More Than 500 Participate in Local 700 Town Hall; Behind-the-Camera Workers Supportive, Nervous Over Writers Strike
The sentiment among Hollywood’s behind-the-camera talent — whether they are members of IATSE or work independently — widely favors the Writers Guild of America’s decision to call a strike on May 1 when negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down Monday. night as their contract expired. It was evident this past week and on Sunday as more than 500 members of IATSE Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, participated in a town hall meeting during which the strike was at the center of the discussion.
According to sources, the meeting was held in person at the DGA building in Los Angeles, where an estimated 100 turned up; in New York; and via Zoom, where more than 400 joined the town hall virtually. The mood was described by attendees as upbeat, supportive, positive and curious, but also nervous and worried, especially considering the prospect of a prolonged strike.
Local 700 executive director Cathy Repola received cheers when, taking a page from Ted Lasso, she urged members to adopt the philosophy espoused in the latest episode: “Don’t fight back. Fight forward,” sources told The News84Media.
In the days before the strike began, IATSE president Matthew D. Loeb — who represents more than 160,000 entertainment workers — issued a statement in support of the writers. This past week, various IATSE Locals, including three of the largest in Hollywood — International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600), Art Directors Guild (Local 800) and Local 700 — issued statements or tweeted support for the Writers Guild. Local 700 tweeted, “At the heart of what we as a union stand for is the innate right of all workers to seek the wages and working conditions they deserve. The Motion Picture Editors Guild supports the WGA writers in their fight to achieve a fair and equitable contract.”
The editors guild’s Town Hall (which had been scheduled prior to the strike) lasted nearly three hours on Sunday and covered topics including the strike and preparation for its own next contact negotiation with AMPTP (the negotiating arm for the studios and streaming services), which , if it follows a similar schedule to previous cycles, could begin in March. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, members were said to have asked a range of questions about the strike and its ramifications on the guild.
“While the mood was upbeat, it was acknowledged that an industrywide slowdown since early 2023 had already affected the employment of many members. The possibility of a DGA and SAG strike looming, while speculative at this date, is disturbing,” admitted one attendee in reference to those contracts, which expire on June 30.
Still, sources said it was clear that the writers have a lot of support. “I don’t know of anyone in Local 700 who is against the writers strike, unless it’s driven by fear,” one member told. THR. “There’s so much fear out there because this is the unknown. But we are supporting the writers because what they are asking for is fair and ultimately in the right thing to do.” The WGA and AMPTP are at an impasse over their positions regarding levels and types of compensation for streaming content. Also at issue: WGA is seeking protections about the use of AI.
Numerous guild members told THR that they and additional colleagues plan to join a picket line this coming week.
IATSE has been providing guidance on members’ contractual obligations during a strike. “Unless prohibited by contract, employees are generally permitted to honor lawful picket lines and may not be discharged for engaging in that conduct unless the discharge was justified by legitimate business considerations of an overriding nature. … The wording of these ‘no strike’ provisions differ from contract to contract, and therefore they deserve individual attention,” wrote IATSE president Loeb in a portion of a memo to US IATSE members.
Prior to the breakdown in negotiations, Loeb released a statement in support of the writers, a portion of which reads: “We recognize and support our fellow entertainment workers in their mission to negotiate an agreement that addresses their issues from the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media-mega corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars.”
This week, the International Cinematographers Guild issued a statement in support of the writers: “Local 600’s core principles include that all workers have the right to be compensated fairly, provided with sustainable benefits and ensured of safe working conditions. We strongly support the WGA in their fight for a fair contract,” the statement reads.
And the Art Directors Guild tweeted: “Standing in solidarity with @WGAEast & @WGAWest!”
There are also many workers behind the camera, such as those working in visual effects and parts of postproduction that are not part of a union but are rather employed by independent companies. Sources have expressed concerns, saying that like much of the industry, such companies had already started to slow in the lead-up to the contract deadline. “While there appears to be enough projects either in post or starting post that can sustain VFX houses for a while, if the strike is protracted, or if the DGA and SAG strike later in the summer, we could wind up seeing some facilities pare down staffs or close,” admitted one veteran VFX producer.
“These are going to be tight times depending on how long it lasts because all the VFX facilities are winding down and this is going to delay the filling of the pipelines,” agreed another VFX vet, warning, “We could see more consolidation, or several of them going out of business.”
This also comes at a time when the industry was moving past the COVID emergency. “There are people that were off a year or two because of COVID, and just getting back on their feet. … We need to build a more robust entertainment industry; now is not the time to divide,” said one IATSE member who supports the writers position. “We don’t want a strike, we [entertainment workers] also don’t want to give up the thing that makes our careers valuable. What a shitty decision.”
Check the latest Hollywood news here.