Entertainment industry professionals have revealed the harsh reality of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike on low-wage workers, warning that a Hollywood shut-down will likely cost behind-the-scenes workers their livelihoods and their jobs.
SAG-AFTRA announced industrial action last week in solidarity with the Writers Guild, which has been on strike since May, as they demand studios take necessary action on residual pay and the growing use of AI in production.
Under the rules of the strike, which is predicted to last until Labor Day, the union’s 16,000 members are not allowed to film movies or TV series, attend any press or film premieres or promote their projects.
As a result, thousands of people are out of work as big-budget projects are shelved and glitzy red carpet events are canceled or postponed.
However, an industry insider revealed to Newstimesuk.com that the strike’s brutal toll was felt by low-wage workers as early as October – when studios began cutting jobs in anticipation of action from writers.
Hollywood on hold: Thousands find themselves out of work amid ongoing Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television strike
While dozens of multi-millionaire celebrities — from Bette Midler to Jason Sudeikis — are lending their famous faces to SAG-AFTRA picket lines behind the scenes of their smiling protests, the strike-ravaged industry is decimating thousands of workers behind the scenes.
Many crew members, from makeup artists to background actors, have been forced to take jobs outside the industry to survive, and there are fears that they will have no choice but to leave Hollywood for good.
Others found work drying up in the months leading up to the WGA strike and quickly found themselves in precarious situations.
While some are lucky enough to rely on other projects outside of TV and celebrity, some have had no choice but to rely on loans and financial support from unions to be able to pay their bills while they anxiously await an agreed solution.
The celebrity stylist warned that many would lose their livelihood due to the strike
Speaking exclusively to Newstimesuk.com, a stylist, who wished to remain anonymous, said the SAG-AFRA strike has been ‘very damaging’ for many and workers who are mainly in the red carpet industry are at risk of losing their homes.
‘My work for the rest of this year, in the red-carpet space with celebrity talent, which is my core business, has evaporated,’ he said. ‘It is all canceled indefinitely.
‘I was supposed to do a major network TV show next month with top celebrity talent and it’s on hold. This is the income I depend on for the whole year. So, it’s very problematic.’
Despite being supportive of the strike, she revealed the brutal reality for her fellow celebrity stylists and warned: ‘It’s like Covid all over again. It’s really, really, really serious.
Out of work: Celebrity stylists lose jobs as ongoing SAG strike (stock image)
‘There are going to be layoffs, people are going to lose their businesses, people are going to lose their homes, people are going to lose their livelihoods. It’s going to be really bad.
‘A lot of people have to leave the industry.’
His bleak prognosis comes as a costume designer told Newstimesuk.com they had been out of work ahead of strike action since October last year, as productions were being delayed and not going ahead in anticipation of a possible strike.
A huge concern for celebrity stylists is that unlike clothing designers, writers and actors, they are not protected by unions, so they are on their own when it comes to fighting for workers’ rights.
Celebs on strike: Heirloom stars Alan Rock and Justin Lupe are pictured on the picket line on July 18 in Los Angeles, California.
Show of solidarity: Actor Tyler James Williams also appeared in New York City on July 18 in support of the strike
‘We don’t have a seat at the negotiating table,’ our insider continued. ‘We don’t have a union to protect us.
‘Now that things are being talked about, stylists, glam teams and media studios are also paid and treated with hair and makeup.
‘I hope we will be able to form a union of our own when we come out the other side of this.’
‘Change is going to happen, or the stars have to dress themselves up. It would be a hot mess without us,’ he added.
Background actors were forced to find ‘survival jobs’ after being out of work since before the strike
It’s not just stylists who are at risk of losing their livelihood, as background actors are also facing desperate times.
Full-time background actor Vincent Amaya has revealed he has been out of work since February ahead of expected strike action and has been forced to take a job at a restaurant to pay his bills.
Speaking to Newstimesuk.com, she said: ‘February has come and gone, and I’m still looking for work. I went a few months without work, hoping things would resolve themselves.
‘In the beginning, in February and March, I was struggling [to pay my bills] Because the lack of work came out of nowhere. Within months I got a loan that I had to pay back in 90 days.’
