Hollywood Writers' Strike: Financial Struggles Amid Prolonged Protests

Amid the extended writers' & actors' strikes, entertainment workers face financial struggles. Nonprofits like Entertainment Community Fund, Motion Picture & Television Fund, and SAG-AFTRA Foundation provide financial and emotional aid to industry members.

Harnur Watta
Aug 31, 2023 09:43 IST
Image credits: Vanity Fair

Image credits: Vanity Fair

On the sweltering 100th day of the ongoing Hollywood writers' strike, many stood under the scorching August sun, clutching their signs proclaiming "IATSE Solidarity." As dedicated actors and writers, their commitment to their craft runs deep. Yet, the prolonged strike has caused financial hardships, pushing her to seek assistance from the Entertainment Community Fund's emergency fund.

Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), have contributed their skills to acclaimed shows and films. 

With the onset of the writers' strike in May, followed by actors joining in on July 14, they found it increasingly difficult to cover their essential expenses. 

"They say apply when you're at a critical point," shared Shawn Batey, a documentary filmmaker, to the Associated Press emphasising the meticulous process required for the application, including providing union credentials, work history, and other necessary documentation.


Extending a Financial Hand

The Entertainment Community Fund, formerly known as The Actors Fund, has emerged as a crucial lifeline for Batey and countless others. 

Over 2,600 film and television workers have turned to the fund during these turbulent times, resulting in disbursements totalling $5.4 million as of August 25. 


This nonprofit has a rich history of supporting the backbone of the entertainment industry - the workers who keep the shows running smoothly, often existing in a gig economy long before the term gained popularity.

Primarily receiving requests from California, Atlanta, and New York, the Entertainment Community Fund has raised an impressive $7.6 million to date. 

The organisation is now providing weekly grants of about $500,000, offering temporary relief through one-time payments of up to $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for families.


Tom Exton, Chief Advancement Officer for the Entertainment Community Fund, expressed to the Associated Press, "It's a lot of the craftspeople, the wardrobe people, the makeup people, the carpenters that build the sets, the painters, the electricians." 

He highlighted the fund's longstanding commitment to supporting industry members during past crises, such as the AIDS epidemic and financial downturns, pledging continued efforts to provide assistance as needed.

Unions and Foundations Step In


The Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF), established more than a century ago to aid entertainment workers during challenging periods, collaborates with various unions to administer emergency assistance exclusively for their members. 

While the exact financial support received from these unions remains undisclosed, the MPTF's dedication to the welfare of entertainment workers is clear. 

Beyond financial aid, the fund extends counselling support and housing for industry veterans over 70.


Bob Beitcher, President and CEO of the MPTF, underscored the precarious situation of the lowest-paid entertainment workers, who often lack substantial savings. 

The safety nets provided by federal programs during the pandemic have dissipated, leaving workers vulnerable to dire circumstances such as housing and job loss.

Striking Actors and Writers' Plight


The ongoing strikes have ignited accusations of deliberate delay tactics by studios, jeopardising the livelihoods of actors and writers. 

As the strike endures, the MPTF is fielding an unprecedented influx of inquiries. 

While the fund typically received 20 calls daily before the strike, this figure has surged to 200.

Over 80% of these callers belong to the "below-the-line" category, encompassing workers beyond the realm of actors, writers, directors, or producers.

Processing approximately 1,000 financial assistance requests through July, the MPTF acknowledges an average two-week waiting period for funds to reach applicants. 

Andrea Savage, an actor and writer, stressed the need for greater support within the industry, lamenting to Associated Press, "We just got together and said, 'How can we show that we're there for them? And also really put our money where our mouth is and actually do something concrete?'"

Foundation Solidarity and Collective Efforts

In a heartening show of solidarity, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation swiftly rallied support during the actors' strike. 

Notable figures like Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Oprah Winfrey, and Julia Roberts contributed $1 million each, amassing an impressive $15 million in a mere three weeks. 

The foundation's focus on aiding its 160,000 union members resonated with donors, recognizing the struggles of the many actors who work paycheck to paycheck and lack consistent access to health insurance.

As the strike persists, the funds brace for potential loss of health insurance coverage among union members unable to fulfil required work hours. 

A dedicated group of industry figures, including writers and actors, has even come together to fundraise specifically for crew members' healthcare needs.

In a creative effort to provide direct support, talk show hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver launched the "Strike Force Five" podcast.

 Proceeds from this endeavour will aid the writers and crew of their TV shows. 

Companies like Mint Mobile and premium alcohol manufacturer Diageo have joined as presenting sponsors, showcasing their commitment to industry support.

Collective action also takes centre stage, exemplified by The Union Solidarity Coalition founded by actors like Lena Dunham, Paul Scheer, and Andrea Savage. This initiative raised $315,000, in part from a benefit show, to aid the MPTF fund.

As the entertainment industry grapples with the prolonged strikes, workers continue to persevere in the face of uncertainty. 

Batey reflects, "It's dignity and standing up for yourself. So if it means we have to take a hit right now for the bigger cause, it's worth it."

Suggested Reading: Hollywood On Shutdown? Actors Join Writers’ Strike, Halt Promotions


#IATSE Solidarity #Hollywood Writers Strike