At the epicenter of the conversation last August during the most contentious portion of the IATSE contract negotiation was perhaps the IA stories Instagram account where literally hundreds of thousands of IATSE members discovered they weren’t alone in enduring the horrors of working in Hollywood: Burnout, abusive working conditions, and sacrificing everything – including even their lives – to simply keep their jobs in the entertainment industry was apparently everyone’s story. Pandora’s Box opened, and it was clear people demanded change. Among those people are my guests today from Local 871 – Script Coordinator Amy Thurlow, and Art Department Coordinator Marisa Shipley.
Marisa Shipley is the President of Local 871, as well as one of the founders of the IA Stories page. She has been on the front lines of the living wage and pay equity fight since 2018 and is committed to finding a collaborative approach to tackling these issues.
Amy Thurlow was elected to represent Script Coordinators on the Board of Directors of Local 871 in December of 2021, and has been outspoken about the pay equity issues that have plagued her classification for decades.
This conversation has been a long time in the making, and we go deep into the stories of abusive practices in their local, the criminally low wages they have endured, and the systemic nature of these problems across many other IATSE locals. You’ll also hear Marisa describe the severe toll that running the IA stories page took on her health and well-being (which is ironic given how hard she works to protect the well-being of others), as well as her deep struggle with the negative blowback she received during the IATSE contract negotiations. Trust me when I say that standing up for what you believe is never easy. But our industry and the world needs more Marisa’s and Amy’s advocating for all of us.
Want to Hear More Episodes Like This One?
Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- Why Local 871 has the moniker of The Island of Misfit Toys.
- What a script coordinator does and what their day to day looks like.
- The duties of the art department coordinator.
- The importance of these two roles to making sure things run smoothly between departments.
- What the hours and schedules are like for both of these jobs.
- The difference between being flexible and putting up boundaries.
- Why Marisa hates the words “can’t you just…”
- The challenges that come with running a huge Instagram page like IA Stories.
- How Marisa got involved in pay equity issues in Local 871 and beyond.
- What motivated her to start the Instagram page IA stories and the intentions behind it.
- The incredible responsibility Marisa felt in taking on IA Stories.
- Dealing with the blowback of contract negotiations and how that affected Marisa.
- Why they made the intentional choice to not post about the specific contract negotiations and only focus on the stories.
- KEY TAKEAWAY: Setting boundaries is a personal responsibility that can also be supported collectively.
- Why it’s important to get more involved in your guild’s local.
- The unintended expectation that came from the IA Stories page and why it caused such anger in people after the contract vote.
- How different perspectives determine whether the contract was a win or a loss.
- KEY TAKEAWAY: We need systemic culture change AND we need personal responsibility.
- Optimize Yourself aims to show people HOW to set boundaries and take responsibility to create better working lives.
Useful Resources Mentioned:
Continue to Listen & Learn
Zack Arnold 0:00
Hey, It's Zack here and super quick before we dive into this interview, I wanted to let you know about my brand new weekly email newsletter that I have titled The Case of the Mondays. It releases every Monday morning, and it shares my best advice, insights, resources and strategies to help you build a fulfilling creative career, doing work that you love without totally burning yourself out in the process. It's totally free and when you sign up, I'll even send you a five-day email course to help you take the first few and most important steps towards designing a career path that makes sense for you. To sign up, just visit optimizeyourself.me/newsletter.
Okay, on to today's episode.
My name is Zack Arnold. I'm a Hollywood television editor and producer, a coach and mentor, a father of two, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. And I am here to help creative professionals design a career and a life that you absolutely love without having to sacrifice your health, your relationships, or most importantly, your sanity in the process. Let's dive right in and start designing the optimized version of you. Hello, and welcome to episode 174 of the Optimize Yourself Podcast. It means the world to me that with all the podcast choices that are out there you have chosen to spend your valuable time and energy today with me. I promise the you're not going to regret it after listening to today's show.
At the epicenter of the conversation last August during the most contentious portion of the IATSE contract negotiations was perhaps the IA stories Instagram account where literally hundreds of 1000s of IATSE members discovered that they weren't alone in enduring the horrors of working in Hollywood, burnout, abusive working conditions and sacrificing everything, including even their lives to simply keep their jobs in the entertainment industry was apparently everybody's story. Pandora's box opened and it was clear that people were demanding change. Among those people are my guest today from Local 871, script coordinator Amy Thurlow and art department coordinator Marisa Shipley. Marisa Shipley is the president of Local 871 as well as one of the founders of the IA Stories page. She has been on the frontlines of the living wage and pay equity fights since 2018, and is committed to finding a collaborative approach to tackling these issues. And Amy Thurlow was elected to represent script coordinators on the board of directors of Local 871, just in December of 2021. And she has also been outspoken about the pay equity issues that have plagued her classification for decades. This conversation has been a long time in the making. And we go deep into the stories of abusive practices in their local, the criminally low wages that they have endured. And the systemic nature of these problems across many other IATSE locals. You're also going to hear Marisa describe the severe toll that running the IA Stories page took on both her health and her well being, which is frankly ironic given how hard she works to protect the well being of others, as well as her deep struggle with a negative blowback that she received during the IATSE contract negotiations. Trust me when I say that standing up for what you believe is never easy, but our industry in the world needs more Marisas and Amys advocating for all of us.
