Georgia braces for TV, film workers strike

Georgia's multibillion-dollar film and television industry may be in jeopardy as TV and film production workers threaten to go on strike.

Contract negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) were ongoing Thursday after the union authorized a strike days earlier because of working conditions.

Georgia's film and TV industry spent $4 billion on productions in fiscal year 2021. That doesn't account for the individual spending by the thousands of workers in the industry.

The Georgia film tax credit has transformed the state into the "Hollywood of the South," according to industry leaders. The incentive program cost the state nearly $900 million in tax revenue in 2019, which was about 3.1% of the state's budget.

Steve Weizenecker, vice chair of Gov. Brian Kemp's Advisory Commission on Film, Music and Digital Entertainment, said it was the best year the state has seen since launching the state's film tax credit program. Weizenecker said he hopes the producers and employees find a compromise soon, but he believes the state would be able to bounce back if a strike occurs.

"It's never good for the state for any industry to shut down," Weizenecker said.

The Georgia Film Office said 366 productions were filmed in Georgia during fiscal year 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. After temporary COVID-19 shutdowns, film and TV companies vowed to rehire and employ 40,000 production workers and invest $2 billion into the Georgia economy over 18 months. That promise may be on hold for now.

Nearly all of the union's 60,000 members voted to authorize the strike Monday after the AMPTP refused to address workers' demands for better pay, working hours and conditions and meal breaks.

"This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry," IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said Monday in a statement. "Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage."

Officials said a shutdown of the state's film and TV industry could harm the restaurant and hospitality industry, which was the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. It employs hundreds of thousands of workers in Georgia.

Georgia's TV and film industry shut down in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic and resumed operations during the last quarter of the year. The state recouped all of its losses and gained more revenue after the COVID-19 shutdown period because of the number of projects the industry produced. Georgia was the first state to create a COVID-19 safety protocol guide for film and TV, which officials said prompted the rapid return of the industry.

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