Entertainment industry professionals have revealed the harsh reality of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike action on low-wage workers, warning that the Hollywood shut-down will likely see behind-the-scenes staff losing their livelihoods and their jobs.
SAG-AFTRA announced industrial action last week in solidarity with the Writers’ Guild, which has been striking since May, as they demand studios take necessary action over residual pay and the increasing use of AI in production.
Under the rules of the strike, which is predicted to continue until Labor Day, the union’s 16,000 members are not allowed to film movies or TV series, take part in any press or film premieres, or promote their projects.
As a result, thousands of people are out of work because big budget projects have been shut down and glitzy red carpet events have been cancelled or postponed.
However, one industry insider revealed to DailyMail.com that the brutal toll of the strikes was felt by lower-wage staff from as early as October – when studios began cutting jobs in anticipation of action from writers.
Hollywood on hold: Thousands of people have found themselves without work amid the ongoing Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television strike
While dozens of multi-millionaire celebrities – from Bette Midler to Jason Sudeikis – have been lending their famous faces to the SAG-AFTRA picket lines, behind the scenes of their smiling protests, the industry upset caused by the strikes is wreaking havoc on thousands of behind-the-scenes workers.
Many crew members, from makeup artists to background actors, have been forced to take jobs outside of the industry in order to survive and there are fears they will have no option but to quit Hollywood for good.
Others found that work started to dry up in the months leading up to the WGA strike and quickly found themselves in perilous situations.
While some have been lucky enough to rely on other projects beyond TV and celebrities, some have had no choice but to rely on loans and financial aid from the unions to be able to pay their bills while they anxiously wait to for an agreeable resolution.
Celebrity stylist warns many will lose their livelihoods because of strike action
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com, one stylist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the SAG-AFRA strike has been ‘very damaging’ for many and that workers who are predominantly 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,’ she said. ‘It has all been cancelled indefinitely.
‘I was supposed to be doing a major network TV show with top celebrity talent next month and that is on hold. That is income that I rely on for the rest of the year. So, it is very problematic.’
Despite being in support of the strike, she laid bare the brutal reality for her fellow celebrity stylists and warned: ‘This is like Covid all over again. It’s really, really, really serious.
Out of work: Celebrity stylists have had jobs cancelled as a result of the ongoing SAG strike (stock image)
‘There’s going to be layoffs, there’s going to be people losing their businesses, there’s going to be people losing their homes, people losing their livelihoods. It’s going to be really bad.
‘A lot of people are going to have to leave the industry.’
Her bleak forecast comes as a costume designer said to DailyMail.com that they had been out of work since October last year, ahead of the strike action, as productions were delaying and not proceeding in anticipation of the possible strike.
A huge concern for celebrity stylists is that unlike costume designers, writers, and actors, they are not protected by the union, so they’re on their own when it comes to fighting for workers’ rights.
Celebs on strike: Succession stars Alan Ruck and Justine Lupe pictured on the picket line in Los Angeles, California on July 18
Showing solidarity: Actor Tyler James Williams also turned up in support of the strike in New York City on July 18
‘We don’t have a seat at the negotiating table,’ our insider continued. ‘We do not have a union to protect us.
‘The issues that are being talked about right now, extend to the way that stylists, glam teams and hair and makeup, have been paid and treated by the media studios as well.
‘I hope that we are able to enact a union of our own when we come out on the other side of this.’
‘Change is going to have to happen, or stars are going to have to dress themselves. It would be a hot mess without us,’ she added.
Background actors forced to find ‘survival jobs’ after being out of work since BEFORE the strikes
It’s not just stylists who are at risk of losing their livelihoods, as background actors are also facing desperate times.
Full-time background actor Vincent Amaya revealed he has been out of work since February ahead of anticipated strike action and that he has been forced to take a job in a restaurant in order pay his bills.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, he said: ‘February came and went, and I was still looking for work. I went months without work, hoping things would resolve itself.
‘At the beginning, in February and March, I was struggling [to pay my bills] because the lack of work just came out of nowhere. As the months went by, I got a loan out that I had to pay back in 90 days.’
