By Anna Mehler Paperny and Divya Rajagopal
(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The rare double-whammy by Hollywood film and television actors and writers is casting a shadow over British Columbia’s creative industry, which has become a hub for American film and television production.
Known as “Hollywood North,” the Canadian province and city of Vancouver comprises one of the largest production centers in North America, with more than 50 animation studios alone, employing as many as 88,000 people, according to a provincial agency. It generated an estimated revenue of C$3.6 billion (US$2.7 billion) in 2022.
The Hollywood actors on Friday joined the writers on pickets for the first time in 63 years. Union workers are demanding higher wages in an age where streaming of movies and TV shows has reduced royalties for working-class actors.
Film production in British Columbia is down to “a trickle,” said Gemma Martini, president of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association and CEO of Martini Film Studios.
Creative BC, the government body responsible for promoting creative industries in the province, said in a statement it was “concerned about the workforce, businesses, industry and people.”
Since the 1990s, several levels of government have offered tax credits to the industry, adding to its appeal as a filmmaking destination. Over the years, Vancouver, with its proximity to Los Angeles and prime locations, has emerged as an alternative hub for production and post-production businesses, production executives said.
Vancouver and the surrounding areas have attracted popular shows and movies including ‘Supergirl’, ‘The Flash’, ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Deadpool 2’.
TAKING A STEP
The reverberation that began on May 2 with the writers’ strike has grown in British Columbia, where most productions have American components.
In any given week, British Columbia-based film location management company Location Fixer might have 15 active productions.
“Now,” said co-owner Synnove Godeseth, “we have zero.”
Godeseth estimates that about 75% of his company’s business comes from US productions. First the company was hit by the writers’ strike: “Because no scripts are being written, people don’t come to explore our locations.”
Now, the actors’ strike is taking over. The publicity shots are helping: “this is literally what keeps us afloat.”
Godeseth said he supported the striking workers “100 per cent” and hoped for a speedy resolution.
“I hope big studios can meet the unions’ demands. We want humans to be fairly rewarded and their creativity paid accordingly,” he said.
Last year, the Vancouver Economic Commission described the film industry as an “economic lifeline” for industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, such as tourism, housing, hospitality and transportation.
British Columbia’s film industry is largely concert-based, Martini said.
People are hired for a specific production. If there are no productions, they are not paid. This could leave thousands of job seekers outside the industry if the strike drags on.
“It’s one of our biggest assets in British Columbia, it’s the talent and experience of our crew. It’s very difficult to replace.”
The Hollywood strike could affect the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which opens in early September. TIFF, seen as a stepping stone to the Academy Awards, said it would continue planning for the festival with hopes of a quick resolution to the strike in the coming weeks.
“The impact of this strike on industry and events like ours cannot be denied,” said a TIFF spokesman.
($1 = 1.3216 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny and Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Denny Thomas and Grant McCool)