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As contract negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reach a critical final weekend before a strike deadline set by the union, talks continue with conflicting reports on just how far apart the sides are in coming to an agreement.
Rest periods and streaming disparity had been the key sticking points earlier in the week that brought IATSE members to the brink of a strike that could shut down productions nationwide, according to a union insider.
Unless an agreement in these areas — as well as issues including minimum wages for the union’s lowest-paid workers and benefits (an area where talks were reportedly making progress) — is reached with the AMPTP this weekend, about 60,000 film and TV workers will go on strike Monday at 12:01 a.m. PT, Matthew Loeb, international president of the union, said. Negotiations are expected to continue until a tentative agreement is reached or the strike deadline met.
“In production, there’s always been a saying that in order to get something done, if you throw enough money or people at it, you can get stuff done in a short amount of time,” said Patric Abaravich, Local 871’s business representative. “That’s still the fix.”
“We continue to negotiate and we work toward reaching an agreement so we can keep the industry going,” added a studio source.
Following news of the tentative strike date announced Wednesday, the encroaching deadline was on crewmembers’ minds, including at The Harder They Fall premiere in Los Angeles. “I support IATSE 100 billion percent. I’m hoping that IATSE and the producers get together before Sunday, the shutoff time, and come up with a deal,” said makeup artist Shutchai Tym Buacharern. “What the below-the-line crew, the 13 Locals, are asking for is very bare minimum.”
“I feel the conversation is long overdue,” added costume designer Antoinette Messam. “We’re tired and I just really hope the producers hear us. No one wants a strike.”
Two producers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were making early contingency plans in the event of a strike: “We are trying to see how long we can go without doing anything drastic,” one said. An agent with a filmmaker client going into production, on the other hand, said, “As far as I can tell, no one really is making any contingencies. They think there will be a last-minute deal.”
IATSE members have started to get information on picket locations in Los Angeles and other areas. If the strike occurs, picketing is expected to take place in the Los Angeles area at the Sony, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Universal and Disney studio lots, as well as at smaller studios including Santa Clarita Studios, Red Studios Hollywood and Sunset Gower Studios, with locations extending as far north as Santa Clarita and as far south as Orange County. Signups for strike captains (who organize strikes and hand out picket signs) have started, with some training for those roles happening this weekend.
“I’ve never heard people so radicalized,” said one Local 600 source. “These issues should’ve been addressed 30 years ago. … COVID gave people time to stay home and rethink their lives. They came to the conclusion that they’re done with 16-hour days.”
Two separate studio insiders said that internally companies believe a strike is possible, but that if it happens, it’s expected to be short. On the supplier side, at least one postproduction company has started meeting with staff and letting them know that “the company will have to react in order to preserve cash,” should a potential strike be long-lived.
An actor on a CBS show that shoots in the Los Angeles area but lives out of state said their crew was preparing for a strike but they are holding out for a last-minute deal. “I want this resolved so I can get to my family in time for the holidays,” the actor said.
An agent with clients on several movies believes a strike will ultimately be averted. “The cost of having a strike, even a short one, will cost more to the studios than what the union is asking for,” they said. “That said, I wouldn’t discount the union looking at the offers and going, screw this, because they are crazy. And the studio could look at the numbers and go, screw this, because they’re crazy, too.”
Tatiana Siegel, Pamela McClintock, Borys Kit and Kirsten Chuba contributed to this report.
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