Vancouver’s film industry says it’s facing ‘significant impacts’ due to Hollywood writers strike

Vancouver’s film and television production numbers have taken quite the hit from the Hollywood writers strike, an industry spokesperson says.

Prem Gill, CEO of Creative BC, says at this time of year, the region would normally have 40 to 50 active productions, but that number is currently down to around a dozen.

She says the impact on the local industry is “significant.”

“This long period of uncertainty is serious,” Gill told CityNews. “For a lot of people and companies in the industry, it’s been a tough time. Especially coming on the heels of COVID.”

The Writers Guild of America walked off the job on May 2. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists joined them on June 14.

The conjoining strikes have had ripple effects across the entire film and television production industry, throughout the U.S. and into Canada.

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Gill says B.C. has one of the top-tier jurisdictions for film and television productions in North America and it saw record numbers of productions in the past two years.

Now, all aspects of the industry — from caterers to cleaners, to sound companies — have slowed down to a snail’s pace, during the strike.

Gill says at this point, it’s just a question of how long the required negotiations will take to be resolved.

B.C. has a great reputation in the film industry, Gill says, adding all the infrastructure is in place to start rolling tape as soon as a resolution is reached.

“When things are resolved, it will be active pretty quickly,” she said.

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However, Gill adds the longer the strike continues, the harder it will be for everyone affected to recover.

“The long-term predictions still feel a bit premature to really acknowledge, but obviously the longer it goes on, the harder it is for folks who want to be back working.”

Industry worker says strike has been very ‘destabilizing’

A local set designer who goes by Mel is considering a career change due to the ongoing strike, after five years working in the film industry.

“I’m not even 30 yet and for this strike to happen at this time in my career is very destabilizing. It’s shifting the attitudes people have about loyalty within the union,” Mel said.

When she began in the industry in 2018, Mel says the industry felt rich with opportunity around Vancouver. Now, she’s concerned about slim pickings for work when the strike eventually ends.

“Film just doesn’t feel so stable anymore. It’s very feast or famine,” she said. “You have to be flexible and you can’t rely on those production companies to stay in Vancouver, they have many other attractive options.”

To prepare for a career shift, Mel has plans to take different professional courses so she can become an entrepreneur and depend less upon one specific, type of work.

She says the way the film industry has changed over the past few years has made her feel very cynical about the work she’s doing.

“These production companies are businesses and they’re making decisions that are not always based on the craft or quality of the television and movies that we make,” Mel said. “They’re based on predictive algorithms.”

Mel says it’s a nerve-wracking time for everyone in the industry with all of the uncertainty surrounding their return to work timeline, but she says she’s hopeful for the future.

“It’s a very challenging time, but I’m optimistic for the outcome and I hope the labour movement achieves something from this historic time.”

-With files from Maria Vinca

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