As someone who has worked on a few sets as a production assistant, the hours are long and the work can be grueling. There used to be a time when there was such a thing as an “off-season.” But with our butts glued to couches and nowhere to go during the pandemic, everyone tuned into their preferred streaming services.
Finally, on Friday, union members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees began to vote on whether to authorize a strike. This vote gives union members leverage in negotiation with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. If the union members choose to go on strike, it would ultimately shut everything down. As if we aren’t already used to that by now.
The main issue surrounds payment in the landscape of streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have turned production into a year-long mission to pump out as much content as possible, as quickly as possible.
This pressure ultimately lands on the crew, who puts in strenuous work to compensate for time lost during COVID, and keep up with the latest projects. This is enough to make anyone go insane! And the crew members contracts have not developed as quickly as their demands. Despite working on million-dollar-budget sets, most workers make minimum wage or slightly above it.
The growing tensions are reflected in the recent lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson. While she is the talent, it’s an echo of the people that support the cast. Other celebrities, like Jane Fonda and Danny DeVito, rally in support of union workers to push back against the AMTP.
This is a necessary change, as without the set builders, costume designers, and crew, there would be no production. It may come as a “shock” to the fabulously wealthy actors and better-compensated crew. But the needs of the people, whose labor we depend on, must be heard now.
The results of the vote will be announced Monday, October 4th.