Looming TV and film strike could hit local economy

The television and film industry could shut down if workers at entertainment unions authorize a strike as early as Friday over working conditions, a move that could halt productions from coast to coast, including some filming of New York-based films and television that depend on union work. This includes the HBO Max series “Pretty Little Liars”, which is filming in Saugerties, and a Hallmark film which is filming in Newburgh.

The wider area has become a destination for Hollywood, as Showtime’s hit show “Trillions” tours Albany this week, and earlier this year, HBO’s “The Gilded Age” and “White House Plumbers” have shot scenes in the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley, among other notable productions.

The walkout of the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees (IATSE) – an umbrella union that represents local unions working in entertainment, like Local 600 for Cameramen – would be Hollywood’s first major strike in 14 years and would be felt here.

“It’s a big deal on every level,” said Laurent Rejto, director of the Hudson Valley Film Commission and member of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. “It would have a huge impact that I can’t even understand.”

Rejto estimates that there are hundreds to thousands of local union members here in the Hudson Valley who will march if IATSE votes in favor of the strike on Friday. “There is nothing that does not affect,” he said of the closure. In the region, very few non-union films are made.

“There’s no way ‘Pretty Little Liars’ could go on [if the strike happens]”Said Rejto. “This production is supposed to continue until April [2022], so that would be a huge problem not only for the crew, but for the cast members and all the sellers in the region who benefit from these kinds of productions.

In the Capital Region, Albany Film Commissioner Deb Goedeke is closely monitoring strike talks, but doesn’t expect as much success there. “We have a big stash of independent productions and most of them are not unionized,” she said, while adding: “I don’t want anybody to be out of work, and I want everyone to be unemployed. world has good working conditions, especially during COVID. ”

A strike would come after a record first half for Hudson Valley television and film production, which brought in more than $ 30 million to the region’s economy between January and June through spending by various film companies. As the third quarter draws to a close, Rejto reports that more than 10,000 hotel rooms in the region were occupied by film and television productions.

“It makes a huge difference for hotels, especially when the off-season arrives in mid-November,” Rejto said. “Hotels love to have movies here because they can keep people employed and rent rooms.”

How the streaming wars factor in a possible strike

There are 19,000 members of the IATSE union who live and work in New York State. On September 24, locals wrote to lawmakers to inform them of the deadlock in collective agreements between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major film and television production companies, including CBS Studios Inc., 20th Century Studios Inc., Lions Gate Productions, Netflix Studios and many more.

AMPTP has announced that it does not intend to make a counter-offer to the most recent IATSE proposal. A strike would be the biggest walkout of TV and film crews since WWII, and the first major strike since the withdrawal of the Writers Guild of America for 14 weeks from November 2007.

IATSE calls for living wages, sustainable benefits and improved rest periods between shifts and during the work day for thousands of camera operators, costume designers, editors and other workers from production.

“Reasonable rest demands that employers do not treat our members as machines that can just run until they are broken and then replaced,” the report read. Joint statement from IATSE Hollywood locals.

“I don’t think most people understand the working hours involved in producing movies,” Rejto said. “They are somewhat inhuman. Working 14 hours a day for 30 consecutive days is extremely dangerous and unhealthy. It’s something that they try to solve more than anything.

The strike also highlights an evolving industry in the age of streaming new media content; Union members say financial incentives should shift accordingly, including residue from streaming.

“The rules for new media are completely different from those for film and television, and you have to deal with it because that’s where most of the money is made now,” Rejto said. “A lot of that was due to COVID, because suddenly everyone was streaming and the theaters weren’t open.”

IATSE members will vote between October 1 and 3. For a local to pass a strike authorization, at least 75 percent of the voters must vote “yes” in favor of it.

“It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars when a production is stopped,” Goedeke said. “And we all know that too well with COVID and [when there are] positive tests on the set. I hope they will make it all work.

Rejto also hopes AMPTP negotiates with IATSE to create better working hours and new payments for the media.

“I think it can be fixed,” Rejto said. “We are not talking about companies that are exactly suffering. They all earn billions or billions of dollars.

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