How the US writers' strikes are affecting the London film industry

ITV London's Harry Fawcett investigated how the writers strikes are impacting the film industry here in London.

Nick Milligan has been living his dream for more than six years.

The 27-year-old north Londoner has worked his way up to Second Assistant Camera – rigging camera gear, setting up complex stunt shots, and, he says self-effacingly, clapping the clapper board at the start of takes.

His list of credits is impressive, working on the last Bond film, the last Jurassic World, and an upcoming Ghostbusters sequel. But like thousands of others in London’s hitherto-booming feature-film industry, he’s a gigging freelancer. And right now, there are no gigs.

‘People want stability,’ he says, ‘and especially times like this, with the cost of living it’s hard for it to get much worse, I think.’

Nick Milligan worked on the last Bond film but is now struggling to find work. Credit: ITV London

The problem comes from the same place the boom came from: thousands of miles away in Hollywood. The US screen actors’ and writers’ unions are striking at the same time, for the first time since the 1960s. The industry is frozen, not just in America, but everywhere American-funded films are made.

London is the third-largest film and big-budget TV production centre in the world, helping bring in nearly £5.4b in US investment to the UK last year.

The American unions want guarantees against Artificial Intelligence taking human jobs, and a better split of revenues generated by streaming services.

It’s a cause Nick is right behind – saying it’s vital for the long-term future of workers like him and his partner, Katie Dadswell, a film-set draughtsperson.

Except now she’s also working in a bakery, to help pay the mortgage on the flat they’ve just bought in Hornsey. Nick is taking some jobs on TV commercials, for the same reason.

It’s a trend that’s worrying industry insiders, like Marcus Ryder, head of the Film and TV Charity. He says applications from freelancers for grants of around £500 in emergency help are up 800 per cent on the same period last year.

‘Britain has built up possibly the world’s best resource in talent to make film and TV, he says. ‘And what we see and what we risk is that talent, that amazing resource, actually leaving the industry.’

The Department for Culture Media and Sport says it’s engaging with the industry over the strike, and points to tax incentives, infrastructure investment and promotion of independent British production.

But it’s the American money that has long been the lifeblood of big-budget film and TV production here. And it’s that that is so sorely missing right now.

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