown, enough was enough,” he said. 

Frustrated by the lack of support that entertainers had received, and comparing it to the favourable treatment the sports industry seemed to be getting, Bustar interviewed other performers, from circus acrobats to wedding DJs.  What resulted was an impassioned plea from more than 20 entertainers across the country, begging for a helping hand and a pathway forward.  

Despite government funding being allocated to ‘the arts’, Bustar said that mostly helped the bigger venues and neglected those who worked on a gig-to-gig basis. Enhancing this message in the video, a teary Buster explained that the limited government support had a hidden mental health toll. 

“I had to rely on my parents for financial support, they would just deposit money in my bank account to help. I didn’t want it – I’ve worked a whole career because I love it and we haven’t done anything wrong,” he said. 

While all those featured in the video were grateful for previous government financial support schemes such as JobKeeper, which ended in March 2021, the COVID disaster payment is currently only available to those who can prove they’ve lost 20 hours a week in employment, a standard that those in the entertainment industry are unable to comply with because of the varying nature of their work and income. 

Another star of the video is 35-year-old Melbourne singer Krista Thomson, who felt the full force of all six lockdowns Victoria has faced. Throughout lockdowns, Thomson was told more than once to ‘go and get a normal job’ despite working the last 16 years as a performer.   

“You wouldn’t tell a tradesman to go and retrain in a different career – so why tell performers to?” she said. 

Bustar said the response from the video had been heart warming, and had lead to more than 40 media interviews with news outlets across the country. 

“Even if the video doesn’t cause a change within government, it has definitely changed the perception of the public about how our industry works. This was the acknowledgement that we need and haven’t been getting,” he said. 

 

 

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