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Eva Radke

Jul 13, 2023 07:27

Strike quotes request for a NY Times interview: How have you been affected?

New York City Off-Topic
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7 Responses


    I am a 31 year old, black, gay, non-union Artist who earns the majority of my income freelancing on Union Sets, including for Netflix, Apple, Major Film Festivals, as well as on Broadway, and the West End.

    I freelance as a Costume Designer, Production Designer, and Actor. I am also an alum of Yale College where I did a considerable amount of work at the Yale School of Drama (now David Geffen School of Drama at Yale).

    As someone who has been freelancing professionally for 15 years, I feel I can contribute the following to this conversation:

    Filmmaking is a fundamentally collaborative medium.
    Successful collaborations are built upon Trust in your fellow artists:
    Trust in their talents, in their cv, and in their word.

    Some of us inherited these creative relationships (from older family members in the business)

    Some of us (like me) have been building these trusting relationships since we were 6 years old (in theatre programs in schools, after school, and at summer camp; or in College; or in Art School; or since we first moved to New York or LA, or wherever we began our careers).

    The pandemic has completely pulled the rug out from under some of our deepest relationships.

    And to me it seems Basic Trust is low, among people in general.

    Filmmakers are no different.

    Often, freelancers like me are hired at unsustainably low rates to work — early mornings, late nights, and long hours; for weeks or months — with people we’ve never met in high-intensity, quick paced, environments where consistent perfection is essentially daily the expectation. Or you’re fired. Simple as that.

    Working on Professional Sets, the artist in me is always weighing two things:
    1. The Positive Value of a gig: money, time, helpful connections, clout, ability to pursue my dreams
    2. Versus the Negative Value of a gig: egomaniacal bosses, bullying, discrimination, deleterious connections, costs to complete a gig (including: transportation, food, and housing — which aren’t always guaranteed).

    Since the pandemic, the Negative Aspects have definitely come to outweigh the Positive Aspects.

    Even just before the pandemic began, 10 years into my career, I used to love going to work.

    Even though I am frequently the only black person in a department or on a given set, before the pandemic, I would always found joy and respectful, trusting working relationships among the majority of my colleagues.

    Until 2020, I made a lot of great work with some of my best friends, or very awesome strangers who became my friends.

    But the Pandemic was difficult on everyone.

    Quarantine and Isolation was a test to many people’s mental and emotional health.

    And I don’t think everyone has had time to recover from the traumatic aspects of that isolation.

    A lot of people died.

    Amid a heated and historic Presidential Election, a lot of people (willfully, or not) steeped themselves in racist environments, away from metropolitan centers.

    A lot of people ended romantic relationships.

    A lot of people saw the unforgettable True Colors in certain friends or filmmaking colleagues — and now these relationships have been terminated, or effectively terminated.

    And while some Healthy Individuals are actively working to make peace with their pandemic and new post-pandemic realities, a lot of Unbalanced Individuals are not doing that deep, inner, personal work.

    Suffice it to say, I believe many Unbalanced Individuals are working on Film/TV Projects now who probably shouldn’t be.

    These Unbalanced Individuals exist at all levels of the industry, and in the business office, and at the studios, and in at least one particular network tv writers’ room where, as of June 4, I heard a skeleton crew had crossed picket lines to continue working.

    Some of these Unbalanced Individuals I’m describing are in positions of supreme power, while others are fellow at-will freelancers, while other still have some intermediary level of power.

    These Unbalanced Individuals have burned the candle at both ends.

    They have shorter fuses than ever.

    Their temper is quicker.

    And their Trust in others is brittle, if extant at all.

    And, as usually occurs when people start moving or thinking too quickly, these Unbalanced Individuals have become more prejudice, more intolerant, and more discriminatory.

    Because film sets are usually majority White, the Unbalanced Individuals I am describing are mostly, but are not exclusively, White.

    These Unbalanced Individuals comprise and perpetuate a New Dominant Culture of Fear on set, and throughout every department.

    These Unbalanced Individuals now comprise a noticeable majority of Set Employees, rather than a reasonable, or truly nonexistent, minority as they once did, in my experience, before the pandemic.

    These Unbalanced Individuals are quick to conspire against the marginalized among us. At times it can appear to be almost like a game to them.

    A fun and easy game for them, I’m sure, because marginalized staffers are usually only 1 or so per department, and therefore make for easy scapegoats.

    Especially among a white majority or supermajority who wants to build a quick and dirty, race-based camaraderie to protect against their head being on the chopping block.

