Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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    U.K. Film Industry Faces Crisis as Below-the-Line Workers Rally at Saltburn Premiere

    In anticipation of the European premiere of Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn” at the iconic Royal Albert Hall, a compelling demonstration orchestrated by U.K. crew members took place. This demonstration aimed to shed light on the struggles of below-the-line workers who have been severely impacted by an ongoing work stoppage, which has dealt a crippling blow to the British production sector. Approximately 30 individuals gathered, holding banners aloft with the resounding message, “UK cast and crew are the backbone of this industry,” from an overpass overlooking the prestigious red carpet. Simultaneously, others distributed leaflets to arriving guests.

    In an exclusive interview with The MegaloPreneur ahead of the protest, titled “Crew Call for Change,” and masterminded by an anonymous team linked to the popular Instagram account @britcrewstories, a spokesperson from the group clarified their intent. They emphasized that their objective was not to disrupt the premiere of “Saltburn” or the festival itself.

    However, their mission was crystal clear. They sought to use this opportunity to make a resounding statement. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the group member articulated, “The below-the-line workforce, who seldom find themselves on a red carpet, have been enduring hardships, and we are here to stay.”

    Furthermore, they expressed their desire for representatives from Warner Bros. and Amazon, the distributors of “Saltburn,” to have no option but to acknowledge their presence and their message.

    The opening of the London Film Festival has often served as a backdrop for various protests, often unrelated to the world of film. However, the one on Wednesday night stood out as arguably the most prominent, as it addressed a major crisis engulfing the U.K. industry, which heavily relies on investment from Hollywood studios and streaming platforms. Citing a recent survey, protest organizers revealed alarming statistics: 75 percent of the U.K. film and TV workforce is currently unemployed, with 35 percent grappling with financial hardships. Additionally, almost a quarter of respondents expressed doubts about their future in the industry due to the current instability.

    While expressing their full support for a resolution to the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike in the U.S. and endorsing the call for a fair and satisfactory resolution, the organizers highlighted that the U.K.’s domestic workforce was not on strike but was still affected by these disputes.

    While acknowledging that they may not have all the solutions to the current crisis, the @britcrewstories group suggested that the U.K. crew union BECTU, in collaboration with the British Film Institute, British Film Commission, and screen sector trade body PACT, could play a more proactive role in ensuring the well-being of the U.K. workforce and industry. They called for increased domestic investment alongside the substantial influx from the U.S., emphasizing that the current overreliance on studios and streamers is unsustainable.

    Regarding the premiere itself, although Saltburn’s writer/director, Fennell, was the star attraction on the red carpet, the actors’ strike meant that lead stars, including Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, and Rosamund Pike, were notably absent.

    Meanwhile, BECTU is organizing its demonstration on October 5 in London’s Leicester Square, urging the AMPTP to engage in swift negotiations with SAG-AFTRA.

    The London Film Festival, running from October 4 to 15, features not only “Saltburn” but also the world premieres of “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” “The Book of Clarence,” and “The Kitchen.”

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