With WGA Strike Looming, A Makeup Artist Asks Writers To Remember Below-The-Line Workers – Guest Column

Editors note: Farah Bunch has worked as a makeup artist in film and television for more than 25 years. Her credits include Will & Grace, Man with a Plan and the Oscars. She is currently working on the reboot of Frasier for Paramount+.  

Let’s start by saying that I, like the huge majority of my fellow crew members, support the WGA if they strike to get fair compensation. We below-the-line members would just like to be considered in the conversation. I believe what the writers are asking for is more than fair, but I know we will be the ones left in crippling debt after the smoke clears, with no celebration dance at the end for us.

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There will be winners, but we are guaranteed to be losers.

WGA supported the IATSE strike that almost happened last year. However, in that strike, we weren’t fighting just for money. We were fighting for our lives. We were fighting for our health, the right to see our family and friends, the right to eight hours of sleep as medical science recommends. With fists up and T-shirts showing the emblem of bloodshot eyes, we were ready to march for change, change that never came, leaving many unsatisfied and frustrated, confused about what went so wrong. Sold to us as a win, many of felt that once again we were the losers.

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I, for one, was shocked that longer, nightly turnarounds and penalties for extreme hours weren’t ever even on the table. 

In 2007, according the Associated Press, the last WGA strike cost $2 billion in losses for the California economy, with the Milken Institute estimating 37,700 jobs were lost. Then in April 2017, the WGA was days away from possibly launching another strike. My parents, both in the entertainment industry, went through the writers strike of 1988. My father, a television composer, called it, “devastating to our family.” It lasted 158 days. 

At some point aren’t we crew members allowed to ask, “Hey, is anyone thinking about us when these strikes happen? Will we lose our health care since we can’t accrue hours? With interest rates soaring and inflation increasing, what are our options?”

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So many productions have already been delayed in anticipation of a possible strike, so the consequences have arrived well before a strike has occurred. Pilots, TV shows and movies are now on hold so crew members are already out of work. The fallout has already begun. 

As a department head makeup artist, I have been inundated with phone calls from other artists in my union asking for work. We all are scrambling. With streaming, we only get 8 to 10 episodes per show, too. So I’m terrified, facing the prospect of months of no employment. Crew members don’t get residuals or royalties to help carry us through this time.

So when are we allowed to ask (without seeming unsupportive), “What about us?”

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