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Canadian film, TV workers feel sting of twin Hollywood writer and actor strikes

By Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Canadian film and television workers are feeling the sting of twin strikes by Hollywood writers and actors.

Vancouver-based Derek Baskerville, who rents costumes mostly to U.S. film shoots, says he laid off a part-time worker last week and has scaled back the hours of other staff as work dried up.

Toronto agent Karin Martin says many of her clients haven’t worked since winter because U.S. studios anticipated job action and scaled back orders.

She represents production designers, cinematographers, line producers and others who work behind the scenes. She says many are now “scared and at risk.”

The Writers Guild of America walked off the job May 2 and the performers union SAG-AFTRA began its strike last Friday.

Even though it’s a U.S. labour dispute, the strikes have touched U.S. films and series that shoot in Canada and employ tens of thousands of local crews and talent.

“These are my family, all these people I represent and they’re scared,” says Martin.

“Every day my calls aren’t dealing with producers trying to book people. My calls are dealing with my clients that I love and adore, who are scared and at risk. It’s awful.”

In Vancouver, Baskerville says he let one of his part-timers go because he couldn’t afford to pay them. He’s reduced two other part-timers to one day a week, and two full-time workers are down to four days a week instead of five. One of them is on a six-hour day instead of eight.

“It’s been really bad for all of us gig economy workers for the last four years. And some people haven’t survived, what with COVID and now this,” says Baskerville.

“This is – even for me in a 40-year career – this is quite an exception.”

He says he’s lucky to have paid off his mortgage and have personal savings.

“Three of my colleagues are deferring their mortgage payments…. And two of them have also talked to the city, deferring their property taxes for a year,” says Baskerville.

“One of my colleagues, she had to take her kids out of daycare and out of summer camp because she can’t afford it. It’s summer. Kids want to go to camp. Not this year.”

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