Film and TV work stoppage ‘devastating’ for local workers

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Nearly all film and TV productions are on pause as of Thursday night.

It means thousands of people in New Mexico are out of work, and no one knows for how long. The Screen Actors Guild, the union representing actors, joined the writers’ strike, which has been ongoing since May.

A New Mexico Film Office representative said there are 18 projects in the state, including a feature film and five TV shows.

The work stoppage will have huge consequences in New Mexico.

Bryan Benning is one of the thousands of film and TV industry workers in the state who doesn’t know when they’ll be able to work again.

He said he’s worked on projects for companies like Disney, Netflix and Amazon, including Big Sky and Trigger Warning.

“You get to see and experience so many cool things. How many people go to work every day and say, ‘Hey, I can see a controlled car explosion?’” Benning said.

Benning said he’s a production office coordinator. He’s a University of New Mexico graduate who’s been in the field in Albuquerque for eight years.

He said he’ll sometimes take a few months off in between the grueling schedule projects bring,

but he believes it will be difficult for many people to weather this storm.

“It can be quite devastating. Obviously, just like any other occupation, us film workers come from many different means and backgrounds. Some are paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

It’s another challenge in an already volatile industry.

“We’re kind of glorified contractors in that, the boots on the ground, that are actually here making the film and television shows don’t actually work for these big studios. So when a project is done, so are we,” Benning said.

He’s a member of the union IATSE. He’s watching as the picket lines continue.

“I support the strike and what they’re striking for. I hope they get a fair deal,” he said.

But Benning believes it’s a double-edged sword.

“These strikes are never fun for anybody involved,” he said.

The strikes will halt nearly – if not all – activity. Some productions like reality TV may be able to continue, and some prep work could still go on.

Industry representatives are talking about the ripple effects this will have. Many local businesses benefit directly and indirectly from these productions.

New Mexico Film Office Director Amber Dodson said in a statement, “The work stoppage certainly impacts the state’s economy as production is temporarily halted.”

Cyndy McCrossen, the city of Albuquerque film liaison, said “We appreciate our unions.”

“We also know that film is a vital part of our economy,” McCrossen said.

KOB 4 contacted the New Mexico leadership for the actors’ union and is waiting to hear back as of this post.

The unions have been negotiating with studios and streaming companies. Workers are pushing for higher pay and protection against AI, among other wishes.

The two unions haven’t been on strike at the same time in more than 60 years.

Representatives with the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions said they’re prepared to handle an increase in unemployment claims.