ATLANTA - Two of the biggest labor unions in Hollywood are now on strike, with the Writers Guild of America beginning in May and the Screen Actors Guild joining picket lines in July.
The Hollywood strike has now extended into its fourth month, with no resolution in sight. Hollywood's writers and actors have since grounded entertainment production to a halt, and businesses thousands of miles away from Hollywood are beginning to feel the pinch.
"The business has been impacted greatly. 98% of our orders are gone," said Cindy Gano, owner of Gano Inc. in Doraville, Georgia. "Hence why I had to make the decision to let my people go."
Cindy Gano owns Gano Inc., a wardrobe and costume supply shop that serves the film industry in Atlanta. Once the strikes started, the shop lost nearly all business and reduced hours to an "appointment only" schedule for in-store shopping. The business is surviving off loans for now, but some companies are on the verge of closing down.
"I have enough in reserve for six months expenses. After that I would probably have to start looking into bankruptcy or some type of other thing that I don't even want to think about. Because this is my livelihood," said Gano. "I've built this business from scratch as a single mother. Put in every nickel dime, Penny, heart, sweat, tears, you name it, I've put into this business. I've worked, you know, 80 hour weeks when I started this business and I just don't want to see it go away. So this is my heart. This is my livelihood."
Writers hold signs while picketing in front of Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California on May 15, 2023 as the strike by the Writers Guild of America enters its third week. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
At the center of negotiations are concerns about the unregulated use of artificial intelligence and the effects on actors' pay prompted by the new streaming ecosystem. It's unclear when the labor unions will come to an agreement with major studios, but business owners can only hope for a solution soon.
"I understand what everybody's doing, but in the end… you know, it's not just the big people," said Gano. "It's all of us little ones on the bottom end of things that helped make this industry go that are hurting right now. I have quite a few friends that are in the business and everybody's impacted. So we're just waiting for everything to be over and getting back to doing what we love."
According to the Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition, 15,000 businesses in Georgia serve the film industry. The workforce makes up billions of dollars in wages every year.
"I think we're really starting to see how deeply integrated George's film industry is with our economy. We certainly expect businesses like our studios, our production businesses, our crew base, they are feeling the squeeze, because production has really kind of ground to a halt. But what we're also seeing are a number of businesses that didn't previously realize that they were part of Georgia's film industry, that they served it indirectly," said Kelsey Moore, Executive Director for the Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition. "So restaurants, dry cleaners, antique shops, they're really kind of seeing a drop in revenue and a drop in customers. Their awareness of the strike is I think, pretty high as they realize that they've been serving this industry."
Writers on strike march with signs on the picket line on day four of the strike by the Writers Guild of America in front of Netflix in Hollywood, California on May 5, 2023. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Georgia has become a major hub for film-making. Four out of Hollywood's six highest grossing films were shot in the state, including "Black Panther". Georgia's economy isn't the only smaller film-hub struggling through the strikes, states like Texas and Florida are also feeling the impact.
"We certainly will see some businesses that have to make some really tough decisions and, you know, we're just hoping that they can hold on and so that they are ready when production does come roaring back," said Moore.
As the Hollywood strike enters its fourth month, those affected can only hold onto the hope that a resolution will come sooner rather than later. Recent attempts at negotiations between the Hollywood studios and screenwriters have yielded no agreement.