Alright, without further ado, my conversation with Marisa Shipley and Amy Thurlow. To access the show notes for this episode with all the bonus links and resources discussed today, as well as to subscribe, leave a review and more, simply visit optimizeyourself.me/episode174.
I'm here today with Marisa Shipley, who is an art department coordinator in television and film. She's the president and newly minted president of IATSE Local 871. And she is one of the founding members of the IA Stories Instagram page. And I'm also here today with Amy Thurlow, who's a script coordinator. You are also in IATSE Local 871. And you have written in the past about unreasonable demands and the untenable hours that are placed upon below the line workers. And dear Lord, am I happy to have the three of us on this call this evening, because as we've talked about offline, I have been beating the exact same drum to the exact same beat and rhythm for years and years and years. And because of everything that has happened with these cultural shifts, we are finally starting to come out of the woodwork and realize there are other people that believe in these things. We're going to talk all about it. But the first and most important thing to say is thank you for making the time to be here with me today.
Marisa Shipley 4:41
Thank you for having us,
Amy Thurlow 4:42
Zack Arnold 4:43
So one of the reasons that I'm starting to have these conversations with all the various different locals and people that have different that work in different crafts, is because I spent the majority if not all of my career in post production, and I've interviewed many, many editors and assistant editors and people in post production in general. I've talked writers talk to directors talk to producers. But one of the things that I think we've learned through some of the contract negotiations that we went through previously, is that we are all dealing with very, very similar issues. No matter what the local are, no matter what the craft might be. I've experienced even in just a little bubble of post production, all the infighting between, well, this is what the editors want, and what this is what the sound designers want, but the mixers want this. And it's like, we're all just human beings trying to get along and make this work. And that's working on a much larger level across all the locals. So where I want to start, is just a basic understanding of what is local 871 Cuz I'm gonna be honest, I go on your page, and I'm like, Are there any crafts you guys don't cover? I mean, you go on this page, and I'm just gonna read it off real quickly. This is just gonna be like a small smattering of what 871 covers. I'm reading this and like, this can't actually be right. Is this right? So we're talking about scripts, supervisors, and continuity coordinators, teleprompter operators, which seems just like a script supervisor, production coordinators, Assistant production coordinators, Art Department coordinators, production accountants, I mean, I'm not even halfway through the list. And already, I'm just like, Who are you guys? So talk to me a little bit more about what 871 is.
Marisa Shipley 6:16
somebody the other day lovingly called us the Island of Misfit Toys, which I thought was appropriate. Yeah, we are a lot of the organized behind the scenes, kind of coordinate coordinator types, even if that's technically not technically in our title. We, the local originally was founded as a script as the script supervisors, local teleprompter operators. And then the coordinators, accountants merged into 871 later. We organize these coordinators and writers assistants pretty recently in 2018. And love having them in the local with us. So we are seen from the outside kind of maybe strange conglomeration of crafts. But I find internally, we share a lot of issues. The main one being that a huge number of art crafts are majority, historically female and are significantly underpaid compared to our counterparts on the crew. So you know, I, you were talking about kind of the the issues that affect us all differently. I like to talk a lot to people about the the ways that systemic issues affect different crews and crafts, in varying degrees and in different ways. And that's similar for us and 871. We share some of the like foundational issues and the weights they play out for our crafts can vary, but I find that it's a lot of the same issue. So it's can can seem like a weird grouping from the outside. But I think we're all pushing on a lot of the same things from the inside.
Zack Arnold 8:04
Yeah, I know that one of the mistakes that I make and have been making for years is that I use logic and common sense. And that does not align with the way that this industry works. I'm looking at the list. I'm like, why would a writer's assistant not be in the WGA? Why would a script supervisor not be part of the editors guild? Like it just did? There's so many, like logic apps, but I love the fact that you kind of see yourself as who are who are the underrepresented or, you know, just completely not represented whatsoever who these little conglomerates of groups are crass. Come join us, right where the Island of Misfit Toys I absolutely love that. What I would love to better understand next, knowing just kind of the basic grouping that your local represents. I want to learn a little bit more about what day to day looks like for either an art department coordinator, or for a script coordinator. Because until we really understand what everybody is going through and all the various areas, we can't learn how to work together. Because I feel like everyone assumes Oh no, you don't understand how bad it is for me. And we'll talk more about this later. But one of the amazing things that I stories did was make us all realize we all have the same horror stories, and we'll get there later. But for now, I just want to better understand the day in the life for we'll start with you, Amy learning the day in the life of a script coordinator. And then Marisa just kind of the day in life of an art department coordinator. So go ahead, Amy.
