Striking Distance

New York’s Indie Filmmakers Prepare for a Summer Shutdown

Strike panic may do the most damage to the unions' members, those middle-income actors and writers scrambling for a paycheck now that the industry is going from boom to bust. "Anybody who might be just starting on their career with a bang," says one WGA writer, "suddenly it goes on hold. My wife and I were considering buying a house, but that's on hold. Everything's on hold. We have enough to survive, but it's still kind of scary. You just don't know how long this is going to last."

"If you're an actor like me," says Tom Gilroy, writer-director of Spring Forward and a SAG member who's directing a production of Hamlet for the New Jersey Shakespeare festival this August, "we have to save our money, because we don't know what's going to happen from one day to the next." Gilroy's cast includes Lili Taylor, Jared Harris, The Sopranos' John Ventimiglia, and Richard Harris. "Because of the strike, we knew people would be less nervous about being employed in a play," he says. Citing the Public Theater's summer schedule as evidence of a New York theater resurgence, he adds, "Maybe the strike will give theater a little kick in the ass." Mike Nichols's summer production of The Seagull, for example, will feature a who's who of Hollywood notables: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Goodman, and Christopher Walken.

Unlike the union reps, studio execs, and independent producers, Gilroy actually wants a strike. "The first thing I thought of was, 'Great! There won't be an Adam Sandler movie next summer.' Writers won't write crap, and actors won't have to act in it. Will there be certain people like my manager or certain indie producers that might be squeezed for four months because they don't have any income? Yeah, but culturally, it's one of the best things that could happen to our incredibly vacuous, bloated media industry."

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