Hollywood Below-The-Line Worker Talks About Strike Impact: “We Have Eliminated Everything Not An Absolute Necessity From Our Budget”

Editor’s note: As part of Deadline’s ongoing coverage of the WGA strike, we want to give voice to below-the-line workers who are also impacted by the work stoppage. This column is written by a Los Angeles-based project manager in post-production.

Here’s my biggest frustration: The strike is designed to hurt the studios and bend their arm into meeting the WGA’s terms, but the studios don’t seem to be hurting. They are saving millions a day by having no active productions. They are going to be able to get out of a bunch of existing contracts. They have had a very long time to strategically plan for this. 

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Who it is, in fact, hurting is all the below-the-line workers and the businesses that support these workers.

I’m a project manager in the field of feature and episodic post production. The strike has been devastating for myself and my family and the repercussions started during the anticipation of the strike, and will continue to be felt long after an agreement has been reached and production resumes. We went into this strike on shaky ground, as we’ve been dealing with rising interest rates, inflation and both increased expenses and decreased income due to the Covid pandemic. 

I have been furloughed and a furlough is on the horizon for my partner. This loss of income has been extremely stressful as we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. We have eliminated everything that is not an absolute necessity from our budget. We let go of our childcare provider and halted all extracurricular activities and entertainment. We stopped making contributions to our retirement and stopped paying down our debts. We are foregoing eating out, travel, entertainment, media subscriptions, personal care services, etc., anything that is not mandatory. 

Even with all these cutbacks, we are still struggling to pay the bills. We are exploring options for accessing funds to pay our mortgage — loan modifications, home equity loans, borrowing from family, 401(k) early withdrawals — none of which are sound financial decisions. Leaving California is another option currently on the table. As Los Angeles natives, this is an idea we never imagined entertaining.

I’m sure we will weather this storm. I’m just not sure what that will mean for our future or how long it will take us to get back on track. I suspect it will be a couple years before the company I work for recovers from this stoppage and is able to give pay increases. 

I know there are thousands of people and businesses finding themselves in this same situation — victims of a fight that they have no stake in. I have the utmost sympathy for them and I hope they are able to weather this storm peacefully.  

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