Amy Thurlow 9:24
Sure. Um, so script printing, I like to think of script printing in two different ways. I most often describe it to people that are outside of the industry as like a copy editor. Because most of our job is making sure that the scripts are good to publish. So that makes meaning that they're in perfect condition so that every department reads the script and knows for a fact that each word is exactly what the writer intended. And I view that as generally like the largest part of the job is making sure that the writers intention is We're on the page and that everything is formatted perfectly, and that there's just no wiggle room for interpretation. And in terms of what the writer is intending, and then and then basically preparing the script for production. So it's a lot of like basically being the keeper of the script and sort of you're the one that's tracking all the different revisions and like, making sure that everything is super clear and proof read and like that every you're also in charge of distribution. So every person that should get the script at the right time, because there's people that get the script in the beginning, and then there's like, cast, for example, doesn't get the script until sometimes it's been through, you know, pages and pages and pages of rewrites. So it's a lot of like coordinating in terms of you're responsible for making sure that production has a heads up and like that you're constantly communicating with production about what they need the script to look like and what like, especially with see numbers and stuff like that, because they're basing their days off of it. So it's a lot of coordinating in that sense. You're sort of a bridge and a liaison between the writers who are working on these revisions and incorporating the studio notes and network notes through to production who's obviously creating the contents.
Zack Arnold 11:21
Got it. So when I get my double golden rod collated pages at 11pm, the night before, and I realized that there's no slugline in a scene number, that's your fault. Yes, I've worked in television for 11 years. And I didn't know until this very moment what a script coordinator actually did. So this is even fascinating for me, and I get these emails all day long. So I think it's really important to understand that where I think I started to understand it was I remember getting an early draft of like some season premiere, or something directly from the writer. And I was like, kind of a mess like this, see numbers. And it was just like, Oh, God, this is what it looks like before it's distributed via production, like you guys are magicians.
Marisa Shipley 12:00
They really are. As an art department coordinator, you're kind of the internalized, organized hub of this kind of creative whirlwind. So the internal accounting for the department, but also communication, making sure everybody has the information that they need, and then communicating to other departments, constructions, greens, special effects, that that prompts all the people, all the departments that work very closely together, but are all separate departments, doing their own thing, the art department coordinator is, you know, holds a lot of that together and make sure everybody has what they need. And then, you know, communicates with people like Amy and her job. So, you know, as different positions as we are as an art department coordinator, when I am new on a show, and you know, the third season and I'm like, How many children does this person have? And what ages are they so that the set that department can get the right dressing for the house? And you know, What school did that person go to so that we can get the right diploma for the wall? And so I think in addition to the script, they're kind of the the keeper of the institutional world. For a lot of us outside of the system. Yeah, so internal communication, communication across all departments. And kind of keeping everything on the tracks, is the way I like to describe the art department coordinator position.
Zack Arnold 13:26
For anybody listening that lives more in my world of post production for all of us. The job starts when we're handed dailies, we have no concept of what it takes to coordinate all of the things that are actually on the camera. I marvel at that sometimes, because I get very just kind of you just get used to it after a while where it's like, yeah, I wake up and I've got, you know, a hard drive a five hours a dailies, and I need to cut it, my job is begun. But it's really hard to comprehend what goes into just making sure all of the right things are in front of the camera, and you don't appreciate it until you get a scene where the wrong things are in front of the camera and you're spending 10s if not hundreds of 1000s of dollars in visual effects, removing a poster that you didn't have clearance for or like you said, it's the wrong deployment. Yeah, exactly. So I've been through that numerous times, not going to name any shows or people but I've watched a lot of money spent on things that should not have been in front of the camera, because things have not been coordinated properly and whatnot. So I think it's it's really important for people to understand that you guys are basically making sure that the trains are running on time and it's even the right trains that are showing up to the right stations.
Marisa Shipley 14:32
Yeah. And I think that, you know, part of the reason our crafts have been dismissed and and and left behind a little bit is I think a lot of the things that we're doing are traditional women's work, which is you know, just as a society undervalued to like this, this coordinating and keeping things going and making sure everybody has what they do a lot of the my value is if I'm doing my job correctly, people don't have to ask me for a lot of the things that I am doing. And so it can go a little bit unnoticed. Sometimes you don't realize the value of it until it's not happening. Like when I transitioned to work from home, I realized that so much of my value had been just overhearing conversations and doing things. Because I knew that something was going to happen in three steps. And I already had it by the time that person was finally like, Oh, can you whatever. And so, you know, we've transitioned to different modes of communication, Slack, whatever else that helps fill those gaps. But it is interesting to the the COVID interruptions made some of that much more explainable and clear, because, you know, we all had to adjust, and you suddenly realize the things that you had been providing that you had to figure out how to provide in a different way. Yeah,
Zack Arnold 15:58
exactly. So one of the things that I want to go a little bit deeper into just to give everyone listening, a better understanding of when it comes to the day to day, because this is going to vary from craft to craft, is I want a clear understanding of whether or not both of you are beholden to the call sheet, meaning if the call sheet at 6am, you're on a set at 6am, you're there until for the following morning, or is it more, you know, there are long hours, but at the end of the day, you're working a little bit more regimented, normal, quote unquote, normal schedule, I just want people to understand on a basic level, how that works. As far as your attachment to production.