New line of work: Background actor Vincent Amaya is forced to take a job at a restaurant to support himself – also setting up a GoFundMe page to help others in need
Vincent explained that he contacted SAG-AFRA for financial assistance prior to the strike because of a sudden change in circumstances and was awarded $1000 to help with his bills.
But new acting projects never materialized, so he had to start working in a restaurant, which he calls his “survival job”.
‘I think getting a “survival job” is like quitting the industry,’ he said. ‘Even if it’s good now, I’m not happy. I’m not doing what I love. But I’ve paid my bills. I definitely want to give it up when the strike is over.’
Vincent, who has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for the Los Angeles Union Background Actors Awards to help others going through tough times, said many others have resorted to finding work outside the industry.
‘They’re doing side jobs, they’re delivering, they’re tutoring,’ she added.
‘I have friends who are now dog walkers, food delivery drivers, I have friends who do odd jobs to be able to pay the rent. They are doing odd jobs and they are on picket jobs. People are doing what they need to do.’
Despite his restaurant job and total solidarity with the strike, Vincent is desperate to return to the background acting work he knows and loves.
‘Before 2020 I was able to pay my bills, I was able to qualify for health care, I was able to qualify for retirement and pension, I want to get back to that,’ he said.
‘I still want to be able to pay my rent, pay my bills. We are asking for an 11% increase going forward. I want to be able to go back to my regular show two or three days a week. I want to go back to paying my bills.’
Makeup artists are leaving the industry to find more stable work
Makeup artists are also suffering as a result of the strike, with some being forced to move to other states to find work.
Matin Moulvizada, who lives in New York City, has been a makeup artist for 25 years and spoke to Newstimesuk.com about the impact it has had on him personally and on his colleagues.
‘Over the last so many years, we’ve diverged, going into purely fashion or purely celebrity, and they don’t really overlap anymore,’ explains Mateen.
‘So, if you work with a lot of celebrities, you’ve given up all your fashion clients and now they can’t promote their movies or TV appearances.
Getting Glam: Mateen Moulbijada, pictured doing Kristen Davis’ makeup, loses a lot of work due to strike
Working hard: Mateen on the set of the HBO series Just Like That, which was filmed before the strike
‘For every actor you see, there are hundreds of people working in the background. I am very worried, as are my colleagues.’
In an effort to avoid job losses, Mateen explained: ‘I’ve talked extensively with my agency about this, to diversify the agency, both in fashion and celebrity, because we’re totally specialized in working with celebrities, and my work has been completely wiped out over the last few weeks.
‘Everything was canceled and I had a full booking schedule. It’s like one job a week, instead of four, five jobs a week,’ he reveals.
‘I mean, there were days that I did two or three things in one day, so it kind of cancels it out. And it’s nobody’s fault, the actors can’t go anywhere because they’re on strike.
‘It’s going to completely destroy the business economy, which makes up such a large part of this country’s economy.
‘You’d be surprised how many well-established makeup artists I know of have already left the business. They’ve basically moved to another state and they’re working in a salon or they’ve opened a little salon.’
Mateen also confirmed that everyone he knows who is a member of the make-up artists and hair stylists guild is ‘absolutely standing by the strike’.
Earlier this week, A-list stars Cillian Murphy, 47, Matt Damon, 52, Florence Pugh, 27, Emily Blunt, 40, and Robert Downey Jr., 58, boycotted the New York City premiere of their new film Oppenheimer amid the ongoing strike.
Boycott: Oppenheimer cast members Matt Damon (left), Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh did not attend their film’s New York premiere because of the action
Representation: Director Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas attended a special screening in New York City
Instead, the only big name to walk the red carpet at AMC Lincoln Square on Monday night was the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, 52, who posed with his wife Emma Thomas, 51.
After announcing the strike last week, Universal Pictures announced the cancellation of the premiere’s red carpet, but revealed that the screening will honor those who worked behind the scenes on the movie.
Several major productions have been halted as a result of the strike, including the highly-anticipated Deadpool 3 and Gladiator 2 films, as well as the Tom Hardy-led Venom 3.
Twisters – an update of the 1996 film starring Daisy Edgar-Jones – has also been put on hiatus, as well as hit HBO series Euphoria, which has been pushed back to 2025.
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