Like many industries, Hollywood productions shut down during 2020 due to the pandemic. As a result, many films and TV shows were delayed, or suffered severe cuts and alterations. While many films were delayed, TV shows often suffered worse. While shows like The Flash had episodes cut, resulting in a shorter season. Others like The Falcon And The Winter Solider had to rethink vital plot points. Some like Supernatural had to, unfortunately, sacrifice the intended ending to accommodate new working conditions and keep everyone safe
In short, it’s been a rough year for those working in Film and TV. But even in years without a global pandemic, it’s not the easiest job. Long unsociable hours, low pay, and little time for things like meals or sleep are commonplace. That’s a lot of the reasons the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has voted with a 98% majority to go on strike. This is the first time in the alliance’s 128 year history that strike action has been authorised. With so many workers part of the union, what does this mean for Hollywood?
2007-2008 Writer’s Strike
The last big Hollywood strike was the Writer’s strike. As streaming platforms began to take off, writers demanded fairer treatment for their work, as well as residuals from sales of DVDs. The cost of producing DVD’s had reduced dramatically since the original agreement, and digital viewing, either through download or streaming, was becoming popular. As writers often rely on residuals from past projects via reruns or sales, these are important sources of income that writers felt was being unfairly distributed.
Without writers, most film and TV productions were forced to shut down, with many laying off several other production staff as a result. Many TV seasons were cut short and networks scrambled to replace them with reality TV. The industries lost millions of dollars and many actors showed their support The strike was successful, as writers got a new deal ahead of the big streaming boom, and a more even share for residuals. So there is a precedent for these strikes to be successful.
Members of the latest strike include cinematographers, set designers, hair and makeup artists, animators and many more across big filmmaking hubs like New York, LA and Atlanta. After Covid-19 brought productions to a standstill, many are working overtime on top of 12 hour days in an effort to catch up. In some cases, this is leading to accidents, either on set or off, and exacerbating medical conditions. Often these hours are for low pay if their overtime is paid at all, In short- it’s understandable why. The pandemic has caused many to lose their jobs, and others to re-evaluate their careers and priorities. After months of uncertainty, it makes sense that workers would be less willing to put up with this.
Despite a deal being reached preventing the strike, many are reportedly unhappy with the results. The new deal offers a 54 hour weekend and 10 hour turnover time, but many already have that in their contracts, so nothing changes. While some workers said they would need information before making a decision, others are underwhelmed.
It’s possible this could change the way Hollywood works forever. The industry is infamous for its long and unsociable hours. Changing them would undoubtedly benefit all those working there. But it would likely affect production times. With shorter days and weekends, it would likely take longer for a project to wrap, and even longer to edit. With these restrictions in place, the traditional 22 episodes season most US shows enjoy would likely suffer. Either in episode count or gap between seasons. Likewise, many films would likely have longer production times. Marvel’s Phase 4 for example would likely be delayed from its current timeline. On the flip side, it may allow many new talents to enter the industry that were previously unable or put off by the long hours.
Whatever happens with the strike is sure to be very interesting, and have long-lasting effects on Hollywood and TV/film production.