Marisa Shipley 16:32
Yeah, my craft is one that works prep through rap. So but when we're shooting, I think it depends on the project and commercials. When I was doing commercials, I was tied to the call sheet and to the shooting schedule. And TV, I'm not as much unless there is kind of extenuating circumstances that make that necessary a particular set, getting drawings out that sort of thing. But it tends to be more on an office schedule and on my kind of team's schedule than on the production schedule, I would say.
Zack Arnold 17:06
And then my assumption is that Amy, you are not tied to a call sheet for the most part, because you're with the writers, but for
Amy Thurlow 17:15
our job, I would say like, I think one of our biggest hurdles is that we are on both schedules. We're very much on the writers schedule. And like most script coordinators, I would say the vast majority of script writers are writers and want to be involved in the writers room. And so it's like, we're definitely going to show up, in addition to that we regularly fill in for the writers assistant. And, like help in the room. Um, in addition to that, we're also like, at the mercy of production, because if you're shooting, you know, a scene at six in the morning, and the network is called at 4pm. That afternoon, and instead, we really don't like you know, whatever, or like the production calls and says, you know, we just didn't get that location, we need you to rewrite it for our stages. Those are changes that have to happen on the fly. And so, you know, the writer might start working on that immediately. But then they're ultimately going to need us to turn those pages around for them and get it to production. So often that work happens outside of the writers room hours. Because it's really on the showrunner like we're really, I would say we're really on the showrunner schedule, because it's like, whenever the showrunner, like we're on the writers room schedule, in terms of we're in the room. So we're in the room when the showrunner is in the room, and then like the showrunners, doing pages, and we're also on their schedule when they give us pages. So because of that we work a lot of hours. But also, we have a lot of waiting hours where we're just waiting, we know that the script is coming. And they're hoping they're going to get it to us at 6pm. But then it's 7pm or 8pm. And so like a lot of our struggle, like just in terms of our labor, like issues is that we're constantly having to defend our hours because, you know, production doesn't necessarily want to pay us for like sitting and waiting for stuff even though you know, we're definitely chained to our desk,
Zack Arnold 19:28
you mean that you don't have the freedom go out and live your life while you're waiting for others. You can't just go out and do anything and run errands or go on a date or go watch a movie, you actually have to be available, but you're not actually working. So why should I pay you?
Amy Thurlow 19:41
Right? Yes, yeah. Yeah. So I mean, there are ways like there's basically two types of script printers. There are script coordinators that like if they know they're getting a script will sit in front of their computer, and we'll just be like, I'm waiting. And then There are script writers who will just bring their laptop, and they will be like, in the middle of the day, and they will be like, I'm so sorry, I have to get. And they'll pull out their laptop and put out a script. So um, but either way the work gets done. And, you know, the, the tables keep turning so,
Zack Arnold 20:21
so it probably easier to ask you the following question. The question will be, do you feel you work long hours? And what does it look like to work long hours, but I think the easier version is, When don't you work? Is there a time at all when you're not working or in work mode as a script coordinator,
Amy Thurlow 20:36
um, I would say, you're definitely like, I personally have like an Apple Watch. And that helps me a lot in terms of my tennis. Because I, you know, will instantly get a notification or a text. But I would say like, you know, a lot of it is communication. So it's a lot of like, if you work on a show that's really well oiled your, your hours truly might be nine to five. And it might be that like, they never, ever have a situation in which they're putting out a script that late in the day that it's going to be turned around and shot the next day. And there's other shows where it's like, you just have to be on your toes all the time. And that's just part of it. And you, you know, I have been on shows where I check in with the showrunner every night, like before I go to sleep, and, you know, just to see if there's anything coming out. And that's just like, the daily check in is like anything coming out anything coming out. And like that's kind of the schedule. So it's like, if you're a flexible person that's for printing is for you. And the people that have a lot of trouble with it are the people that can't be flexible and don't because we'll be really nice, like, you know, you might have a morning where you're not working, you can kind of do you know, have your have your life back, but
Zack Arnold 22:04
so flexible, meaning that it's totally cool for me to ask you to turn around four scripts in a day. Because that I need just I need you to be flexible, I need you to kind of you know, roll with the punches. And we're, we're making magic here. So could you just turn these four scripture on? For me?
Amy Thurlow 22:17
It's, that's where it does get hard.
Zack Arnold 22:23
Yeah, so there's going to be a big word that we're going to probably use multiple times, which has been my buzzword for years and years, which is boundaries. And I think that there's a big difference between I'm flexible, and I am a team member. And I'm here to do the best work I can versus I'm just going to stand here like a punching bag. And like you take advantage of me. And I'm going to transition over to Marisa again. Because Marisa, I'm guessing that over the course of the last several months, you've read a story or two, about people that have gotten taken advantage of have you not
Marisa Shipley 22:55
Yeah, my least favorite series of words is Can't you just one because nothing good follows it? And two, because it is all based on a misunderstanding of the work that you're asking that person to do. But yeah, I think that the system is exploitative, right, and the individuals can help in the process by, you know, being conscientious of one another. But I really think that the the biggest problems are systemic, they it is a system that allows us to impact one another without consideration of that impact, right. And so, you know, when there is a late breaking script change coming out, Amy has to put that out, it goes to multiple departments who are affected by that work, who have to do that work on the schedule that they have been given. And there's a lot of blame thrown around about like why things are happening and what needs to happen. But in the end, everyone is producing what are they are being asked to produce? And you know, it's like one of those Venn diagram things where it's like fast, cheap and good work. Like you can't have all of the things at the same time.
