With the recent filming of blockbusters including “Hocus Pocus 2” and “Good Burger 2” in Rhode Island, Warwick residents can see some local sights, as well as some of their …
With the recent filming of blockbusters including “Hocus Pocus 2” and “Good Burger 2” in Rhode Island, Warwick residents can see some local sights, as well as some of their neighbors, on the big screen.
Those neighbors, however, will not be acting in anything in the immediate future, though, according to Deb Rich.
Rich is one of a group of local actors currently on strike with SAG-AFTRA, that have been on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) since July 14. They joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA), that has been on strike against the AMPTP since May 2.
The strikes come at a time of change within the film industry. In particular, the rise of artificial intelligence technologies and of streaming services has had a serious negative impact on those in the industry, according to Rich.
Actress Angela Ryding said that during the filming of “The Unholy,” she and other actors were asked to sit surrounded by cameras in a metal cage in order to use their likenesses for the background of a shot. Her husband Bill, also an actor, had a similar experience while acting as a member of a jury in “Ted 2.”
“That image is out there,” Angela said. “It can put words in our mouth. We don’t know where it’s going. That language needs to be in our contract.”
According to Rich, streaming services have had a significant impact as well, particularly due to the lack of residuals, which many actors rely on for income.
“People used to get residuals for when they appeared and when they spoke in a scene,” Rich said. “They would get a few extra dollars every time it was shown. If they’re on streaming, it doesn’t work that way.”
Additionally, Rich said that actors need to make a minimum of $26,000 in a year to qualify for healthcare, up from $15,000 when she first started acting. More affordable health care is one of the top demands of SAG-AFTRA.
Part of the reason that the Warwick acting scene exists is due to its location. Close to both Boston and New York, Warwick is relatively easy to travel to and fro, and more movies being filmed in Rhode Island has only made the city more attractive to actors.
While Rich, Bill and Angela have all worked in other careers and do acting “for the love of it,” they’re concerned about the impacts on anyone entering the acting industry searching for a big break.
The strike also has an impact on crews, including construction and makeup, that Rich called “undervalued.” This was never clearer to her than when she saw a building she owned become the titular fast food joint in “Good Burger 2.”
“They had to build my old Friendly’s into a new Good Burger,” Rich said. “The construction crews were all from Rhode Island, and they all worked here. It’s not just the people in front of the camera.”
Angela, Bill and Rich can only guess when the strike will end. However, they don’t see it ending in this calendar year, as the two sides are far apart and the AMPTP recently refused to return to the negotiating table. In the meantime, many actors on strike are under financial strain.
“I was talking to a fellow yesterday who got a nice speaking part the day before the strike,” Bill said. “So that’s nothing. He doesn’t even know if he’s gonna have the job.”
While it continues, though, the three will keep supporting their fellow actors, and they hope that the AMPTP will return to the negotiating table soon so they can get back to work.