OCTOBER 12, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz


Photo Courtesy of IATSE, Burbank

Fighting for Worker Respect in the Film Industry

I’m sure many of you are aware of the contentious negotiations going on between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the film and television industry. IATSE is the labor union representing people who work behind-the-scenes jobs in the industry. These include line producers, art directors, production coordinators, first and second assistant directors, etc. Recently, a whopping 98 percent of IATSE members voted to authorize a strike if their bargaining representatives decide it’s necessary.

Last week, I interviewed two IATSE union leaders during a panel discussion hosted by New York Women in Television and Film (NYWIFT). If you, like me, have only a vague understanding of what the friction between IATSE and the industry is about, but would like to know more, I highly recommend you watch this video of that conversation. Ultimately, what the hard-working folks who make film or television programs possible are asking for is to be treated as human beings.

NYWift Panel_edit

Photo of IATSE's Jendra Jarnagin (top left) and Marisa Shipley (bottom) with Leslie Fields-Cruz by Cheryl D. Fields

The United States has a long and tortured history of worker exploitation. Beginning in 1619, when the first Africans set foot in Jamestown, Va., to be sold into slavery, the pursuit of financial profit has often led to horrific injustices against the laboring class. Sadly, women and people of color are among those who continue to be disproportionately exploited, underpaid, overworked, and disrespected in the workplace. For all its glitz and glamour, the film industry has continued this sorry tradition.

I applaud the members of IATSE for standing their ground and look forward to an amicable and just resolution of the current conflict. Creating systems and work environments that accord basic respect to all who work is a formula for success that everyone should support.

Stories about workers’ rights are familiar terrain for documentary storytellers.This week, 100 Reporters is hosting the 7th Annual Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium (DX) (Oct. 13-17). The annual event has become one of the premiere convenings of investigative filmmakers and reporters. BPM family members can enjoy a 10% discount on registration to the hybrid event by using the code BPM4DX. Go here for registration and program information.

Finally, American University’s Center for Media & Social Impact is hosting its two-day Story Movements conference (Oct. 14-15) this week in Washington, D.C. Participants will examine platforms and genres of civic media storytelling through the lens of social justice and social inequity. Documentary filmmakers, comedians and other storytellers are invited to attend the in-person event. Go here for program and registration details.

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