Zack Arnold 24:22
What if I ask hard enough, and I yell enough or I throw enough money around like I can't have all three I just I have to have to push harder and ask more people right and
Marisa Shipley 24:31
yeah, I see this a lot in budgeting for departments like when we are given a script and we are given design requirements, but they want the set to look like the kind of level of finishes so how nice the set is or kind of how how rundown and grungy this set is, you know you budget to the requirements that you are given, you're telling them how much the set is going to be to build or decorate and They're like, it needs to be cheaper. And it's Well, I'm telling you how much the set you're asking of me is going to cost. If you would like it to cost less, you need to change some of the choices. Like, I don't work in magic money, it's it's real money and with my expertise, you know, I am not budgeting that our departments are, but you know, with the experience of the department, we are saying this is how much it's going to cost. And so this like, magic, like, we'll just make it happen for less. Like, I legitimately don't understand how anybody says that and think that thinks that is a real thing. That's just gonna happen.
Zack Arnold 25:43
But the problem with Hollywood, and this is something that I've been saying for years is that Hollywood is where yesterday's miracle becomes today's expectation. Yeah, it's this vicious cycle that keeps turning and turning and turning, which has led us to this huge cultural uprising of people saying we've had enough. Which brings us to this idea of you being one of the masterminds behind IA stories, which I want to talk more about. And I want to go about a year beforehand to kind of set this up. I don't know if this is something you were even aware of or not. But about a year before you had started that account, right? When the pandemic started about two months in, I wrote an article that was it came to me one night, like I was just sitting there watching TV, I'm like, oh, I want to write about this. I'm just I'm pissed. I'm like, I have no plans. There is no bigger picture to it. And I wrote this article, it was called Dear Hollywood, we don't want to go back to normal, normal wasn't working. And I posted it on like a Saturday morning, I sent a message to the students in my coaching program. And I said, Hey, just wanted to get your thoughts on this. I had to get it off my chest. One of them posted in a Facebook group. I looked at my phone later that day, and I have like 5000 people on my website, I'm like, What the hell is going on? In over the next week, 150,000 people read this article, my brain still can't comprehend the math. I'm not saying all that to blow smoke. The part of it that's important is that I was inundated, in overloaded with messages, Facebook messages, Instagram messages, emails, and they were just pouring in with people. It was no longer just editors. For the most part. I've been dealing with people in post, I was hearing from non union accountants in like Syria, and Ireland and like all over the world. And they were saying, Oh, my God, this is exactly the same problem for me. And I'm like, holy crap, this is everywhere. Now, the reason I bring this up is this is like a drop in the bucket compared to what you must have gone through when you launched ie stories.
Marisa Shipley 27:32
Yeah, yeah. So for me, starting the page, was an extension of the work I have been doing for years. So I got involved in the union, kind of leading into the 2018 negotiations, our department coordinators had put together a petition to try and raise our rate in the agreement. And I got involved with that. And then from there, got involved in our pay equity campaign and then ran for our board. And I've been talking about the issues that our members in particular are affected by with pay equity for, you know, years now. And so whenever there is a conversation happening about crew issues, I try to contribute about the issues that affect our members because it it they are issues that they go beyond our eight someone one members, but not far beyond our 871 members. And I think they're issues that since they affect less people, people are just unaware of them. And so I just, you know, for years, we've been just trying to educate other members that, you know, one we are union members, I think some people are just unaware of our crafts, being in the unions. And that, you know, our rates are really low. So when we're talking about the rates, you know, the last year's rates were between $16 and 17.64 For our for lowest paid crafts. So those are the low rates that we're talking about.
Zack Arnold 29:04
Alright, those are those are the criminal rates, I will start using the term those are criminal, especially in Los Angeles.
Marisa Shipley 29:09
Yeah, especially in Los Angeles. The impact of those rates are hearing stories from our members about like ordering the largest lunch that they can in the writers room, and eating that for all of their meals for that day. Or the, you know, assistants all of the support staff and assistants in the writers room or production office, taking home the groceries on Friday afternoon that are gonna expire and that's what they're eating over the weekend. So we you know, and as part of both in chairing the pay equity campaign and being leadership at 871 These are stories that we have been taking in and hearing for years and 871 and so when the other co founder of the page ben i this post of his kind of on his personal page blew up on the internet. And I messaged him and said, like, this is what's happening with our members. And we both got to talking about starting a page to just tell crew member stories because he said, people were like your page, like your article, people were just starting to message him stories. And so he and I talked about the way that we want to do that really focusing on the personal stories that illustrated the systemic issues, making sure that we were protecting crew and the way that we were sharing the story, so anonymizing you know, any details that we could chose names, locations, studios, because we didn't. It was intentional, like we didn't want it to be just this like, call out. Page. But to highlight that, like these issues, it's not about what Studio x is doing. It's about the industry. And like, almost every story that you read, could come from almost any show, and almost any production company and almost any studio. And it really is that systemic issue. So we started it on August 1, I had been doing, I had been helping members and I had been doing press on living wage kind of all of that summer with our members who had started their own grassroots I living wage campaign. And so for me, it was an extension of that and making sure that all the different members stories were represented, but doing it in a way that hopefully was building up and building, understanding and building like shared knowledge of one another's experience and not attacking and being divisive. Until that's the stories that we tried to focus on. We had other we have had other people in and out of helping us manage the page. But it it, I don't know that I can fully accurately explain the just absolutely overwhelming slide. You know, we, I look back on like us being like, like freaking out when it got like 5000 followers. And it's at like 167,000, I think, because the stories like just kept coming. And I mean, what we posted is like, I couldn't even count, but like 1% of the messages that we have gotten. I mean, we were getting 300 DMS a day at one point and had someone on the back end who all they did was just help us clear out messages because it was just a flood.
