June level down as strike enters fifith week

The actors’ strike against advertisers has pulled down production of off-lot commercial shoots in Los Angeles to the lowest monthly level since 1995.

Days of Los Angeles shooting for June, through Wednesday, totaled 247, down 49% from 484 days in the same period last year, according to the six-year-old Entertainment Industry Development Corp. The only month with a lower total was October 1995, when 235 days were logged.

Producers admit the ongoing picketing by the striking Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has made them less eager to shoot at Los Angeles sites. “The demonstrations have certainly made people think twice about shooting locally,” said Steve Caplan of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers.

On Thursday, union supporters picketed a Burger King shoot in Riverside, a Cream of Wheat shoot in Silverlake, a Dodge Neon shoot in Hollywood and outside the Universal Studios lot, where several spots were being shot. David Hyde Pierce of “Frasier” joined picketers at Universal.

Additionally, SAG and AFTRA demonstrators traveled from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., on Thursday to demonstrate at a Chevrolet spot shot in sand dunes near the city.

Strike leaders plan to hit as many commercial shoots as possible as the strike enters its 10th week amid no signs of a restart in negotiations. The unions are also actively campaigning in support of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg’s motion to ban non-union commercial shoots on public property as long as there is a SAG/AFTRA strike. The matter is due to be heard by the council next week.

Long-term effects

AICP president Matt Miller has warned Goldberg her motion “will serve to weaken an industry already ailing and will most definitely have long-term effects on the health of business in Los Angeles.” Miller admitted the strike had deterred producers from shooting local spots.

“Throughout the strike, production companies and the people they employ have occupied a difficult position,” Miller wrote. “These people will only earn a living if they work. The city of Los Angeles owes its allegiance to all its residents and not just a vocal few.”

Miller’s org offered similar criticism of the unions last month when it withdrew from the Film USA coalition, which lobbies for slowing runaway production. About 500 demonstrators picketed an AICP event in New York three weeks ago.

John McGuinn, chief negotiator for the advertisers, also notified Goldberg of the industry’s opposition on the basis that the proposal violates federal law by interfering in a labor dispute.

“The way to end this strike is for the talent unions to engage in real collective bargaining instead of seeking a political edge by unlawful proposals which only further hurt the local economy,” McGuinn told Goldberg.

Miller also said overall production of commercials is close to normal, thanks to shoots outside Los Angeles and New York, and predicted that activity will rise in July and August. “We are seeing an uptick on the horizon,” he added.

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