A rare double strike by Hollywood actors and film and television writers is rocking British Columbia’s creative industry, which has become a hub for American film and TV production.
The Canadian province and city of Vancouver, known as “Hollywood North,” is one of North America’s biggest production hubs, with more than 50 animation studios alone and employing up to 88,000 people, according to a provincial agency. It is expected to generate C$3.6 billion ($2.7 billion) in revenue by 2022.
Hollywood actors joined writers on picket lines Friday for the first time in 63 years. Union workers are demanding higher compensation at a time when streaming movies and TV shows are undercutting royalties for working-class actors.
Gemma Martini, chairman of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association and CEO of Martini Film Studios, said film production in British Columbia has dropped to “a trickle.”
Creative BC, the government agency responsible for promoting the province’s creative industries, said in a statement that it is “concerned about workers, companies, industry and people.”
Since the 1990s, various levels of government have offered tax credits to the industry, increasing its appeal as a destination for film production. Over the years, Vancouver, with its proximity to Los Angeles and expensive locations, has emerged as an alternative hub for production and post-production operations, production executives said.
Popular shows and movies, including Vancouver and the surrounding areas, have attracted Supergirl, The Flash, Deadpool And Deadpool 2.
Takes a toll
Echoes of what began with the May 2 Writers’ Strike have grown in British Columbia, where most productions have American elements.
In a given week, British Columbia-based film location management company Location Fixer has 15 active productions.
“Right now,” co-owner Sinov Godeseth said, “we have zero.”
Godeseth estimates that 75 percent of his company’s business comes from U.S. productions. At first, the writers’ strike hurt business: “Because there were no scripts being written, people weren’t coming to check out our locations.”
Now the actors’ strike is facing a huge setback. Commercial shoots help – “that’s literally what keeps us going.”
Godeseth said he supported the striking workers “100%” and hoped for a speedy resolution.
“I hope the big studios can meet the demands of the unions. We want human beings to be compensated fairly and their creativity rewarded accordingly,” she said.
Last year, the Vancouver Economic Commission described the film industry as an “economic lifeline” for industries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, such as tourism, lodging, hospitality and transportation.
British Columbia’s film industry is largely based on gig work, Martini said.
Hiring people for a particular production. If they don’t have productions they don’t get paid. If the strike drags on, it will leave thousands of people out of the industry looking for work.
“One of our greatest assets in British Columbia is the talent and experience of our workforce. Replacement is very difficult. “
The Hollywood strike could affect the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which is set to begin in early September. TIFF, seen as the launching pad for the Oscars, said it would continue planning for the festival in the coming weeks with hopes of a quick resolution to the strike.
“There’s no denying the impact this strike has had on the industry and events like ours,” a TIFF spokesperson said.