Zack Arnold 33:01
I can relate to all of that. And not maybe not to the level or the magnitude. But I know that I basically had to stop everything I was doing with my Yeah, for a week and say, All Hands on Deck, just read messages. And we need to organize them. And we need to update the article with whatever. So basically, I was doing a much more haphazard version of what you were doing, which is really message I wasn't even smart enough to screenshot, oh my god, that would have saved me so much time, I was copying, pasting. And I was editing them down and categorizing them. And you're just like, Screw it, we're going to screenshot and we're going to share the message. So that was way more efficient, way smarter. But I know that for me, it was just to read all these things from so many people that you can't read that stuff. Unless you're psychopathic, or have no empathy. You can't read those and not feel something. And it just was exhausting and draining for me. And I really was only dealing with it for a few weeks. And then it died down. And I went back to writing about my normal stuff and doing my job and doing my coaching. And I know that from August 1 until God only knows when this essentially became your entire life. And you were still working. So I can only imagine the toll that this took on you and your team. Yeah.
Marisa Shipley 34:08
You know, I was working full time. I also you know, I was the vice president of my local at the time. So I'm also, you know, doing all of that work for the Union and my members. And then running the page. I think I was I took one day off between August 1 And you know, somewhere towards the end of October. I was on it, you know between an hour and five hours every day. You know at the height of it. I was not sleeping well. Because it just was hard to like turn my brain off of all of this. Just everything coming in. You know people have written into the page a couple times and been like I really support the work that you're doing But I had to unfollow you like, it's just too much. And, you know, I'm reading 20 times that, to find the stories to post, and you know, on the back end, I also feel an immense responsibility to the members. And so on the back end, I am trying to where I can provide resources to people. So, you know, multiple people who are like struggling with substance abuse, and like saying, like, you know, these stories made me realize I need help. And so I'm like, trying to send them to the right person at mptf, who can help them but you know, then they're based in New York, and I don't know that system. So I'm trying to figure out, like, who can refer them to there and, you know, members messaging about like, Well, I'm really having this problem. Do you have any advice like, it was, it was the, I think, for a lot of members, in addition to being the first time, I think that we all suffer in silence of it all crew members, I think we're so used to putting our heads down and getting the work done. But also, because we all experience it, we don't stop and talk about it. And so it was the first time that there was this kind of like, collective pause and, like, voicing of the things that we have experienced. And I think for a lot of people, I soon as that door opened, it was just like everything. And because it was this space, that we worked really hard to build and protect and make safe. I think people felt safe in sharing with us beyond the scope of just sharing stories on the page.
Zack Arnold 36:58
Well, and when you say doors opened, let's just be honest, floodgates open the size of Hoover Dam. Yeah, because it just was insanity, the way that I grew so quickly, like wildfire. And I saw something on a much, much smaller scale, but very similar in sentiment, where when I first started, everything I was doing seven or eight years ago, I just wrote this article that was called a classic case of post production burnout. And I talked about I worked on a show and all the long hours and how I was dealing with depression and anxiety. And people were like, Oh, I can't believe you're saying this publicly. You're never going to work again. How can you do that? But then other people came out of the woodwork and said, Oh my God, that's me, too. I've never I've never had the courage to say anything. It's so great. Somebody's saying it. And I think that what you did is you open the floodgates to everybody saying, fuck yeah, this is my life, too. It's about time we started talking about it. Yeah. And I had one of my clients, I'll never forget this moment. It was about I don't know, maybe a month into when you're doing this. And it wasn't like 160,000 members, or like maybe the 30 or 40,000 level, which was insane at the time. Little did we know. But I had a client that came on to one of my coaching calls sobbing and like, is everything okay? Like, is everybody safe? Like, she's like, I've just I've spent the entire day reading the IA stories Instagram page, and I can't stop crying. Like, I understand. She's like, this is my life. Like everybody's writing about my life and all the things that I'm dealing with. And like, I know, I get it. And you know what it did, which I think is so so valuable. And there's a lot more to come yet. But the first step in fixing all of the systemic issues is awareness. And I don't think that we had a global industry wide level of awareness of how bad things were everybody in their bubbles? Well, it's bad for me. But everybody else seems to have a better than I do. And we're like, oh, everyone is just kind of dealing with the same issue. So I think that, if anything, it gave us a tremendous amount of awareness, which I also think we have the pandemic to thank for, because like you said, nobody's ever talked about or had time to talk about it. The world stops. And we're forced to deal with this thing called perspective and reflect on our lives. Like, is this really the way that I want to live my life? It isn't I miserable? Why am I miserable? I'm not the only one that's miserable, right? It's like the IA stories could have been in parentheses after it. Misery loves company. Yeah, just you see everybody joining in on that. And I would like to go back to you, Amy, because I promised that I haven't forgotten about you. But were you also either involved at all are just following it. Did you submitted anything? Do you have any stories that you feel would be worthy of the IA stories ecosphere?
