ArtCube Nation

The Economic Impact on Film and TV Vendors Listening Session.

Sep 29, 2023 03:26
3 minutes read 249 1 0
The Economic Impact on Film Vendors.

The Strike's economic impact on NYC's film industry vendors is dire and the emotional toll on business owners was palpable.

"It's worse than the COVID shutdown" echoed repeatedly.

NYC Film Industry Vendors were invited to share their experiences two a Listening Panel regarding the WGA Strike’s Economic Impact on Film Industry Small Businesses.

The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s (MOME) commissioner, Pat Kaufmann, and staff unquestionably have their work cut out for them.  The Hollywood Strike’s economic impact on film industry vendors sent the niche entrepreneurs reeling here in New York City and all over the world 

The Listening Session

On Wednesday, September 27th, I was one of an array of business owners in the film industry who were invited to speak to a panel of NYC elected and appointed leaders at 1 Liberty Street.

Of those on the panel,  two addressed us with an opening statement (and a pass-around bag of mints!) 

  • Kevin Kim, Small Business Services Commissioner, and 
  • Vilda Vera Mayuga, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner,  champion of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.
  • Robert Gotheim District Director of Congressman Jerrold Nadler,
  • Robin Daniels of the U.S. Small Business Administration,
  • Sonia Park of Empire State Development Corporation, and
  • Lillian Vail, Director of the Capital Access team at NYC’s Department of Small Business Services.

The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s (MOME) new commissioner, Pat Kaufmann, and staff unquestionably have their work cut out for them.  More than ever before, the film industry needs a strong advocate for Gotham’s filmmaking infrastructure – niche vendors –  who are struggling to pay sky-high commercial rents and, for some, payroll, amid staggering drops in revenue by up to 95%.  

 

UPDATE: MOME sent links to city and state institutions and advised to contact representatives.  Read more...

 

The NYC Film Vendors

Testifying vendors were film and TV production-specific,  innovative, and many of whom play a role in Sustainable Production. 

Materials and Supplies

Stages

Power + Lighting

Rentals

Camera

Transportation 

Specialized Services

Many other vendors were there to observe, but the ones in the Cube-sphere were:

My Takeaways

A lot of information was shared and not everyone’s “takeaways” will be the same, but here is what I gleaned. 

The strike is not over, but it’s hope.

The economic impact on film industry vendors is a deep, deep cut and most all businesses seem to be wearing tight tourniquets so as not to bleed out.  

Pivoting is “easier said than done” for the ultra-niche with the wrong paperwork or alternative market.

Becoming a Food Truck on the street is not an easy option for Film Industry Caterers as their current permits do not allow it.

Prop Houses, LED Stages, Dolly Rentals, and Solar-Powered Trailers, for instance, don’t have the immediate business model wiggle room. 

Many highly-trained employees scattered.

Film Industry Caterers and  Camera Services (and I’d wager others) employees need special training – up to a year of onboarding and extensive menus.

Starting over with new hires, no matter what previous training, will be a challenge from the get-go.

There will be no room for mistakes, either, especially when it gets busy again.

There’s a suffering, silent secondary market.

The first vendor passed around a photo of a “SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED” sign that was posted on the door of the local restaurant that fed the patrons and employees lunch. It’s gone now.

We are not alone.

One of the immediate outcomes was a feeling of isolation slipping away.  It’s important to connect, so the shared burden lightens our load a touch.

Eva Radke's Statement to Leadership

My name is Eva Radke, and I’m the CEO and Founder of ArtCubeNation.com,  a digital tool for New York City’s creative economy that connects Art Department crew and vendors in film, TV, theater, and events.

My career began in 1993 as a Production Assistant rising up the ranks to a union Art Department Coordinator, hiring film crew, sourcing vendors,​ and budgeting big jobs like Super Bowl ads. 

On a toothpaste commercial, in 2007 I was forced to dumpster a stunning mid-century credenza.  The professional crisis and epiphany I had, inspired ArtCube the Google Group to connect wrapped productions to prepping productions to salvage high-quality assets.

The daily communications I read on ArtCube compelled me to build a reuse center, Film Biz Recycling, to provide an alternative to dumpsters for goods and furniture in a discount shop and a mighty donations pipeline to NYC shelters, and incidentally, it won an EPA award in the process.

In 2015, I developed and launched the ArtCube Nation.com platform we use today so real-time alerts from freelance crew or vendors with project problems are received by the rest of the community to solve with inventory, services, or availability​ to work. In its 16th year, many have never worked without ArtCube Nation.

ArtCube is a bootstrapping business. Operations are funded by recurring membership fees.  20% of our revenue vanished in July when the SAG voted to strike. Vendors were going lean and a shocking amount of people with entry-level positions had failing payment methods.

This 20% was the entire development budget which came to a grinding halt. Just as I was laying the groundwork for innovative asset management tool and geolocated specialties and inventory directory.

While this is a crushing blow as a tech founder, I was more gobsmacked by the spreadsheet indicating that some of NYC’s core filmmaking infrastructure was downward spiral.

It was paralyzing to process that the vendors going down were the exact ones that needed to be ready at the strike’s end. 

As ArtCube is one big slice of a bigger pie, I suspected it was industry-wide and there was nowhere to turn. That’s why I am so grateful to be in this room with you. Thank you to MOME for organizing and to the impressive cutch of leaders for hearing our plea for cinematic emergency management.

Just as the 52 Electrics and Feature Systems (RIP) lit Ground Zero with generators and 20Ks, and Thd Teamsters and Film Biz backroad-ed blankets and candles to The Rockaways after Sandy, ArtCube Nation morphed into an ad hoc PPE supply chain for NYC hospitals, it’s us now, typically so strong and capable, who need saving.

Investment in this industry ​can pay dividends in more ways than my time up here allows. ​

So I’ll stop here to acknowledge what an honor it is to speak to you and my deepest gratitude for listening.

That's a wrap.

I am very thankful that MOME pulled this event together and hopeful that it will illicit actionable solutions for an industry caught in the crosshairs of a labor strike beyond its control.

In the end, I was not able to fully express what happens to Vendors and Freelancers on ArtCube Nation, happens to ArtCube Nation.

In preparation for this event, I took a survey of ArtCube Nation’s freelancers and vendors, and I wanted to include my findings, which were met with, “We did not ask for an independent research report”.  

If this interests you, read the ArtCube Survey Results

No biggie, but I hated talking about my woes as they are directly aligned with the woes of everyone else who needs help NOW.  ArtCube is beat up but will survive. I wish everyone with a commercial lease had the same certainty I do.

I will always work to protect, advocate, and stand by Cubers, because who else for certain will? I love this Industry and I love the Art Department. We will make it better as a community, not a committee.

Cube Forever,

Eva Radke

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