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Victoria film industry faces slower season amid Hollywood labour action

There will be no new scripts from L.A. or anywhere else in the U.S. until the labour dispute between the Writers Guild and Hollywood is resolved
Members of the Writers Guild of America picket outside CBS Television City in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles on May 2. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Labour turmoil in Hollywood is causing an industry slowdown for U.S. movie and TV productions, but the local film industry will only be “a little slower than usual,” said Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert.

Screenwriters with the Writers Guild of America have been on strike since May 2, and the 160,000 members of the actors union SAG-AFTRA began voting on Thursday on whether to authorize a strike in the face of upcoming negotiations with major Hollywood studios.

On Thursday night, two vampires duked it out in the parking lot-turned-film set behind Shanzee’s Biscuits for the second season of Syfy TV show Reginald the Vampire, one of only two productions set to shoot in Victoria this summer for American networks.

There will be no new scripts from Los Angeles or anywhere else in the U.S. until the labour dispute between the Writers Guild and movie and TV ­companies is resolved.

Gilbert said no American shows were lost due to the Writers Guild of America strike. Apart from Reginald the Vampire, a Hallmark show is in the works. “Their whole script was ­written well before the writers’ strike,” Gilbert said. “I doubt that many writers actually come up here and sit in a hotel and wait for rewrites.”

It’s hard to predict how labour issues will play out in the U.S., but the Victoria film industry will still be working through the summer, Gilbert said.

“This strike does not affect commercials, it doesn’t affect documentaries, it doesn’t affect any Canadian productions,” she said. “We’re continuing to put up packages on a daily basis.”

A two-month labour dispute last year by the B.C. branch of the Directors Guild of Canada disrupted filming during the peak months of April and May, with only one Bollywood production booked during that time.

While many shows are shot in Victoria — B.C.’s second largest film industry site outside the Lower Mainland — the biggest are always American productions.

Maid, a Netflix production, provided a $30 million to $40 million boost to the local economy, according to an estimate provided by Gilbert.

Hollywood writers are ­striking for pay and job security in an industry transformed by streaming, as well as pushing for regulations against the use of artificial intelligence in writing scripts.

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