LOS ANGELES — The fast approaching red-carpet awards season could once again be in jeopardy.
This story first appeared in the November 26, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Screen Actors Guild board is seeking a strike authorization from its 120,000 members, causing shudders among designers and stylists — as well as others in the film industry — who depend on awards season and the Hollywood machine.
The timing couldn’t be worse with the economy tanking — and memories of last year’s Golden Globes, which were aborted because of the Writers Guild walkout, still raw.
“I just thought, ‘Here we go again,’” said Los Angeles designer Kevan Hall. “A show was actually canceled last year. It could happen again — to any awards show.”
The implied meaning was dire: If it happened to the Golden Globes, which is set this year for Jan. 11, it could happen to the Oscars, and all the awards shows in between, such as the SAG Awards, Directors Guild of America awards, Broadcast Film Critics and New York Film Critics.
For Hall, who relies on the press attention from dressing stars such as Vanessa Williams in custom gowns at awards shows to generate sales, as well as gown sales to agents and wives of industry executives who attend the shows, a strike would be painful.
“We are rolling out our red-carpet gowns no matter what,” he said. “In addition to awards shows, we’re always working on movie premieres or charity fashion shows, and we will find a way to do business. We’ve lived through this once, but who wants to do it again?”
Stylist Jessica Paster said, “Its the lost exposure for designers and it will hurt hair, makeup and styling because we make money off of those events.”
Indeed, with the California economy already beset by crises, the financial impact of awards show cancellations from a SAG strike could easily top the $60 million loss of the Golden Globe’s cancellation.
“This is nail-biting time in Los Angeles,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “A strike and any subsequent cancellation of awards shows would be a big hit to the Los Angeles economy. The effect would carry down from actors not working to studios spending way less. No more expense account meals or gift baskets, hotels, limo drivers, beauty salons, restaurants and retail — all of it will feel the impact. It would further depress an already down local economy.”
Movie production has already slowed because of the residual impact of the writers’ strike and the anticipation of an actors’ walkout. Studios don’t want to lose money by starting a new production and then having to shut it down.
As with the writers, the key issues are new-media and DVD residuals. When the writers went on strike after they were unable to agree on terms to renew their union’s contract, they threatened to picket awards shows. In a show of solidarity, SAG members said they planned not to cross any picket lines.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided to cancel the Golden Globes, replacing the dinner and show with a scaled-down telecast announcing the winners, sans actors presenting or accepting awards. The Oscars were also in jeopardy, but the writers, under pressure not to ruin the film industry’s marquee event, came to an agreement just before the Feb. 24 show, which proceeded normally.
Since the SAG contract expired on June 30, the guild, which declined to accept the same terms as the writers, has been deadlocked with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
While SAG maintains that it is simply calling for a vote to authorize its board to decide whether to go on strike — 75 percent of its union members must vote “yes” in order for the guild to proceed — most observers in Hollywood predict that a strike is all but guaranteed.
“This is not the economy to be striking in,” said actress Debi Mazar, a SAG member, known for her roles on “Entourage” on HBO and “Ugly Betty” on ABC. “We can’t afford it.…Designers should be worried not about the red carpet, but about inspiring people to get into stores and just buy the everyday clothes they need. That’s hard enough.”