Hollywood’s Behind-The-Scene Workers Prepare for Strike
By Movieguide® Staff
The International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, continue to discuss the working conditions and pay for behind-the-scenes crew members in Hollywood.
For members of the IATSE, a strike appears to be the best course of action.
“If we don’t address this, I can’t work in this industry till I’m 62, there’s no way,” a costume manufacturer named Gina Scarnati, 44, told NBC News. “We shouldn’t be begging for lunch breaks in 2021. I am 100 percent not financially prepared to go on strike, but we need to course correct. Right now, it’s an industry I regret even getting into.”
On Oct. 4, nearly 60,000 workers in the union participated in a vote on the strike should their negotiations fail with AMPTP—the group representing Hollywood’s production companies.
Vice President of IATSE Local 871, Marisa Shipley, said that people need to change their perception of the industry.
“There’s this presentation of the industry as a dream factory, not only that we’re producing these fantastical stories but also that working in the industry is a dream come true,” the 33-year-old art department coordinator said. “People outside the industry say they would work on a set for free if given the opportunity, but this isn’t one day. This is day after day, hundreds of days, thousands of hours with these conditions and little pay.”
Scarnati, who has worked over a decade in the industry, revealed that her hours rarely drop below 12 a day amid a big project like THE HUNGER GAMES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or CAPTAIN AMERICA.
Keith Muessigmann, a manufacturing foreperson, explained that demand for quality in television and movies increases but pay and work conditions for union members stay the same.
“Expectations for TV shows to have a movie-quality look with a significantly smaller staff and timeline are unsustainable for the industry,” Muessigmann, 59, told NBC News.
“No one wants to be the person who doesn’t deliver, but every time we do under these conditions, it pushes us in the wrong direction,” Muessigmann added. “For me at my age, I can work another five to six years and I can get through it. But I’ve got two really young women working for me. I look at them and think if we don’t take the opportunity to get these issues resolved now, where are they going to be in 30 years?”
Big tech companies’ new focus on streaming has also raised concerns among union workers who are legally paid less for streaming content than traditional production projects.
“If you are sought after, you shouldn’t have to shoot yourself in the foot and take less money to work,” Scarnati said. “It’s hard for me to understand, is it just insatiable greed, at the expense of us getting proper sleep and nutrition? If you discount somebody’s labor, you’re discounting their life.”