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B.C. film sector readies for impacts of Hollywood actors' strike

Strike vote today could see actors join writers with a walkout
B.C. film shoots have been few and far between since the Hollywood writers' strike started in May

B.C.'s film industry is bracing for what could be Hollywood's first industrywide shutdown in 63 years, with actors joining writers on strike.

The leaders of the actors' Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to strike Thursday. Actors have not had a major walkout in more than 40 years, and their job action would come on top of the writers' strike, which began on May 2.

Industry insiders in April told BIV that just the spectre of a writers' strike was enough to shelve many projects. Some projects are continuing, however, as long as they have scripts. 

Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia chair Gemma Martini told BIV this morning that the industry is operating at about 25 per cent of capacity because of the lack of scripts, and that the actors' strike will bring the industry to a virtual stop. 

"Some scripts were written by Canadian writers for productions using American actors," Martini said.

She estimated that domestic scripts are used in about 15 per cent of productions in B.C., and that those productions could in theory continue if the projects use only Canadian actors. 

Creative BC in March estimated that B.C.'s film and TV industry employs about 88,000 workers with the equivalent of 40,000 full-time and equivalent jobs, most of which are in Metro Vancouver.

A record $4.8 billion was spent on film, TV, visual effects and animation in B.C. in 2021, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission, so the shutdown will have an impact on the B.C. economy. 

Location Fixer owner Synnöve Godeseth told BIV that B.C.'s film industry is mostly service based, as the province does not have a large number of its own writers and actors.

Instead, it relies on Hollywood productions to come to use local locations, camera operators, grips, sound engineers and other support staff.

"Aside from the writers and the actors, there are many, many, many other industry workers, such as ourselves, who have all stood down, and are not working," she said. "It's a really big hit for our industry as a whole."

Location Fixer has clients such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, and is the liaison between the gallery and studios that want to use the location. The company provides this service for about 20 locations.

Her company has four staff and about 10 contractors. She and her business partner are no longer paying themselves salaries. They are continuing to pay their four staff but the contractors are all out of work, she said.

Godeseth said that if the strike is prolonged, some owners of these locations may decide to repurpose their spaces and opt not to be available for the industry. 

Those actions could hurt the local sector in future years, she said, adding that she supports the unions' demands, related to pay and how the industry uses artificial intelligence (AI), which are sticking points in negotiations. 

The Hollywood actors' union's previous three-year contract expired at 11:58 p.m. last night, after being extended from June 30 to allow for continued negotiations.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers represents Hollywood studios in the talks.

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