Most Hollywood assistants still make less than $50,000 a year, report finds

After Hollywood assistants took a stand in 2019, saying they were no longer content with working long hours for low wages in often difficult and abusive conditions to get a foot in the door, grassroots organization #PayUpHollywood began collecting data, to get an understanding of the problems faced by assistants as a basis for using this information to make systemic changes.

Three years later, the group released its last annual survey and found little had changed. Assistants continue to fight for income equality while shouldering expenses, and find themselves falling short on a variety of issues, the organization noted.

It conducted a survey of 523 current and former assistants working in studios, talent agencies, and production and development companies between November 16, 2021 and January 1.

Among key findings: 91.05% of respondents reported making less than $50,000 in 2021, up from 79.1% in 2020 who reported earning in the same range.

While incomes stagnated, housing costs continued to dwarf the incomes of most assistants, who are struggling to pay rent: 44.2% said they received financial support from family and others, up from 37.5% a year earlier , according to #PayUpHollywood.

Other survey findings: 49.03% said they were pressured to change time cards to “prevent manufacturing companies from having to pay overtime or extra hours worked.”

“This is a serious labor rights violation,” said Liz Alper, author and co-founder of #PayUpHollywood. “It’s something universal for the entertainment industry.”

Additionally, about 64% of assistants said they were not reimbursed for labor costs such as computer equipment, office supplies, Zoom subscriptions, and transportation, up from over 50% as reported in the 2020 survey.

The survey also found that assistants are still expected to perform a variety of menial tasks, including running personal errands during and outside of working hours, cooking, and picking up mail and laundry for their bosses; some even claimed to have been used for childcare.

The latest #PayUpHollywood survey comes at a time of major industry upheaval, including the aftershocks of COVID, the rise of and competition among streamers, studio consolidation (Warner Media has pledged to cut costs by $3 billion) and temporary layoffs.

For Alper, however, the poll reflects the traditional caste system in Hollywood, where assistants are seen as replaceable and first workers are cut. But support staff, not just entry-level jobs, are the kind of positions that create pipelines into every major vertical in the industry.

“There are so many reports that we’ve received from people who tried to call for 25-cent and 50-cent increases but were shut down and told to buckle up and do their part,” Alper said. “These are all excuses.”

Meanwhile, Alper added, the gap between assistant salaries and the multimillion-dollar pay packages for top studio and media executives is widening.

“It shows that there is money, it just doesn’t go to the people who need it,” Alper said.

Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film, an advocacy group, said the report’s findings showed: “There needs to be a shift in the way we think about coordinators and assistants, rather than looking at them as the people we work through.” running, but like building the next generation of workers and making sure they make a living and stay in the industry.”

Women in Film recently agreed to sponsor #PayUpHollywood, which allows the organization to operate as a nonprofit and fundraiser.

The agreement will allow #PayUpHollywood to grow and “beginning to bring in more of a think tank perspective to address many of the issues assistants face,” Alper said.

Schaffer sees this as a natural alliance, noting that 66% of survey respondents identify as female.

“This is related to the nature of the broader work around wage parity,” she said. “Other reports that have come out show that most women work in lower paid sectors, while conversely there are fewer women in the higher paid brackets. “It’s part of that story.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-09-08/three-years-after-payuphollywood-launched-the-group-says-assistants-have-made-little-headway Most Hollywood assistants still make less than $50,000 a year, report finds

Sarah Ridley

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