Local industry leaders hoped for a quick end to the Writers Guild of America strike Tuesday, after the writers’ unions announced their decision to halt work following weeks of negotiations with major studios and content streamers.
Picketing is expected to begin Wednesday, according to a statement from the Writers Guild of America West and the Council of the Writers Guild of America, East, which called the studios’ responses so far “wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.”
While many working in the industry expected the strike because such a move was narrowly averted in 2020 due to the pandemic, the potential duration and widespread impacts are most troubling to local officials.
In Santa Clarita, where many of the major studios and streamers hire space for their projects and find locations for their shoots, leaders have seen a slowdown in scheduling over the last few months in anticipation of the potential work stoppage, said Anthony Syracuse, co-owner of LA North.
Syracuse was working in set construction during the last stoppage caused by a writers strike in 2007-08.
“I did witness a downturn in 2008, when we were doing the first ‘G.I. Joe’ movie,” Syracuse said. “And I don’t think anybody expected it to last for as long as it did. And you know, having witnessed that then, I hope that this gets resolved way before then.”
The last work stoppage, which lasted approximately 100 days, cost the industry anywhere from $380 million to $2 billion in revenue, with the Milken Institute estimating the losses then at approximately $20 million per day.
In Santa Clarita, Michael DeLorenzo, the head of the area’s largest production facility, Santa Clarita Studios, pointed out the impacts go well beyond the industry.
“The writers’ shutdown affects every position in the motion picture industry, from the drivers to the cinematographers to the directors and everybody in between,” he said, adding his own facility, Santa Clarita Studios, local caterers, custodial staff and every other vendor that supports the motion picture industry, to that list.
“The amount of money spent in our community is significant when there’s film production, and when film production is shut down … all of those expenditures shut down,” he added. “So really, it not only affects the writers, it affects the entire industry … and our local economy.”
The city of Santa Clarita, which estimated the annual impact of the filming industry to be about $38.5 million in 2022, noting the timing didn’t impact some of its major productions, and that commercials, as well as nonunion productions, will continue.
There may be less filming, particularly of the big-budget variety, for the time being, but there will still be some activity, said Evan Thomason, economic development associate for the city.
Planning for a potential stoppage seemed to help some production, he said.
“Most of our local shows have finished: ‘Mayan’s MC,’ ‘SWAT’ and ‘NCIS.’ ‘Good Trouble’ is still running. We’re reaching out to see if they’re affected. Other than that, most people saw this coming. So, it’s not a surprise,” he added.
“We expect non-union shoots to continue and shows that do not need daily writing. How much it affects us just depends on how prolonged the strike is,” he said. “Because this was anticipated, there has been a slowdown in permitting and the number of shows that we have seen.”
Monica Harrison, whose business, L.A. Film Locations, assists production companies in finding the right locations for their shoots, said she’s been lucky to be able to stay busy with filming for commercials, particularly in the last couple of weeks.
But she also expressed concern over the potential for protracted negotiations.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be a couple of weeks or a couple months,” Harrison said, adding, “I got a flurry of a whole bunch of shoots in the last couple of weeks, and I think it was in anticipation of this.”
There will be lots of speculation until a new deal is struck, but it’s hard to say how long that will take unless you’re one of the people “in the room” for the negotiations, Syracuse said.
The statement from the writers’ unions noted the decision to strike followed six weeks of negotiations, which left the unions feeling as though major content producers have “closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance position.”
Syracuse said that, at the end of the day, with so many depending on the industry for a living, he was hopeful that both sides can come to a deal they feel is fair.
“There’s no way to know how close to a deal they are or how far apart they are,” he said, “and that’s where I think the hope comes in for our industry to get back to work.”