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B.C. film industry watching the writers’ strike closely

Strike started May 2, the first in 15 years
Writers Guild of America West member Victor Duenas pickets with others at an entrance to Paramount Pictures, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. The first Hollywood strike in 15 years began Tuesday as the economic pressures of the streaming era prompted unionized TV and film writers to picket for better pay outside major studios, a work stoppage that already is leading most late-night shows to air reruns. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

A lot has changed since the last writers’ strike 15 years ago with B.C. becoming a “top-tier jurisdiction” for filming but it’s still too soon to speculate on the wider impacts, says the CEO of Creative BC.

Hollywood writers are picketing to preserve pay and job security outside major studios and streamers could be braced for a long fight at the outset of a strike that immediately forced late-night shows into hiatus, put other productions on pause and had the entire industry slowing its roll.

READ MORE: Writers strike looks to be a long fight, as Hollywood braces

READ MORE: Why Hollywood writers are striking and the immediate impact

More than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America stopped working Tuesday when their contract expired.

Prem Gill said the industry shouldn’t speculate yet on how this strike will play out.

And while “nobody wants anything prolonged,” it will have an impact on B.C. She added Creative BC estimates there are about 40,000 full-time workers, but that number of people affected could be closer to 60,000 or 80,000 if you count freelancers or part-time workers.

“We’re watching things very closely. And, you know, we’re hoping that there can be some strong resolution for all involved fairly quickly.”

Gill said there’s still work happening in B.C., with some crews in pre-production and Creative BC is still getting calls for shows that want to scout in the province.

The last writers’ strike, from the same union, happened in 2007 and 2008 and took three months to resolve.

Gill said she was working in the industry during the last strike, but noted it’s a “whole different business now than it was 15 years ago.” She explained business models have shifted and evolved, while the volume of productions has grown in B.C.

“There’s still lingering effects from COVID, and other things that are happening that are kind of outside of our control.”

This writers’ strike is centred around streaming and its ripple effects. The guild says that even as series budgets have increased, writers’ share of that money has consistently shrunk.

Streaming services’ use of smaller staffs — known in the industry as “mini rooms” — for shorter stints has made sustained income harder to come by, the guild says. And the number of writers working at guild minimums has gone from about a third to about half in the past decade.

B.C. has become home to filming for several streaming platforms including Disney+, Netflix and HBO.

While B.C.’s film industry really started to bounce back in 2021 and 2022, Gill said the industry has been through a lot globally.

READ MORE: $42M coming to B.C.’s film, creative industry hit by pandemic challenges

“I think B.C. continues to be really well positioned to lead in being a top-tier jurisdiction where productions want to land, whether they’re Canadian productions or U.S. service productions, that this is a place where we are a full-service production hub. We have decades of experience, we have a talented labor, recruit base and what we’ve done with visual effects and post-production and animation.”

– With files from the Associated Press

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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