Frock Flicks is in solidarity with IATSE

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We know Frock Flicks is often considered to be at odds with the filmmaking community due to our seemingly relentless crusade against crappy costuming in historical film and television, but the truth is that we have a lot of respect for the people behind the scenes who don’t call the shots, who do the grueling work, and who get very little recognition for their labor while movie stars and big-name producers rake in the glory (and the cash).

You may have heard that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is planning to call a general strike on the motion picture industry that threatens to shut down production on a scale of the Writer’s Strike in 2007. We here at Frock Flicks thought that it was worth explaining a little bit about what is driving this unprecedented action since it could very well impact everyone’s ability to watch some of our favorite (and some of our guilty pleasure) shows. Now, we are not experts on this by any means; we are simply at the consumer level of film and TV, but when has that ever stopped us?

Are you looking forward to the newest season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? What about The Great? Or Bridgerton? These are only a tiny portion of the shows that could be affected by the general strike, and here’s why: IATSE is the parent union that oversees virtually every position in filmmaking that takes place behind the camera, and when negotiations broke down with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the overseeing body that represents major studios, for basic things like, oh, bathroom breaks and meal times, IATSE withdrew from the negotiations table.

The Great (2020)

Production on frothy romps like The Great could be halted with the pending strike.

You can read a really good overview of the situation as it stands right now on Variety, which covers motion picture industry news. Or you can follow this Instagram account, which is tracking personal stories from countless IATSE members about the dire working conditions they are forced to endure. Or check out this other Variety article, where a costumer who is a member of IATSE recounts 16-18 hour days, day after day, that caused her to have “one day off in three- to four-week spans.” Skilled labor should be compensated well, and companies should not exploit workers, but it sure seems like the shitty dream of the 1890s is alive and well in Hollywood. Just check out a few of the anonymous accounts of the toll these inhumane working conditions are taking on crews on big and small productions, alike.

 

 

But this is just one aspect of the fight that IATSE is facing. One of the ways the studios have negotiated for lower wages for craftspeople was via the now-ridiculously outdated “New Media” clause that allows studios to pay lower wages for streaming content. Back in 2008, it didn’t really seem like streaming would replace traditional media consumption avenues like theatrical releases and TV channels.

All it took was subscription-based streaming models with the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix offering direct-to-consumer entertainment plus one global pandemic to all but shut down movie theatre attendance, and in the space of a few short years streaming has become the preferred method of consuming visual media. But while production costs on streaming media can equal or even exceed the cost of traditional theatrical releases, the wages for the people doing work behind the camera have not increased. Arguably, the most important people in the entire production chain are being treated the worst by the studios.

Frock Flicks thinks that’s total bullshit.

We stand with the IATSE.

 

11 Responses

  1. LadySlippers

    Union Steward here. I stand with my union siblings that are trying to create a better work environment for all.

    THANK YOU to Frock Flicks for highlighting this issue. 💐

    Reply
  2. Rebecca

    Thank you. I worked in theatre for 20 years and though I wasn’t in IATSE, I appreciate their work. I stand with IATSE.

    Reply
  3. Cheryl from Maryland

    Went to the IATSE Instagram site. So many very talented people treated like dirt.

    Reply
  4. Michael McQuown

    Those of us who have worked as extras on a film set have seen the beast up close. It took 2 days and 160 extras to produce what ended up as about 4 minutes on film. And all that time, the crew were working constantly.

    Reply
  5. Frances Germeshausen

    I know people who are in tangential support roles to the film industry, and hear how little most people in the industry make, in relation to their time and talent. Onward IATSE!

    Reply
  6. Susan Pola Staples

    I stand with IATSE. And remember the famous line in Fiddler ‘Never trust an employer.’ And remember without the crew, the actors would not have their painted canvas – sets, costumes, set furniture, lights and sound to convince us like in Outlander’s episode FAITH the Star Chamber, Versailles, etc.

    Reply
  7. Allison Rabenau

    I was a member of local 764 (the theatrical wardrobe union)
    when I lived in NYC. I never worked on film, but I know their horror stories are real. The instagram account is well worth reading. There’s something very, very wrong when people are regularly worked past exhaustion and falling asleep at the wheel is such a common occurrence. Lack of meal breaks or bathroom breaks, the terrible disrespect and worse wages – they definitely should strike! Is there a list of producer addresses where viewers could write and promise to cancel subscriptions if the IA demands are not met?

    Reply
  8. Lily Lotus Rose

    One reason why I enjoy this blog is because of how educational it is in addition to being fun. Until this reading this post I was unaware of this particular union and the impending strike. Thank you for shedding light on this issue. As someone who has been involved at the grassroots level with the arts in my community and who has a little behind the scenes experience with a TV show, I am well aware of the long hours and often little reward that goes into almost every artistic endeavor, including all the performing arts. I definitely stand in support of IATSE and FrockFlicks on this matter.

    I highly recommend watching Lindsay Ellis’s expose’ on this matter as it related to the filming of The Hobbit trilogy in New Zealand. She made a 3-part video essay about it: Part 1: The Hobbit: A Long-Expected Autopsy; Part 2: The Hobbit: Battle of Five Studios; and Part 3: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Warners. The entire essay is excellent and interesting–especially for fans of the books and film–however, Part 3 specifically focusing on the conflict between film industry, the unions, and the country of New Zeleand. You can watch Part 3 on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/Qi7t_g5QObs

    Reply
  9. Ryal

    Bravo frockflicks! Why can an industry that makes so much profit not pay their employees properly and treat them decently?? I agree that it’s total bullshit. They should strike and all of us consumers should back them.

    Reply
  10. The Scrivener

    Thank you for bringing this up, FF. Having worked similar hours in a different profession (in 2003 we won a 20-year fight for “just” 80 hr workweeks, max shift length 28 hr, and 4 days off per 28 days), I’m appalled to learn that other professions do this too. It’s inhumane and unnecessary.

    Reply

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