Hollywood strikes send shivers through British film industry | ET REALITY


What do “Barbie,” “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning” and “Indiana Jones and the Doom Dial” have in common? As well as being the big-budget films of the summer, they were made in Britain and partly filmed at some of the country’s most esteemed studios.

Major Hollywood productions are a fundamental part of the British film and television industry. Over the years they have brought money, jobs and prestige, helping to make the sector a bright spot in the British economy. But now that special relationship has brought difficulties.

The strikes of actors and screenwriters in the United States, which have paralyzed much of Hollywood, are also being strongly felt in Great Britain, where productions such as “Deadpool 3”, “Wicked” and the second part of “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning” stopped filming. During the late summer months, when the industry was at its busiest to take advantage of the long days, the sound stages at Pinewood, Britain’s largest studios, were almost empty.

Film crews such as cameramen and costume designers were left out of work after productions came to an abrupt halt. Bectu, the British union for workers who perform behind-the-scenes roles in the creative industries, surveyed almost 4,000 of its film and television members and 80 percent said their jobs had been affected, with three-quarters not working.

“Whether you think the studios are right or the unions are right, there are people who are suffering in the UK,” said Marcus Ryder, the incoming chief executive of the Film and TV Charity, which supports struggling workers. financial. .

In August, the charity received more than 320 applications for grants for people in financial difficulty, compared to 37 the previous year.

Since the first “Star Wars” film was partially filmed on a studio in England in the mid-1970s, British film studios have been one of the top destinations for American productions, and that momentum has accelerated in the last decade thanks to generous tax incentives and filmmakers. ‘Demand for experienced crews. More recently, Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services have taken over studio space so quickly that they sparked a studio construction boom.

These big-budget productions employ thousands of local workers and pump billions into the economy. Last year, a record £6.3 billion ($7.8 billion) was spent on high-profile film and television productions in Britain, according to the British Film Institute. Nearly 90 percent came from American studios or other foreign productions.

The number of films or TV shows delayed in Britain since mid-July, when Hollywood actors joined the writers’ strike, is relatively small. maybe around a dozen, But it is the large productions that require a lot of equipment and support an ecosystem of visual effects companies, catering and other services.

Charlotte Sewell, a London-based costume design assistant, was working on the movie “Mission: Impossible” when strikes halted production. For a few weeks she was able to work one day a week, but now that is gone too.

“Now that my one-day week is over, I’ll be trying to find something somewhere,” he said. “I’m not sure where yet.”

Sewell, who also chairs Bectu’s committee for costume and costume department workers, said he supported the strikes and hoped he could return to “Mission: Impossible” when the disputes were over.

Meanwhile, she’s nervous about her finances, especially paying her next self-employment tax bill, which is due in January.

“Because I’ve been in the industry for a long time, I guess mentally I’m more prepared to deal with the downtime, but financially I’m not,” she said.

He started in the business in 1992. Back then, the film industry was in a “desperate situation” after a funding crash, Sewell said, but the last few years have been “unbelievable.” There has been a notable shift in his work toward major American productions.

“We rely a lot on American studio productions for our work,” he said, because British productions have declined. “I used to work in independent film all the time. “I haven’t done it in years because it just doesn’t exist.”

The problems for British workers have been exacerbated by a slowdown in domestic production, said Philippa Childs, director of Bectu. The funding the BBC provides to viewers, through a license fee, was frozen by the government for two years until April 2024, and other British broadcasters are struggling with a fall in advertising revenue, restricting their ability to commission new work, especially since production costs are high. . At the same time, film workers have faced a reduction in their own budgets due to persistently high inflation.

Bectu supports SAG-AFTRA, the Hollywood union that represents actors, Childs said, in part because the issues that have sparked the U.S. strike, such as studios’ use of artificial intelligence, will “inevitably” have a big impact on Britain too.

Most workers in the industry are self-employed, but unions say that doesn’t mean the work is always precarious. After the pandemic shutdowns, demand for workers was high and the industry was filled with stories of people suddenly moving to other productions for better pay.

“We have gone from feasting to famine,” Childs said.

The ripple effects of the strikes are mainly in productions with stars who are members of SAG-AFTRA, who tend to be actors based in the United States. But the impact is expected to grow and affect more workers. However, many sectors of the British film industry are insulated from strikes; National productions have continued, with British actors or British union agreements.

That could change. Equity, the British actors’ union, is closely monitoring Hollywood negotiations ahead of contract renewals in Britain. A request for a 15 percent wage increase has been submitted to production companies, which will be followed by negotiations on working rights and conditions. Equity has a campaign called “Stop AI Stealing the Show”, arguing that British law does not protect the rights of performers.

“Obviously we’re going to want what Americans want,” said Paul Fleming, equity secretary. “So we face the prospect of industrial unrest in the middle of next year.”

For the past 13 years, Ian Ogden has worked as a grip, a crew member who moves and holds the camera. He was reshooting Disney’s live-action remake of “Snow White” when strikes interrupted filming in July.

“It’s been pretty bleak since then,” he said.

Last month, Ogden said, she earned three-quarters of what she needed and was using savings set aside for her two young children to pay for groceries. For weeks, he struggled to find new work, as the productions still underway tended to be smaller and didn’t require as many cameras and grips, he said. Recently, he found work on a British television production.

Ogden, a member of Bectu who also holds a position at a flu charity, said: “I support the fight for rights.” But he doesn’t support the strike, he said, because it’s hurting off-screen workers who don’t have the kind of financial support that Hollywood actors have.

“The people affected in this country are not millionaires,” he said.

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