Amy Thurlow 39:38
Um, yeah. I I knew Marisa's secret like early on and I was like, Oh, I know. I know who is running that account. But um, I helped out a little bit, but not on the Instagram too much. But um, I yeah, I've definitely feel like I like a lot of the eyes. Stories, just like I think everything sort of just hit this nerve of that is, I think, you know, goes so much bigger in terms of like the great resignation. And because I think everyone sort of has felt this feeling of burnout, and I think for so long, I think especially like, even going back to, you know, like, and Marisa and I have sort of talked about this separately and privately, but um, you know, like, my dad ran a mid sized company, he was a really good boss, he treated his employees well, like, you know, like, gave putting money into their retirement plans, like they had normal business hours, like, he, you know, gave them raises and bonuses and stuff like that. And it was very, like, normal. And then it's just like, I think, at a certain point, like, you know, he worked in a totally different industry, he worked in the financial industry, then a certain point, like, basically, he even has a mid sized company became too small. And then it's just like, the, it basically became like, only the big companies were there. And like, the big companies are all these publicly traded company is unlike once you look at how workers are treated at publicly traded companies, like I just feel like there's this real stretching point of like, in the corporate world, they're constantly trying to get at, you know, as much out of people as possible, and so that they can take that money to the shareholders, instead of doing what my dad always did, which is you took, like, he took a small salary, and like, he put all that money back into the company, and he just, like, kept growing the company and like putting the money back in, and it created an environment that was very healthy and very, like, comfortable to work in. And like, I think a lot about how, like the studios supposedly used to be like that, like, everyone was paid very well. And like, at a certain point, they had more money than they knew what to do with. And that was like it and they just like, you know, like, people would work at a studio for 3040 years. And like, that kind of idea, I think across the entire country is like no longer true, because we've shifted everything to these publicly owned companies. And at a certain point, we have to like, look back and be like, hey, like, I'm not a robot, like, you can't like get every hour of my life out of me for as cheaply as possible. And so I definitely feel like the AI stories like hit on that, for sure. Yeah, I
Zack Arnold 42:45
would say if there was one, there are so many realizations and things that we have learned and talked about through this entire process. But I would say that if it's not the biggest, it's one of the biggest realizations that has really caused this uprising. It's the realization along the lines of what you're saying that we are expendable. We are nothing more than expendable widgets. And there's no human level to any of it. It's this is the job that you do. These are the requirements of the job, you do it and tell it completely destroys you. And then the next morning, we find somebody else to repeat the cycle over and over and over. And I feel like like, like you both have mentioned, we've just we've had our head down, you know, we're heads are in the sand, we're just going to get the work done, we're going to power through right is a badge of honor that I worked 20 hours yesterday, and I survived and I'm going to do it again and again and again and again and again. And now all of a sudden, we've realized, Oh, nobody actually cares about us at all. Like they literally don't care about our lives. People are dying onset. I don't know if it's every single day, but it's certainly not once a year we what we found is that a lot more people are either severely injuring themselves or literally dying almost on a daily basis. And we realized nobody cares about the quality of our life what so ever. So what I would love to know and I'm sure this is a really hard question to answer, Marisa, but at least to start the conversation, is there a story or a type of story that really jumped head above the rest that just kind of stuck out and you're like, I can't undried this message or the story.
Marisa Shipley 44:14
There are like quite a few that I can't let go of still. But some of the ones that has been really hard to shake are the chest feeding parents who came back to work who have been put in just like really inhumane gross conditions to be pumping to provide food for their child because they have gone back to work. You know, the you know, set dressing truck parked in a parking lot and the whole crew is you know, like waiting in there like in the back of a cold box truck because no other you know, there's no other option or you know, next to the dryer down in the basement, in the wardrobe department. Those were, were pretty hard to shake. But, you know, some of the hardest ones for me to shake, or maybe some of the ones that that haven't been posted or didn't get posted. Because they were just, you know, I think from the outside, it can seem like we just like get a message, take a screenshot post it like simple. But you know, there are some stories that come in that just don't translate when you anonymize them. And there are stories that, you know, are so specific in the incident that like, no matter what I'm doing to anonymize it, anyone who knows about it is going to know. And so there's all this, like, weighing of, you know, I take the protection of the people who are trusting us with our stories, bury seriously. You know, because we all know this industry. And, you know, getting blacklisted and retaliation is real, in addition to the fact that many of us sign NDAs on our jobs, and like, There's levels and levels of concern there. And so doing as much as we could, to protect people has really been super important. And so some of the ones that are hard to shake, or some of the ones that, you know, didn't didn't make it to the page, because it just was too specific or too hard, too difficult to, to post in the kind of structure that we had built.