    It’s as if certain Unbalanced Individuals don’t realize, or don’t care, that trust is usually a two way street: You have to give it to receive it.

    What’s hilarious is that, in a large way, Power between Film Projects in somewhat fluid.

    A Production Assistant (PA) on one project shooting in August, might be a Department Head on another project shooting in October, an Assistant Designer on a third project in November, and a PA again in December.

    Many Unbalanced Individuals in Positions of Relative Power throw impulsive yelling tantrums in the moment, seemingly without care that we, their peers, are keeping a mental note to never hire them for our department should we happen to have more Power on the next set.

    This type of strange, impulsive, and unbalanced behavior, to me, points to a deficit in mental and emotional well-being.

    But for some, the adrenaline rush of just being on set can be addictive.
    And for some, the paycheck can be 100% necessary.
    So the root causes of the mental/emotional issues that I’m describing continues to persist.

    Being a black/gay person on set these days can be scary.

    Some of the most elite art spaces and film sets in the world have always been my relative comfort zone,

    but now I feel a pandemic-era, Culture of Fear and Competition has undercut an abundant Culture of Collaboration that I believe was abundant, on even the most rarified Sets, before the pandemic.

    Before the Pandemic, I always regarded film work as somewhat creatively daunting. But I always overcame those inner inhibitions by practicing my skills while off the job; or giving myself a few more hours, days, or weeks to prepare for an upcoming gig.

    Now, since the Pandemic, I actively fear going to work on set.

    Clocking in raises my heart rate.

    I actually fear that behind any given corner, there may be another super racist, union assistant who actively violates my personal space with absolutely no fear of consequences.

    Or a union designer who frequently lies to me about work related topics because they find it hilarious to slow me down.

    I actually fear that the white majority on whatever project will collectively rally and build their sense of community around contributing to my downfall.

    I fear it because this has happened to me. Sometimes very slowly, and in front of my face, over a number of days or weeks.

    To the point where I’ve come to expect this group-level racism as the norm, rather than an aberration.

    I’m tired of showing up at work feeling like I might get fired every single day.

    I love working on film sets.

    And I’ll never stop creating my personal art work.

    But I feel like this strike is coming at the right time.

    So people on all sides of every issue can take a forced break.

    It’s devastating to those of us (like me) who need a paycheck, but at the same time, I feel like many Unbalanced Individuals need time to take a breather.

    We all need to take a moment to stop and consider how we can create a Big Bang of Trust/Love that can override the deficit in Trust/Love the pandemic has wrought upon the film community.

    Our Sets are, on the whole, unsustainable without investing this Basic Trust.

    And, in my opinion, the lack of Trust/Love in the culture on set is reflecting negatively in the work.

    On screen, that deficit reads in the bodies and energies of the actors starring in the work.
    Because the actors are just as much a part of the community as everyone else; and sometimes these actors (those who are genuine celebrities) are among the most powerful people on a given set.

    As a result, I would argue the Product being created today is generally of a lower quality than the work produced before the pandemic.

    To build Sets that promote a culture of Reparative and Increased Trust, I believe studios should find a way to invest in (among many other things):
    1 Shorter daily work schedules, even if it means a few extra weeks of production time.
    2 Paying all employees — at every level — a higher, more modern rate
    3 Finding a more stable alternative to At-Will employment, which is too often taken advantage of by Unbalanced Individuals in Power.
    4 Enforced diversity standards, in every department (in front of, and behind the scenes)

    Finally, it is my hope that there are enough people on every side of these strikes who are negotiating in Good Faith.

    Because among the writers, actors, designers, and filmmakers I know (and I know a LOT), Good Faith conversations, once the norm, have become eerily rare.

    To the point where I fear it’s almost a pre-pandemic relic at this point.

    I know it’s not. I know we’ll get it back.

    But damn. Yikes.

  2. I felt like my life was really starting to go somewhere, and then the strikes. Work has slowed to nothing and because I am still new to the industry, I can’t compete with the union folks or the other experienced people that are now apply to smaller gigs. Trying to navigate unemployment was so challenging because their system HATES freelancers/gig workers and was completely flooded by everyone rushing to apply. Everyone I know is stressed and scared for the future.

    Even if this all clears up by end of year, probably won’t see any actual work till 2024. That’s a long time to have no income. I have to find a new apartment and am struggling to explain that my industry is at a complete standstill. I’m happy people are fighting for better pay, but it won’t change anything for the people working the set. Really feels like we’re taking one for the team right now.

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