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Over half of entertainment industry support staffers that responded to a new survey made $40,000 or less in 2021, while over one-quarter made less than $30,000.
The number of respondents who made $50,000 or less increased between 2020 and 2021, from 79.11 percent in 2020 to 91.05 percent in 2021, the latest annual pay and work conditions survey from advocacy organization #PayUpHollywood also finds. Five hundred and twenty-three support staffers — current or former assistants at studios, production and development companies, talent agencies and in production and postproduction departments — took part in the latest report, which was open between Nov. 16, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022, and whose results were published on Thursday.
The survey highlights that, according to California Housing Partnership’s 2021 Affordable Housing Needs Report for Los Angeles County, renters need to earn more than $79,524 a year to avoid being “cost burdened,” or using more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing expenses. By this metric, at least 95 percent of survey respondents would be considered cost burdened.
About 64 percent of survey respondents reported being required to or “strongly encouraged” to pay out-of-pocket expenses such as fees for cloud storage, dry cleaning, computers and streaming services. #PayUpHollywood says that out-of-pocket expenses that were only reimbursed in part or not reimbursed at all increased due to some support staffers working from home during 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to overall compensation, notably, the report finds that 49.03 percent of respondents said they were pressured to change timecards in a way that underreported hours worked.
To emphasize wage discrepancies, the survey juxtaposes the salaries of top Hollywood executives and their companies’ support staffers in a few infographics: Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings, for instance, made $1.6 million a week, while one support staffer who took the survey and worked on a Netflix-produced project made $1,200 a week, according to the report. Former Discovery CEO David Zaslav (now president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery) made $725,000 a week and a support staffer on a Discovery project made $1,600 a week.
“We wanted to provide a different set of data this year,” #PayUpHollywood co-founder Liz Alper said in a statement. “The aftermath of the pandemic has the potential to further set back support staff pay in Hollywood. Currently, studios and Hollywood corporations are sticking to the ‘There’s No Money’ narrative. We published the salaries of some of Hollywood’s most recognizable CEOs to show our current dystopian reality: while support staffers beg for 25-cent raises, are forced to work second jobs, and absorb unreimbursed work expenses, the leaders of these companies are making more than ever before.”
Three years after #PayUpHollywood began as a grassroots movement in 2019, the group additionally announced on Thursday that it has partnered with Women in Film Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reports that this partnership will offer #PayUpHollywood the opportunity to raise money as a nonprofit. “WIF is proud to support the important work that #PayUpHollywood is doing to advocate for sustainable wages for support staff in our industry, many of whom are women,” Women in Film CEO Kirsten Schaffer said in a statement. “We know women, and women of color in particular, have been hit hardest by deepening wealth inequality over the past few years. We hope that the results of this eye-opening survey will shine a light on these inequities so that they can be corrected.”
The latest #PayUpHollywood survey suggests that to address financial hardship and improve working conditions for support staffers, employers can offer 3 to 5 percent annual cost-of-living wage bumps, distribute anonymous workplace surveys and perform a “workplace assessment” conducted by a third party. The survey also suggests that employers could offer greater box rental and work-from-home expense reimbursement and “set a wage precedent” — in other words, give support staffers competitive wages and benefits compared to peer industry workplaces.
#PayUpHollywood emphasizes in their report that downward pressure on assistants is occurring as the entertainment industry is simultaneously being vocal about diversity and inclusion initiatives. Alper says in her statement, “The solution to fixing inclusion and equity issues in Hollywood must also acknowledge the financial disparities the industry has created for those just getting their foot in the door.”
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