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‘The show must go on’: Amazon Studios head, Rachel Brosnahan, and Ciara say COVID-19 pushed them to create

October 12, 2021, 1:37 AM UTC

When COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March 2020, head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke says she gathered her team in a conference room to strategize how to handle the fallout for actors, producers, writers, and film crews worldwide. 

Salke told Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit on Monday that she and her team had to coordinate shutting down 60 productions all over the world. That included coordinating travel for major stars like Orlando Bloom, who was filming the latest season of Carnival Row in Prague, where borders were closing.

“We had to literally get in a room, thankfully none of us had COVID, because we were just sitting there with no masks on for 20 hours, figuring out how we were going to deal with this, but it was happening in real time,” Salke recalled. 

All told, it’s “stressful,” busy work—not to mention expensive—to keep content production going during the pandemic, Salke said. But it’s important to get content in front of Amazon’s global audience, she added. “The show must go on; we couldn’t stop.”

Until now, that “show” has reached audiences via Amazon’s streaming service, but social media apps like TikTok are forcing the tech giant to consider new ways to connect with viewers, Salke noted.

Trying to go after individuals who are consuming all their content on TikTok is a “huge challenge,” she said, but added that Amazon is thinking about where this audience is going next. “So you could look forward to more expansive genres across content from us,” Salke said. “That’s not any kind of announcement or anything. We’re not blind to it, and we’re not going to ignore that challenge.”

Rachel Brosnahan, known for playing the titular character in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, spent at least part of her pandemic putting together new content in the form of Yearly Departed, a comedy special where a group of female comedians give a eulogy to say goodbye to 2020. “It’s a group of all female comedians having a last word on the terrible year,” she said Monday. Shot in October 2020, Brosnahan said it was the first time that many of the comedians and crew had been back on set since the start of the pandemic. 

Amazon renewed Yearly Departed for a second installment, Salke said, “because this pandemic goes on.”

For singer and actress Ciara, the pandemic was a creative opportunity. Pregnant during a portion of the pandemic (she gave birth to her son Win in July 2020), Ciara still managed to shoot a music video for her song “Rooted.”

“Content was something that fed our souls,” Ciara told the Fortune audience.

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