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Hollywood’s Protests Affect Us All: Here's What To Know And How To Show Support
Culture & Entertainment

Hollywood’s Protests Affect Us All: Here's What To Know And How To Show Support

Unless you’re a creature of habit who likes to watch the same shows over and over, then prepare to be on a steady diet of reruns. As a result of the Hollywood strike happening now, it is likely that U.S. TV viewers won’t be seeing new scripted content or new seasons of their favorite shows until 2024…or even later than that. While it may seem like what is happening in Hollywood is an isolated protest, let me explain why this affects us all and why everyone should be participating.


What Is Happening? 

Hollywood is on pause after Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) creatives decided to team up protesting work conditions on set, fair pay & the introduction of AI technology in production. The last time this happened, roughly 60 years ago, industry executives were forced to accommodate the actors’ and writers' demands because they saw each other as collaborators rather than enemies.

Second assistant director and DGA member Meaghan Gillenwater-Stark has worked on a number of box office films and is directly impacted by what’s happening in Hollywood. Meaghan explains to xoNecole that what’s happening right now is bigger than entertainment, “There’s a bigger picture to all of this. There’s so many unions fighting for fair wages who are making their CEOs billionaires!” she says.

Legal Ramifications Of Striking 

As a result of the protests, union actors and writers are not allowed to work on any major studio films, but Meaghan says it gets deeper than that, adding that legal stipulations are also involved. For example, if you are a SAG member, you can get kicked out of the union if you’re caught filming with a major studio or streamer at this time. As for other working actors with hopes of one day joining a union, if they are caught working with a studio and SAG found out, according to Meaghan, “If SAG was to find out, they can decline your membership in the future.” She continues, “There’s cause and effects. Certain unions have rules and restrictions.”

This is new information to supervising docu-series producer Andrea Harris-Charles. Andrea tells me she’s been learning a lot about Hollywood since the protests. Like most people, Andrea assumed that cast and crew members alike received royalties on all of their projects, saying, “I had to check myself with my own thoughts and beliefs. These people are hungry and living check to check like we are. It’s all been very eye-opening.”

How Has Hollywood Responded? 

Hollywood's upper echelon has already begun to respond to SAG-AFTRA and WGA’s demands. Disney CEO Bog Iger called the strike “disturbing,” saying the industry is still yet to bounce back from COVID. He even went as far as to say that the strikers are “adding to the set of challenges that this business is already facing” and finds this all very “disruptive.” The AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) also released a statement saying that SAG-AFTRA members dismissed an offer that included “historic pay.” They fear that the Union has chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for thousands of people who depend on the industry.

There's Scripted, Then There's Reality TV 

Speaking of those thousands of people, actors and writers aren’t the only ones affected by this strike, don’t forget about everyone else who works on set. According to Meaghan, “Think of the people who make up films; the receptionist, makeup artist, etc. Those are the people who fight for fair wages too. Everybody deserves a fair wage. People assume you’re automatically rich [because you work in television or film],” she says.

As a result of this pause, you’re likely to see a surge of reality TV shows as well as live-streaming content. But don’t be mistaken, gigs in the docu-series world have been scarce well before the union strikes. A lot of people may not know this, but reality television is operated differently than scripted television. With the exception of a few shows, reality television is not a unionized institution, and the struggles its crew members endure oftentimes reflect that. “The people staffing up in reality [TV] know it’s a struggle out here and are taking advantage. Their attitude is ‘take it or leave it.’ Inflation, cost of living, etc. They know that people are almost desperate for work. [But] people are taking the low rate instead of us banning together.” She adds, “My skill should be met with adequate compensation. Instead, it is an industry sweatshop.”

Power In Solidarity 

It’s not just actors and writers, a lot of people are struggling to get by. Andrea tells xoNecole, “Bigger picture-wise, we should all be involved. If they don’t get what they need, then it will get worse for us.” UPS workers have seemed to follow in Hollywood’s footsteps by having their own protests. Entertainment aside for a moment, UPS workers have seemed to follow in Hollywood’s footsteps. The workers were gearing up to protest their company’s corporation by fighting for fair wages on BEHALF OF THEIR PART-TIME WORKERS! Salute to them!

However, what would have been one of the largest strikes in UPS history was averted after union leaders decided to offer pay raises for all UPS workers. In other positive news, following the strike, the WGA has already started the process of unionizing shows like MTV’s Ridiculousness. The union believes that the show fairs in comparison to pre-existing comedic shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos, where various comedic writers are involved.

How Will The 2023 Writers Guild Of America Strike Affect Everyone 

Well, it’s obvious that nothing is getting filmed until the strike comes to a positive conclusion. What that means for you is that a number of your favorite shows won’t air a new season for quite some time. Shows like P-Valley,Power Book II: Ghost, Stranger Things, and Abbott Elementary, just to name a few. Even the long-running live sketch show SNL has gone dark in honor of the union writers' strike. On a local level, some states, including Georgia, offer tax incentives for productions filming in their state.

Last year, the film industry brought over $4 billion dollars into the state of Georgia, but since the strike, some local businesses in Georgia are beginning to feel the absence of Hollywood in their monthly revenue. And as viewers find alternative things to do and watch, they’re likely to discontinue their streaming platform subscriptions since no new shows will be airing anytime soon.

What Happens Now 

We wait. Industry leaders on both sides will constantly be at the table, revising proposals and hoping for the best. Until then, actors, writers, and other scripted crew members alike have an uncertain future ahead. While some may be able to wait out the strike, that’s not the reality for everyone. “A lot of people I know are leaving the industry. A lot of people won’t return, and it will affect us for years to come,” Meaghan shares.

“You have people who took other jobs and found happiness working regular paying jobs with decent hours.” Like many of us, Meaghan was left without a job for a few months during COVID, but says she’s more prepared this time. “I’ve already applied for other jobs,” she reveals. There are rumors swirling that the strike will be over in October or maybe even next year, but for Meaghan, “There’s always hearsay. I would like to think they won’t draw it out that long. [So] looking for another source of income is important.”

Once everything settles and needs are met, Andrea is hoping for an even bigger outcome and doesn’t want the protests to stop in Hollywood, “The same fight needs to happen for the unscripted genres as well. Don’t forget about us. We are also fighting. We need allies as well,” she pleads.

How You Can Show Support For The Writers Strike

Honestly, rent is high, the cost of living is increasing, and have you seen the price of chicken in the grocery store lately? It’s a wonder we all aren’t out in the streets protesting in general. “We all need fair pay, overtime, we all need the same things. We all need breaks. I hope we are all able to be allies after this,” Andrea says.

But for now, outside of canceling streaming services and hitting them in the pockets, Meaghan suggests you choose the right form of protest for you. “If you don’t want to watch streaming, then cut it off. If you want to be more vocal, go to where they are striking. Do the research. There’s not much to do than applying pressure,” she says.

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Feature image by David McNew/Getty Images

 

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