Although it is believed that the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strike is costing the film and television industries $150 million per week, other industry stakeholders have more at risk.

This sobering estimate is just one aspect of the overall economic impact and what is at stake for the players, according to a Forbes story from July 17.

Notably, a 2020 report from the county’s Economic Development Board estimates that the film industry in Sonoma County alone employs more than 1,000 people and generates $33.5 million in labor income. When include ancillary sectors like realtors and promoters, the overall sector comes to $177 million.

The effects of the studio closures are also being felt by Northern California art directors, stunt performers, studio developers, and equipment rental managers from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the Bay Area.

In the backyard here
Doug Freeman, a 68-year-old Sonoma set designer and art director, can be seen throwing nuts to the birds and squirrels across his shop’s patio on a calm weekend day. Freeman is getting ready for a yard sale during his leisure at his job with Jet Sets.

Over the course of his more than 50-year career, Freeman has worked on a variety of movies, from “American Graffiti” and “Towering Inferno” to “Magnum Force” and “Star Trek IV.”

He credits his upbringing with helping him launch his profession. His grandmother worked in costumes, while his father worked in lighting. Freeman began his career as a young man moving cable for the 1968 Steve McQueen film “Bullitt.”

He stated, “It’s a little niche, but I enjoy what I do.

While he awaits the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike, which according to some reports could extend all year, Freeman oversees the set design of high-tech events.

Freeman supports the union for however long the strike lasts as a Screen Actors Guild member.

“(The union) will not give in. They cannot, he declared. “They might have been concerned about me because I might have a good project, but they haven’t called. Who knows, then?

In addition to compensation, the writers and performers who are members of the Writers Guild of America are negotiating over two other key issues: payments for streaming content and a clear artificial intelligence (AI) policy that safeguards writers’ creative work and actors’ pictures.

The WGA is asking that the studios “regulate use of artificial intelligence” so that it is not allowed to “write or rewrite literary material.” The union claimed that the studio alliance turned down their offer.

“This is it. The possibility for major film companies to “earn a lot of money” and use computer-generated images to make more at the expense of actors was the target of Freeman’s remark, “Big Brother is coming.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 18: SAG-AFTRA members and supporters protest as the SAG-AFTRA Actors Union Strike continues in front Amazon/HBO at 450 33rd Street on July 18, 2023 in New York City. Members of SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s largest union which represents actors and other media professionals, have joined striking WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers in the first joint walkout against the studios since 1960. The strike could shut down Hollywood productions completely with writers in the third month of their strike against the Hollywood studios. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

It’s becoming urgent and personal.
A number of areas where people see a danger to their jobs have made AI a prominent topic. According to a survey that was conducted and the results that were published this month in the Los Angeles Times, almost half of Americans (45%) are concerned about how AI may affect their jobs.

“They can get their likeness permanently by paying them $300 every day. It’s completely unfair, Freeman remarked, adding that even the idea of art itself is at danger.

The veteran designer and art director offered a sharp collective vision of the creative world in our civilization when asked what would happen once computer art predominated: “Then, we’ll have a lobotomy.”

In response, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in the Times that AI-generated text, for instance, “isn’t eligible to get writing credit.” They declined to comment for this article.

In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office updated its standards for writing credits last March as a result of the rising popularity of AI. According to the office, copyright can only shield works “that are the result of human creativity,” as stated in the report issued by the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

“What we’re witnessing right now appears to be human thought. Is AI ‘generating’ a paper or merely blindly adhering to rules? We’re rightfully reluctant to enter this great philosophical debate at this time, according to Santa Rosa attorney Craig Stainbrook, who specializes in intellectual property law.

Industry backflips due to AI
Rocky Capella, who is the same age as Freeman and works as both an actor and a stuntman, asserted that he thinks the studios are seeing a profit in terms of money saved.

“This is a problem that needs to be solved. It is unethical. They are able to put a face on an alternative body. And money is the only consideration. The typical SAG member makes $26,000 while the top studio executive earns $31 million, he claimed.

Capella, a veteran SAG member, opined that the values outweigh the duration of the strike. During the strike, the actor from Nevada City, who has been a part of around 700 projects, has started doing auto advertisements.

While feature film studios are down, equipment rental businesses are also suffering in the Bay Area.

Twelve individuals work at DTC Lighting and Grip in Emeryville, and one of them had to be let go while the others were furloughed, working only several days per week.

“The shutdowns have undoubtedly had an effect on us. Corinne O’Sullivan, general manager of DTC, stated, “We’re significantly slower than usual. “Movies have stalled out.”

According to O’Sullivan, the 35-year-old business has shifted its focus to theater and special events.

“From our vantage point, we’d really like to see the two sides reach an understanding. But in terms of ensuring that the writers and actors receive what they want, we are in the trenches. She defended the unions who were on strike by saying, “It’s regrettable it’s come to this.

Numerous ancillary firms in the film industry, according to studio developer Mark Walter of Cinelease on Mare Island in Solano County, are having difficulties. He named companies involved in the standoff, including caterers, restaurants, forklift workers, and tool suppliers.

“It’s disastrous for the renting of equipment side. There are many worries,” Walter remarked, adding that he is grateful that part of his job is foresight.

The parent firm of Cinelease, Herc Rentals, with headquarters in Bonita Springs, Florida, founded the company in 1977. Herc Rentals provides equipment and space leasing to the industry.

Walter is well-versed in making compromises in order to weather financial hardships. When the epidemic struck and the shutdowns followed, the heavy equipment rental company’s entertainment section focused on renting forklifts and other large pieces of equipment to Factory_OS, a Mare Island neighboring company producing prefabricated homes.

This strike, he claimed, has greater impact.

“This one is much more different, with more at stake, especially with the AI issue,” he declared.

Forbes claims that this is the first time in 63 years that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are both on strike at the same time. This strike might cost more than $3 billion.


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