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.
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.