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Hollywood strikes' economic impacts are hitting far beyond LA

<em>Yellowstone</em>'s later seasons were filmed in Montana.
Yellowstone's later seasons were filmed in Montana.

Hollywood writers have been striking for three months, and a month ago actors joined them. Together they've been filling up picket lines outside the major studios in Hollywood. But the strikes aren't only having an impact in California. The industry says it employs more than 1.7 million people outside that state, and pays them $158 billion a year in wages.

The strikes are affecting places like Montana — where 1923, a prequel to the show Yellowstone, was set to begin filming in June, before the writers strike halted production. Tina Buckingham is a casting director for the show. She told Yellowstone Public Radio this and other cancellations have been hard for businesses across the state. "It's devastating to this industry because it trickles down. All of the food people, the restaurants, the people that would work on the movie. The lumber companies for building sets, the wranglers for the horses, and it goes on and on and on. The amount of money lost is tremendous."

Still, Buckingham says she stands with the striking writers and actors. "I believe in it. The writers and the actors both absolutely need a better cut for projects when they go to streaming."

Montana attracts big productions with its scenery, but Georgia draws in even more with tax credits. The Motion Picture Association estimates the Film and TV industry brought in $3.5 billion in wages last year for productions there that included popular shows like Sweet Magnolias and Single Drunk Female.

Brian Smith works as a set dresser in Atlanta and is in a union, but not one of the ones that's striking. He said picketers didn't show up at their productions right at the start of the WGA strike the way they did in Hollywood, so initially a lot of filming continued to happen in Atlanta.

But as the strike continued into the summer, all his work dried up. It's been hard for him.

"I miss my job," Smith said, "It was something I loved doing." He was reluctant to pick up side gigs, but has to in order to get by right now.

The strikes are happening to help people like Jay Adams, who has worked as an actor and stunt man in Michigan for more than a decade. "You don't know me, but you see me in an episode of a TV show falling down and getting beat up by somebody," he said. "The people that you don't know the names of are the people that you actually see quite a bit."

Adams said he didn't have to find a side gig when the strike started, because he's always needed one anyway. He hopes the strike can help change that. "We're so focused on these side hustles. We want to be able to work our job, and be able to train for our job when we're not working, and be able to make a good living and take care of our families."

As the strikes continue, it looks like millions of people across the U.S. working in and around the production industries will have to wait.

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Tilda Wilson