Director Deon Taylor on the Human Cost of the Hollywood Strikes

With the Writers Guild of America strike entering its 120th day and SAG-AFTRA members on the picket line for nearly two months, the human cost of Hollywood’s summer of strikes continues to add up.

Filmmaker Deon Taylor joined the picket line on Monday, Aug. 28, outside Amazon Studios in Culver City, California. The writer-director said people are hurting without paychecks.

“This is crazy right now. People are not working that have dedicated their lives to this entertainment business,” Taylor told Urban Hollywood 411. “There’s people who are homeless. There’s people who can’t pay their bills. There’s people that can’t pay their light bills, and I know a few of those people.

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Taylor, his producer wife Roxanne Avent, and the team at their Hidden Empire Film Group invited friends and colleagues to “unite for change” and rally for the two unions to reach fair contracts with the studios and streamers.

“We tried to get as many people as we can to just show solidarity. It didn’t matter if they’re a writer, or director, or just a creative actor, or just someone that works as a grip,” Taylor said.

Among those responding to the call were Frank Grillo, who had a role in Taylor’s 2019 film Black and Blue; Michael Ealy, who starred in the director’s 2020 film Fatale; and actor David Oyelowo.

“What we do does have a social, cultural impact and all we’re asking for is to be compensated fairly,” Oyelowo said in a video he recorded outside Amazon and posted on Instagram.

The Selma star walked the picket line with Taylor and said actors and writers are not asking for anything “outlandish.”

“They need to have the ability to sustain their families, their dreams, and to be compensated for the hard work they’re doing,” Oyelowo added.

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The gathering included food trucks offering free sandwiches, ice cream and soul food. There was also a DJ playing old-school R&B.

Taylor, whose directing credits also include The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 and The Intruder, said he hoped the gathering lifted the spirits of those affected by the work stoppages.

“You’ve got to stand strong. It’s a war,” he said. “For me as an independent artist, I really live by that. And everybody I know, I’ve tried to impact that, like you can’t fold because a lot of times they want to wait you out. You’ve got to keep showing energy, keep standing, keep saying ‘no’ to what it is you don’t want. And a lot of people are doing that. And hopefully today, man, we boosted a lot of people’s morale.”

The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the major studios and streamers, recently returned to the bargaining table.

Although Variety reported Monday that the two sides are at a standstill after the AMPTP rejected the WGA’s Aug. 15 counter-offer.

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Meantime, SAG-AFTRA continues to wait for word from the AMPTP. The guild released a statement on Aug. 27,  saying its negotiating committee is ready to resume contract talks “at a moment’s notice.”

With so much uncertainty in the industry, Taylor said his previously announced Blacula remake remains in flux.

“We’ve been developing it. We were right in the throes of having the script written and a few other things right before the strike happened, so Blacula is absolutely happening.”

The director declined to discuss which actors he has in mind for the film, but said, “I’m really excited about it.”

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