New line of work: Background actor Vincent Amaya has been forced to take up a job in a restaurant in order to support himself – has has also set up a GoFundMe page to help others in need
Vincent explained that he reached out to SAG-AFRA for financial assistance before the strikes because of his sudden change in circumstance and that he was provided with $1000 to help him with his bills.
But because new acting projects never arose, he had to start working at a restaurant, which he calls his “survival job”.
‘I feel like getting a “survival job” is like leaving the industry,’ he said. ‘Even though I am fine now, I’m not happy. I’m not doing what I love. But I do have my bills paid. I definitely want to leave it when the strike is over.’
Vincent, who has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser on behalf of Los Angeles Union Background Actors Awards to help others also going through trying times, said that many others have resorted to finding work outside the industry.
‘They’re doing side jobs, they’re delivering, they’re doing tutoring,’ he added.
‘I have friends who are now dog walkers, food delivery drivers, I have friends doing odd jobs to be able to pay the rent. They’re doing the odd jobs and they are on the picket jobs. People are doing what they need to do.’
Despite his restaurant job and being in full solidarity with the strike, Vincent is desperate to go back to the background acting work he knows and loves.
‘Before 2020 I was able to pay my bills, I was able to qualify for healthcare, I was able to qualify for retirement and pension, I would love to go back to that,’ he said.
‘I still want to be able to pay my rent, pay my bills. We’re asking for an 11% raise up front. I want to be able to go back to my regular shows for 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 due to the consequences of the strikes, and some are even being forced to move to a different state in order to find work.
Matin Maulawizada, who is based in New York City, has been a makeup artist for 25 years and spoke to DailyMail.com about the impact it has had on him personally, as well as his colleagues.
‘In the last so many years, we have diverged, going into purely fashion, or purely celebrities, and they don’t really overlap anymore,’ Matin explained.
‘So, if you’re working with a lot of celebrities, you have given up all of your fashion clients, and now they can’t promote their movies or TV appearances right now.
Getting glam: Matin Maulawizada, pictured doing Kristen Davis’ makeup, has lost a lot of work due to the strikes
Working hard: Matin on the set of HBO series And Just Like That, which was filmed before the strikes
‘For every actor that you see, there are hundreds of people that are working in the background. I’m very worried, as all of my colleagues are.’
In an attempt to avoid a loss of work going forward, Matin explained: ‘I’ve talked about this with my agency extensively, to diversify the agency in both fashion and celebrities, because we completely specialize in working with celebrities, and my work for the last few weeks has been completely erased.
‘Everything has been cancelled and I had a fully booked schedule. It’s like one job a week, instead of four, five jobs a week,’ he revealed.
‘I mean, there were days that I worked two or three jobs in a day, so it’s that kind of a cancellation. And it’s nobody’s fault, the actors cannot go anywhere because they’re on strike.
‘It’s going to completely ruin the economy of that business, which has built such a giant chunk of economy for this country.
‘You’d be surprised at how many well established makeup artists, that I know of, have already left the business. They basically moved to another state and they’re working at a salon or they opened a little salon.’
Matin also confirmed that everyone he knows who is a member of The Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild ‘completely stands 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 premiere of their new film Oppenheimer in New York City amid the ongoing strike.
Boycott: Oppenheimer cast members Matt Damon (left), Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh didn’t attend the New York premiere of their film due to the action
Representing: Director Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas attended a special screening in New York City
Instead, the only big name who appeared to walk the red carpet at the AMC Lincoln Square on Monday night was the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, 52, who posed alongside his wife Emma Thomas, 51.
After the strike was announced last week, Universal Pictures announced the cancellation of the premiere’s red carpet, however, revealed that the screening would honour those who worked behind-the-scenes on the movie.
A slew of major productions have ground to a halt as a result of the strikes, including the hotly-anticipated Deadpool 3 and Gladiator 2 films, as well as the Tom Hardy-led Venom 3.
Twisters – an update to the 1996 movie starring Daisy Edgar-Jones – has also been put on pause, as well as the hit HBO series Euphoria, which has been pushed back to 2025.