Hollywood in Crisis: Producers, Theater Workers, Crew Members Brace for Coronavirus Fallout

The Frame


Around the globe. Hollywood is shutting down the production of scores of movies and TV series and that means a huge number of crew members are suddenly unemployed. Many of those who lost their jobs are assistance and writer's room studios in agencies who might not qualify for pay or health benefits during a shutdown. Liz Alpers TV writer and a former assistant. She's the creator of pay up. Hollywood and I asked her how her organization started half. Hollywood is an organization that started in response to a lot of these system abuses and low wages that were going on in the entertainment industry and our goal is to shine a light on some of the abuses and outdated practices that have been going on and do whatever we can to fix it and bring assistance and other support staff up to a living wage while also radically aiding the abuses they're still going on in the workplace. So let's talk about what's going on in the workplace right now. More than seventy TV and film shoots so far. Shut down but when you add it all together probably looking at thousands of people below the line who are suddenly out of work. Do you think that's about right? I think that number's rising every day. So some of those people might be full-time studio employees. They might be casting directors or maybe somebody who works in post production. But I'M GONNA have to assume the majority are freelancers. They go from show to show kind of the backbone of Hollywood's GIG economy how might that latter group B. added disadvantage if they're laid off especially for the freelancers who are not part of any of the unions. These are people who don't have any sort of Cushion to fall back on often. They're living hand to mouth often. They're being paid lower than anyone else on the crew and they are paying for their own health insurance. It's not provided through union. They're the ones who went stuff like this happens. They don't really have anywhere else to turn. There are also ten ninety nine employees Who Don't get to pay into unemployment insurance and so they don't receive unemployment benefits when you major shutdowns like this happened even though it's never really happened before in the event that movie is cancelled or TV. Show ends what they have in their bank account is all they have to survive on until their next GIG. I have read that some of the things that have been considered our pain. People compensation for a couple of weeks but based on a forty hour work week. But there's almost no such thing as a forty hour work week during production. A lot of the compensation is tied to overtime when people are working sixty eighty hour weeks so that extra pay which can be huge if that goes away even if you're getting a paycheck for a couple of weeks it would be a fraction of what you might typically take home correct. Yeah that's connected honestly. Most people who work in production are given sixty hour. Workweek guarantees so by saying that we will pay you for a forty hour workweek. You're taking away. Twenty guaranteed hours if you're making say minimum wage of fifteen dollars an hour. That's about an additional three hundred dollars a week that you're losing and that's a huge difference. That's the difference between being able to pay your rent. Pay Your bills. Maybe you know by your kids food. If that money goes away you have nowhere else to turn and especially in a situation like what we're facing now where everything's uncertain. No one knows when production's going to be coming back you're essentially digging a financial hole and you don't know when you can stop we're talking with Liz Alpert from pay up Hollywood about unemployment in Hollywood. Your organization has helped start a crowd funding campaign. What kind of people do you think are most in need of help? You know honestly I think across the board. There are just people in need of health. It's it's the workers if the production folk we're focusing on the support staff because that's who our organization is fighting for but beyond the support staff. There are there crew members. There are studio assistants. Are Office Workers? Who have been laid off without pay. So it's really everybody. And even though we started this go fund me we're still urging the studios in the employees in the entertainment industry to continue compensating all their employees. Because right now the employees are the ones that needs to be taken care of and the businesses profit because of the hard work of their people so right now they need to be stepping up and offering financial protection and support throughout this time of uncertainty. It also feels like this is a moment where income disparity in Hollywood and probably around the world could be brought into much sharper focus so we have studio heads and CEO's who make tens of millions of dollars. Disney's Bob Iger may nearly fifteen hundred times. What the average is the employee makes and whole foods which is owned by Amazon. The richest man in the world. Jeff bezos worth. A hundred billion dollars has been asking it staff to donate their time offer others who might be sick. And I'm wondering if we're to step back might be a conversation that could follow after this is all over. You know. This is a conversation that's been had for years so it's not that these conversations haven't happened. It's that the world hasn't taken notice yet. And so what I think needs to happen is for the public at large to understand that we are facing a severe income disparity where the people at the bottom ten to pay the most in situations like this and who are at the most at risk and get their situations never change. They're they're never give an ounce of relief instead. They're told that they simply have to work harder to dig themselves out of these financial debts that they've accrued.

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