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Monday, December 17, 2007

Will This Stike Affect Indie Filmmakers?

'Perfect Storm' of Strikes Could Cripple Film Industry

Special to the Sun

December 13, 2007

As New York City's film industry suffers from the shocks of the writers' strike, even bigger storms may be looming: In July, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America are expected to lead strikes of their own, which would immediately halt all filmmaking and could threaten the survival of scores of New York's independent film companies.

In preparation for a possible SAG and DGA strike, many Los Angeles-based studios have been rushing to get their filming done before July. That increase in demand has allowed actors to raise their fees, making those who run the less wealthy New York indie film companies worry that they might have to halt production until actors become more affordable.

"We are not the sort of companies with very deep pockets that would be able to sustain ourselves through a very long cessation of work," a co-owner of New York-based indie film company Belladonna Productions, Linda Moran, said. "Some companies might have to shut down."

About a third of all independent films are produced in New York City at 145 studios and stages, according to a 2005 report by the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. The Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting calculates that the film industry as a whole employs 100,000 New Yorkers.

In the face of such strong competition, New York's indie filmmakers are finding it especially difficult to convince talent to sacrifice higher pay for an opportunity to work on more creative independent projects.

"Even the big actors at some point want to make a decent indie film, and normally they do it for very little money," the producer for New York-based Vox3 Films, Andrew Fierberg, said. Right now, though, actors are trying to grab as many of the higher paying jobs as possible, in order to put some extra cash in the bank in case a strike keeps them from working. "Lower-budget films, even the really good ones, become less of a priority in that kind of crunch," according to a producer for Open City Films in New York, Jason Kliot. "It's harder for us to get the agents' and the actors' attention when they're thinking about these basic livelihood issues."

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