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Non-union film workers trying to break into the Atlanta scene are hit hard by strikes


As the nationwide strike on movie and TV production continues, big stars like Rachel McAdams, Kevin Bacon and Bette Midler have been joining fellow actors and writers on the picket line. In Georgia, one of the top states for moviemaking, non-union workers are feeling the strikes' impact, too. Marlon Hyde from member station WABE in Atlanta has this report.

MARLON HYDE, BYLINE: On days when she works on set, Tiyra Rogers gets up at the crack of dawn to get actors camera-ready. She's a makeup artist who started working with film productions in Atlanta last fall.

TIYRA ROGERS: I wrapped my last film the beginning of June, so it's been about four weeks, which leads me to believe this is now going to be inconsistent.

HYDE: It was good money, but she's not yet in a union, so she's working for a dentist's office and hopes that a deal to end the strike will come soon.

ROGERS: Someone on some side is going to have to cave 'cause everyone is hurting right now.

HYDE: Rogers is one of an estimated 20,000 Georgia film workers. Four thousand of them are SAG-AFTRA members, according to the union. Kate Fortmueller teaches entertainment and media studies at the University of Georgia. She says with productions here mostly shut down, these non-union workers are hit the hardest.

KATE FORTMUELLER: They can't necessarily wait out the strike to then continue trying to break in. So that might lead them to pick a new career, try something else.

HYDE: Georgia has become a major hub for film productions because it offers lucrative unlimited tax credits. And state officials also tout the low unionization as a reason to film here. Lewis Toms is a carpenter and a background actor. He moved here from Florida for a chance to work in the film industry. It's been pretty dry over the last few weeks.

LEWIS TOMS: Yeah. I'm in a few Facebook groups. Since I'm not in the union or anything like that, trying to find people for, like, indie work kind of stuff, looking for positions to be filled in even places like that, you know, it's - I notice way more people asking for work than people seeking seeking workers.

HYDE: Toms says he supports the strike because in the end, non-union members will benefit as well from a new contract.

TOMS: Interesting to see. People are worried but also at the same time, you know, standing with them.

HYDE: The actors and writers on strike are looking for improved streaming residuals, better wages, better working conditions and an assurance that AI will not take their jobs. For NPR News, I'm Marlon Hyde in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marlon Hyde
Marlon, VPR News Fellow, graduated from Saint Michael’s College in 2021 with a degree in media studies, journalism and digital arts. Originally from Queens, New York, he comes from a family of storytellers