Arts & Entertainment

Writers, actors strikes worse than pandemic for small business in Hollywood

By Monica Rubalcava

Los Angeles, Aug 5 (EFE).- Owners of small businesses that serve the entertainment industry in Southern California say they are suffering more from the strikes by writers and actors than they did during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are in survival mode,” Adrianna Cruz-Ocampo told EFE at her shop, U-Frame-It, in North Hollywood, 14 weeks into the strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Last month, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) declared a strike after also failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Not since 1960, when future President Ronald Reagan led the SAG, have writers and performers been on strike at the same time.

Besides assurances that the studios won’t use artificial intelligence to marginalize actors and writers, both unions are asking for better working conditions and greater transparency in how residuals are calculated.

The strikes are estimated to have cost the economy of the United States roughly $4 billion, and that figure could rise sharply if there is no settlement by the end of this month, Kevin Klowden, chief global strategist at California’s Milken Institute, told EFE.

Pam Elyea, owner of props store History for Hire, which has supplied articles for films such as “La La Land” and “Oppenheimer,” has had to lay off half of her employees.

At Sandy Rose Floral, boss Corri Levelle has reduced her staff from nine people to three.

“The strike has been a big game-changer for us. What made it so difficult is that we were just getting back on our feet from the pandemic and then all the sudden to have the strike come and shut down our business again,” Elyea said.

Businesses that have seen their sales drop 85 percent are struggling to cope with costs that include monthly rents up to $45,000.

“During the pandemic there was a feeling that everyone was in the same boat, there was support from the federal and state government,” Klowden pointed out.

“It is time for Los Angeles County and certainly for Los Angeles city to step up,” Elyea said. “We’ve been loyal businesses. We’ve stayed here, we haven’t gone to Georgia, we haven’t gone to New York. We haven’t taken our businesses to other states that have a pretty robust film industry, but we certainly need some help to keep our doors open.”

If the small businesses on which the entertainment industry depends go under, the industry will suffer from the resulting loss of skills and institutional memory, according to Klowden.

“This little piece of the industry is a piece of history, it’s a very important part of Los Angeles, we can’t allow it to leave,” said Remy de la Mora, sales manager at History for Hire.

Levelle sees the conflict between the studios and the writers and actors as symptomatic of broader trends in the US economy.

“I feel there are some very major issues that need to be solved right now to make things equitable for writers and for actors. I think it’s unfortunate that corporations don’t see that and they can’t share that with more people, and I don’t mean just writers and the SAG-AFTRA, it’s endemic across the country,” she said.

EFE mrl/dr

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