Late last week, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in striking against the major Hollywood studios, producers and streaming services, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
While the WGA has been on strike since early May, SAG-AFTRA opted to take a nearly two-week extension at the end of June to try to work things out, only for talks to break down. Both unions have demanded, among other things, better pay, a way for streaming services to be factored into residuals, the usage of artificial intelligence in the industry, and having a new minimum number of writers on a show or movie. The strike, which is the first for the WGA since 2007-2008, the first SAG/SAG-AFTRA strike since 2000, and the first combined strike since 1960, has already faced considerable heat from the press.
Accusations of both sides of not acting in good faith, the WGA and the actors union not willing to concede on any issues, and SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher being in Italy while crucial negotiations were held in LA have all clouded over strike. In addition, the strike has turned into a race against time for both unions as most writers and actors will only have enough savings to make it until around October, and then considerable pressure will be on both to make a deal with the studios.
However, the pressure goes beyond the many writers and actors who make at or below an average wage. Many “below the line” professionals, from electricians to camera operators to foley artists, are also out of work during this time despite their respective unions not being on strike, as TV and movie productions have shut down. While some post-production can be done, most will be out of a job as well. Further compounding the fallout are many surrounding businesses, such as rental companies, restaurants, and others that cater to the entertainment industry in LA as well as other locations.
“That’s the thing about strikes that are centered on an industry that is largely in one city or area,” explained Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past, to the Globe on Monday. “Especially these entertainment ones. There are some with millions, especially the more notable people, who can make it seem like they can last for as long as possible. But most are trying to get their big break, or are working job to job, or are blue collar workers who are getting hurt by it, many of whom don’t even want a strike in the first place.”
“Alan,” a longtime grip in Los Angeles, told the Globe, “We want everyone to get a fair deal, but we really don’t want them to shut down productions. There is an arrogance to that. Sure, they are fighting for what they think is right, but they are hurting everyone else below them in the process. We were talking with some actors and actresses before the strike, and when they told us that they were doing this to ‘feed their family’ and because ‘their kids needed new shoes’, we asked them if they thought about us. They just looked at us in a way that, yeah, they hadn’t.”
“We’re professionals. TV and movie crews are professionals, yet many don’t even think about our livelihoods when this happens.”
“Alexa,” an LA rental agent who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity, added, “We’ve had multiple cancellations since Friday. All productions rent everything from cameras and lights to vintage cars non-studio owned props. We’ll get some cancellations fees and we’ll still get some business, but the lion’s share is going to be gone. And here’s the thing. The studios apologized. We had people from places like Netflix call and say they were sorry about it. The actors? The writers? They didn’t. If they said ‘We apologize, but we need to protect our people,’ fine. But they didn’t even do that.”
And in LA, and by extension, cities like San Francisco, Atlanta, Vancouver, and elsewhere, the losses can be for months.
“You were right about that October date,” continued Stevenson. “Studios and the actors and writers are both entrenched. That means no lunch meetings, no big spending, no renting things, no on a lot of things. So that means there might be three months of this, at least. Best case scenario, this is only a few weeks. Worst case, this goes into the fall and a lot of people who don’t want to be on the picket line and just want to work get hurt.”
“This industry is so important for LA and California. You many not like Hollywood or the industry, but the fact remains that it is. This shutdown, well, the people who get hurt, at least initially, are the ones who never wanted this or support it. Oh, and this gets political. Adam Schiff has been on the picket line, and if the actors get no money coming in, donations, especially for Democratic candidates, are going to fall. Why do you think Schiff and others are there? LA area contributions are going to crater for as long as the strike goes on. Like I said, this is broad.”
As of Monday, no new negotiations between the parties have taken place.
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