Hollywood Strikes Back

11/01/2023
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    People carry signs on the picket line outside Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles, California, on September 27, 2023. (AP/Chris Pizzello)
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    Writers and actors picketed for months. (AP/Chris Pizzello)
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    Shon LeBlanc, co-owner of costume rental service Valentino’s Costume Group, poses for a portrait at his warehouse in Los Angeles, California. (AP/Chris Pizzello)
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    Shon LeBlanc checks a bowler hat. (AP/Chris Pizzello)
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    Production crew, extras, and camera operators prepare to film a show episode in Los Angeles, California. Film productions require many workers to create a final product. (AP/Richard Vogel)
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How many people does a Hollywood strike harm? More than you may think. It’s not just actors and directors who missed income during writers’ and actors’ strikes that lasted for months this year. Thousands of people work behind the scenes to make films and TV shows. The strikes really hit those people’s budgets. So some big-name celebrities sought to use their influence to help the so-called “little people.”

Workers use strikes (work stoppages) to bargain with employers. Often, workers protest dangerous conditions, low wages, or unfair treatment. For example, pilots may want better schedules, teachers more pay, or mail carriers more staff.

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. The actors union joined on July 14. Both the writers and actors guilds wanted to address issues connected to streaming services like Netflix. These services changed aspects of production—how projects are written, when they’re released, financial compensation. Other concerns include staffing cutbacks and potential use of artificial intelligence to replace writers or actors.

On the surface, it may seem the strike means that only actors have some time off from filming.

But from studio rentals and set construction to dry cleaning and transportation, industries and individuals felt financial fallout. Camera operators, sound mixers, props managers on the sets . . . Drivers, cooks, servers, baristas, even salon workers near studios—all longed for quick resolution. And to God, every human is greatly valued whether the person gets top billing or no credit at all.

Shon LeBlanc co-owns Valentino’s Costume Group. His company supplies costumes for the movie industry in Los Angeles, California. When the strike struck, LeBlanc couldn’t pay the rent.

“My chest is tightening because the money is so tight,” he says.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund helps entertainment workers get through tough times. President and CEO Bob Beitcher says some workers were “losing their homes. They’re losing their cars and trucks. They’re losing their health insurance.”

Beitcher called for greater support from industry members, saying, “We are not doing enough [for those] who live paycheck to paycheck and depend on this industry.”

Another actors’ foundation raised millions with huge donations from big-name actors like Dwayne Johnson, Meryl Streep, Ryan Reynolds, Julia Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Oprah Winfrey.

Foundation director Cyd Wilson says even the biggest stars need the smaller participants to practice their craft.

“They drive Uber, they babysit, they dog walk,” Wilson says. “Those are the people that we’re going to be helping the most because those are the people that are going to be hurting the most.”

The writers’ strike resolved in late September. But it may take much longer for individuals who lost wages in that time to recover.

Why? It is honorable that those with the ability to survive while the strike went on looked to the interests of those who get less applause (literally and figuratively!) and income.

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