Sat, May 25, 2024

Through the strikes, Hollywood reflects corporate realities

Dylan James graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design with a BFA in Dramatic Writing. He has studied both the ‘show’ and ‘business’ aspects of show business since childhood, and writes through sociological analysis, seeking relevance in the art and commerce for the moment. In today’s column, he offers his opinion on the Hollywood labor strikes and the facts on their economic impact for Georgia.

It’s been nearly seventeen weeks since the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reached their negotiation deadline with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), resulting in the current labor strike. Likewise, nearly nine weeks have passed since the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) followed suit. As the summer ends, the industry remains at a standstill, with the guilds having only pronounced solidarity and maintained a frigid focus to celebrate. The AMPTP, on the other hand, has a handful of new releases, but no one to market them.

Speaking locally, Augusta is one of many Georgia cities heavily affected by the strikes. Since 2019, an estimated $5 Million has boosted the city’s economy through major and independent film projects, creating nearly a thousand jobs in the process. That number is only a small fragment of Georgia’s statewide numbers, which reached $4 Billion in investments in 2021 and rose to $4.4 Billion in 2022. The WGA strike and the SAG strike dwindled the hopes of any new projects coming to fruition. The state has seen losses in tens of thousands of businesses (including restaurants, lodging, and wardrobe) because of this.

Georgia, sometimes referred to as the Hollywood of the South, is the second largest production center in the United States, behind Los Angeles.

This change of pace is here to stay throughout the immediate future.

The stubbornness of the AMPTP’s gatekeeping of royalties and Artificial Intelligence workforce implementations, two key hallmarks of the strikes, reflects two major symbols: 1, a drastically changing industry that has dissented into wild-wild-west chaos and lack of consensus, and 2, a representation of the American workforce writ-large.

Amid oscillating inflation and automation, our workforce has seen a continued struggle to survive paycheck-to-paycheck while outsourced machinery gobbles American jobs. Just like the Hollywood disputes, there are nuanced conversations to be had about working through technological advancements, while maintaining a steady, healthy workforce. Those conversations aren’t being had. When there’s no consensus on what defines compromise vs. kowtowing, the business of negotiation goes national. Recently, there’s been a lot of that. UPS workers averted a major strike, and United Auto Workers (UAW) may be on the road to demonstration by the end of this week. All of these are based on similar pay and technology concerns as the filmmaking guilds.

Once again, Hollywood sets the standard.

Though appearing dismal, these contentious days should be seen as a rightful challenge for all industries and remind us of how fortunate we are in this country to be able to demonstrate at all. That being said, freedom of speech is powerless when it falls on deaf ears. Negotiation is the most essential element of this process, and the AMPTP has shown minuscule intent to practice it. The result of this is millions of film personnel, from carpenters to line producers, without work, and tensions growing fiercer by the day.

The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries TV shows helped put a national spotlight on Georgia.

The goal of the WGA and SAG strikes is to set a new standard for the industry, envisioning a business that thrives from the bottom to the top and ensures security for practitioners of the arts and sciences of filmmaking. The cost of their demands to studio CEOs amounts to an average of about 0.15% of total revenue per company.

That’s all? Yes, that’s all.

Is a fraction of a single percentage point in revenue worth putting Georgia’s economy at risk? So far, the answer from the AMPTP seems to be a resounding yes. In my opinion, this isn’t too complex an issue: the guilds are owed their security and Georgians are owed the jobs they earned. Pay these guys so we can get back to work!

That’s my two cents, which due to inflation is now worth about a half-a-penny.

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