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Writers and Actors strike could cost Illinois $500 million Reel Chicago News


Strike

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As the strike led by Hollywood’s major unions – The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, stretches into September, the economic consequences are beginning to surface, potentially costing Illinois up to $500 million in lost expenditures from the film and television industry.

The strike initially began in early May when Hollywood writers took action. They were later joined by industry actors from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) in July, causing a halt in production across the entertainment industry nationwide.

While New York and California, home to the heart of the entertainment industry, have been significantly impacted by the strike, Illinois, where the burgeoning film and TV sectors saw a record $700 million spent by film and television companies last year, is also feeling the effects.

According to Crain’s Chicago, the state recorded $151 million in expected expenditures by entertainment companies from January to June. This fell short of the $304 million spent during the same period last year. These figures, provided by entertainment companies and sourced from the Illinois Film Office, offer the most accurate representation of the financial impact in the state.

July, historically the busiest month for production, typically sees more than triple the TV and film spending compared to other months. This is due in large part to the One Chicago trinity, including hit shows like Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Fire, which produce the majority of their episodes for the upcoming season during this time. These productions contribute significantly to the state’s yearly numbers.

The decline in production has not only resulted in financial losses but also left thousands of industry workers without employment. In the Midwest, including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, where a substantial number of SAG members reside, about 5,400 in total, 85% of them are performers. Additionally, there are over 100 Writers Guild of America (WGA) members living in the region.

Chicago Studio City is a state-of-the-art independent film studio featuring 6 sound stages ranging from 6,000 to 25,000 square feet, and a combined total stage space of 185,000 square feet. Co-owners John and Joe Crededio, spoke to Reel Chicago about the costs of adding a new addition and the losses due to the strike. “Yes, my brother Joe and I spent $2 million on the new addition and lost another $2 million on the strike. That’s not lost earnings, but what we spent to stay open,” said John Crededio, Jr.

Eric Chaudron, executive director of SAG-AFTRA’s Chicago chapter, emphasized the importance of resuming production for the industry in Illinois to Crain’s, stating that “any decrease in production affects the working folks of Illinois and Chicago.”

The strike’s impact might also affect the early occupancy of Chicago’s new film and television production facility, The Fields Studios, set to open in the spring. The Fields Studios, a $250 million project, typically lines up productions months in advance, and the strike could disrupt their plans.

Both unions, WGA and SAG-AFTRA, are separately negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), representing the production companies and studios. They are seeking higher pay and improved job security in an industry undergoing significant changes due to streaming services and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

While there have been positive signs in the negotiations recently, no specific timeline for resolution has been provided.

Actors like Harold Dennis, who appears in the webseries Kold X Windy, see the strike as a necessary step to secure better contracts for industry workers, despite its challenges. “This strike shines a light on how challenging it is for the common actor.”


ALSO READ: IATSE allocates $2 Million in support of members affected by strike


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