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California religious leaders march with striking writers, actors outside Warner Bros. studios

California religious leaders march with striking writers, actors outside Warner Bros. studios

Southern California religious leaders held a rally and prayer service outside Warner Bros. studios in Burbank on Thursday, Sept. 7 in a show of support for striking Hollywood writers and actors.

The interdenominational leaders, who numbered nearly 40, marched and wielded picket signs alongside the workers as their strikes continue to drag on.

The gathering included representatives from the Hollywood Prayer Network, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, All Saints Church in Pasadena, Mount Hollywood United Church of Christ and Temple Ner Tamid in Downey, among others.

Karen Covell, founding director of the 22,000-member Hollywood Prayer Network and an independent film and TV producer, said she wants to create a bridge between the two worlds.

“The Christians don’t like some of the morals and content that come out of Hollywood, and Hollywood doesn’t always understand Christians,” she said.

Still, Covell said the strikers appreciated the support shown to them Thursday.

“They were very welcoming,” she said. “Some laughed and smiled. They were glad to see us join in.”

Religious leaders who gathered with striking Hollywood writers and actors on Thursday, Sept. 7 in Burbank marched alongside them and also held a prayer service in support of a quick resolution to the walkouts. (Photo courtesy of Karen Covell) 

Guillermo Torres, director of programming for the Los Angeles-based Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, said their rally came down to faith.

“There is a lot of suffering,” he said. “These people have been out of work for so long, and the lack of a contract paints a picture of the inhumanity on the part of the studios. We, as faith representatives, believe that work is sacred. We want to amplify their call for dignity and justice.”

The Writers Guild of America strike hit 129 days Thursday, and the Guild and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers still appear to be far from reaching a labor agreement.

The WGA, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, claims AMPTP’s share of the residuals has significantly reduced writers’ average incomes compared with a decade ago. Writers also want artificial intelligence to be used only as a tool that can help with research or facilitate script ideas and not as a tool to replace them.

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Chris Thornberg, an economist and founding partner with Beacon Economics, attributes the impasse to the wealth of viewing options now available to customers through Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and other streaming services.

“In the grand old days we had movie theaters and 14 TV stations — no more, no less,” Thornberg said recently. “But with more distribution channels added, they can suddenly make more and more money off of existing content.”

SAG-AFTRA, the labor union that represents some 160,000 media professionals, actors and entertainers, launched its own strike against AMPTP on July 14 and that walkout hit 55 days Thursday.

SAG-AFTRA also cited concerns over the use of AI. They fear it could be used to replicate their likeness without compensation.

Dereck Andrade, a SAG-AFTRA caption who organized Thursday’s interdenominational picket, said there’s a harsh side to the impasse that local faith leaders are seeing first-hand.

“They are seeing actors and writers coming to them who can’t afford to pay their bills or are losing their homes,” he said. “This strike is something that’s very tangible to these people.”

Andrade said strikers are turning to churches, temples and other religious organizations for canned food, clothing and other needs as the walkouts continue.

Covell hopes the labor actions can be settled soon.

“I thought they would be over in August, but some are saying that might not happen until the end of the year,” she said.