Like the rest of the world, Richard Bailey, 25, is in a holding pattern. The Oak Park native is living in Los Angeles, where historic wildfires have the residents on high alert.
“I can still smell the ash and the fog in the air,” Bailey said during a phone interview last week.
As authorities work to get a handle on the wildfires, the Oak Park native and aspiring producer, who last year obtained his MFA from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, is waiting for the film industry to open back up after being shut down for several months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But beyond the smoke, Bailey also senses opportunity. In February, Wednesday Journal reported that Bailey had been nominated alongside some of his AFI classmates, for a prestigious College Television Award — a competition that judges film entries from undergraduate and graduate students across the country. In May, the group won Best Comedy Series for their film “They Won’t Last.”
The win put Bailey in the company of other industry professionals who have gone on to work on shows like “The Simpsons,” “America’s Got Talent,” “60 Minutes” and “Empire.”
The Television Academy, which administers the awards and is one of the three organizations responsible for the Emmys, had originally scheduled the 40th awards ceremony to take place in March, but the pandemic altered those plans. Bailey said that the Academy instead hosted the ceremony virtually on May 30.
“It was broadcast via YouTube on the academy’s channel and Portlynn Tagavi, the film’s director, was the recipient for us and she was broadcast accepting the award on air at the time,” Bailey said. Actress Tichina Arnold introduced the nominees.
Bailey, who was a producer on the student film, said that the work was a real team effort. In addition to winning a Television Award, the film was also nominated for a BAFTA Student Film Award and was an official selection in some two dozen film festivals across the United States and Canada.
“We couldn’t have done this without our team, which included Portlynn, Brandon Gale, Delaney O’Brien and Farzad Kiyafar,” Bailey said, adding that the awards festivities also included virtual networking opportunities.
“It was definitely an experience that will help our careers,” he said. “It gave us an opportunity to network with other, like-minded filmmakers in various genres. The TV academy did an outstanding job in giving us opportunities to talk to each other. It was just a great experience.”
Bailey said that he attended Zoom sessions with TV executives, agents and development executives from major studios and networks like Starz and the CW.
Bailey said that his long-term career goal is to become a development executive for feature films and/or TV shows. He said he utilized many of the skills required for that career while working on “They Won’t Last.”
He said the film had a $53,000 budget, an amount that was matched by a grant from Disney that helped the crew market the movie.
“As the film’s producer, I was in charge of managing the budget, scheduling development meetings with our mentors and among ourselves, filing paperwork and finalizing contracts with locations that we were using in the film,” Bailey said.
The 25-year-old attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette while living in Oak Park before getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. He said that, although the film industry is at a standstill now, he’s hopeful in the future.
“Right now, I’m still looking for positions, but I’m hopeful that the job market will change once things start to open up again,” Bailey said. “I strongly believe we’ll resolve this soon and more opportunities will open up to other filmmakers like me.”