If you thought the writers' strike was bad, brace yourself…
The world has become an increasingly crazy place. But one thing has kept us at least moderately sane in the midst of it — and that’s our ability to stream massive amounts of digital movies and television.
But while you weren’t paying attention, that’s all about to change.
Over the weekend, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE) voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike authorization.
And it could bring Hollywood and streaming services to their knees.
So just how overwhelming was the vote? A full 98% of their members voted to authorize a move towards a strike.
Here’s why that’s a huge deal: the sheer number of professionals that could be included in the strike. We’re talking stagehands, people working front of house, wardrobe attendants, hair and makeup artists, technicians, production staff, artists, designers, animators, AV specialists, and much, much more.
To put it into comparison, when the writers all went on strike back in 2007 only 12,000 film and television writers took to the picket lines. For a total of 14 weeks.
This time, as many as 60,000 essential workers could go on strike.
Meet the “Bad Guy”
The “bad guy” in all of this right now is the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The high demand for streaming mid-pandemic content is part of the problem, too. High demand for content has helped push the situation to the brink.
Production workers are absolutely feeling overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated. They’re forced to deal with “Fraturdays” (which aren’t as fun as they sound), working long hours without meal breaks, and that’s just the start.
The big difference here now is leverage.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has offered some tweaks to the schedule, but not the wholesale changes sought by the union.
But we’ve seen a lot of firsts in history lately, so that’s not entirely impossible.
IATSE Isn’t Standing Alone
While I don’t have the time to air all of the union members’ grievances here, suffice it to say, they aren’t being unreasonable.
So-called “New Media” like Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon and Hulu haven’t helped matters at all. And because they started out as “little” guys with less than 20 million subscribers, union members were willing to work for lower rates while they all gained ground.
But now they’ve all become giants, but are still paying out wages like they’re a little guy.
And people are taking notice.
So far, 118 members of Congress, the Art Director’s Guild, American Cinema Editors, the International Cinematographer’s Guild, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, the International Union of Teamsters and the Writer’s Guild of America East are also showing solidarity.
Celebrities who are showing their support include names like Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
And if you think Hollywood is the only movie and television hub at risk, you’d be wrong. Atlanta, New Mexico and New York will also be impacted by the potential strike.
In fact, about the only people who won’t be impacted are those working in commercials, with HBO, Showtime, STARZ, Cinemax, BET, other “pay television”, music videos, one-off productions, low-budget theatre, and local news production teams.
Now, We’ll Just Have to Wait & See
For now, it’s worth noting that voting to authorize a strike is not the same thing as striking. But what it does mean is that international Matthew D. Loeb will have a lot more leverage as negotiations continue with The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
But if things don’t turn out all roses and sunshine in the end, you might want to start thinking of a replacement hobby for your streaming time.
That, or get used to watching a lot more old movies and shows, or more foreign video. Something tells me that since all of the major streaming hubs have been dedicating a lot of time and resources to exactly that type of content, we may all be looking for some silver lining before too long.