Zack Arnold 46:30
Right? So talking about what you said for a second, where it's like, oh, well, somebody sends you a DM and you take a screenshot, and you post it simple, right? Let's take the emotion out of it. Just the sheer workflow and process of taking that amount of messages and being able to write a simple caption and post it exhausting. I know, I've managed social media, I've done it, you know, for years and years, I know how hard that is, or to send an email or whatever it is that it takes time to ever do it. Right takes an entire team just to do that stuff on a regular basis. Yeah, you add the emotional level to it, all of a sudden, it's a whole new game. But there's another level. And you alluded to this a little bit. But I want to go deeper into this, because I think it's so important for people listening to understand this. It's taking on the responsibility. I know how heavy that responsibility is. And the responsibility that I have worn for years, doesn't even pale in comparison to all of a sudden that responsibility that was on your shoulders in your teams, because it went from Oh, what's this? Oh, you got to read the stories like holy cow, this is crazy. Look, what's going on to? Why didn't you get us the contract that we want it? Right. So I want to talk a little bit more about the responsibility of you doing good trying to affect change. And then all of a sudden the pitchforks turned on you?
Marisa Shipley 47:46
Yeah. Yeah, it went from like, maybe people will understand us better, or like, maybe we'll understand each other better, was really it in the beginning to like, oh, other people are paying attention. Maybe, maybe the world will understand what we're affected by to like, oh, the press is talking about us for the first time, like normally it stops at like, the writers, right. And like they are talking about grips on in the news. Like, that's amazing to it feeling like if we, if I and if we didn't keep doing it and doing as much as possible, like it felt tied into whether negotiations were going to be a success or not. And we made a choice not to speak specifically to the contract terms. We were speaking about the things that were under negotiation, the hours that we work, our pay rates, that type of thing. But we weren't talking about what was being proposed, or the specifics of our contract, because the reality is part of the appeal of the page is its universality. Because it's general to a degree while being specific in story. And, you know, while the systemic issues have a universality to them across crews, and you know, locations across the United States across countries, when you start getting into the specific terms of a contract and the way that they play out for different crafts and in different locals, like, it's so complicated, and we were like we just can't, the page cannot be specific and applied to everybody at the same time. And what we are good at is what we need to stick to is telling members stories and the ways the systemic issues play out in our personal lives and the ways that it personally impacts them. And so we tried to really focus on the stories that did that. Because the page grew at seven pace, there were several times over the, you know, three months, let's call it that Instagram thought we were buying followers and limited random things. So right when, you know, at the height of the tentative agreement and the voting, Instagram had, again, limited our ability to put captions on our own posts, or to comment on our own posts, so we couldn't interact with people, in the same way as we try to, which severely limits your ability to explain things. At the same time, you know, I made a mistake, I was at the end of my rope, you know, we talk a lot about setting boundaries, and, you know, work life balance, I had been just absolutely destroying myself and my life, to keep this thing going for three months. And when I fell apart, we made a mistake, because I was, you know, kind of holding it all together and doing a, you know, I was not doing it all, there are other people who have been in and out of the page and have, you know, been a huge piece of it and have been very important. So it's not to dismiss that, but I was holding a lot of it together. And so, you know, when I started to fall apart a little bit, we started making some mistakes. And in trying to explain those mistakes, it like, was confusing from the outside, because we had been so successful in having this like, uniform voice and focus, that it was confusing when that wasn't happening. And I think, for crew, because it felt like such a trusting place that was reflecting them, honestly, for the first time, when we weren't reflecting their exact opinions. When we didn't lead a vote, no campaign, it was like this super personal betrayal to them. And we were a real easy target for a lot of that vitriol. And the, you know, part of that is the mistakes that we made in that moment and trying to fix it. But the level of vitriol and the like force of it, I like cannot adequately describe and to have
spent months, like just doing everything that I could to support all of these people, and have so little perspective by so many crew members of like, what that what that had taken, and that there were like, actual people, not just people like working crew members on the other side of that, who had not just been doing the work of posting, but like we're talking about just replying to people in DMS and being like, I'm sorry, so sorry, that happened to you and trying to provide resources where we could and like, all of this stuff. So when the vitriol like, just was directed at us, it was so it was so hard to process. And we tried, we tried to keep posting through that, but it just, it burnt a lot of us out pretty quickly. Because we didn't have a lot in our reserves, like, basically anything at all. So you know, people, some of the people on the back end dropped out of helping with it. Because, you know, first and foremost, people need to take care of themselves. And we've tried to adjust the page to like, post on themes. So it's a little bit more manageable and targeted on the back end. But, you know, the reality is that I needed a break, you know, I needed to spend some time with my family I had worked, you know, from September 2020 through the end of last year, almost with no break, doing union stuff and all of this on top of it. And so when I took a break, the page took break, because I really had, at that point been the primary driving force behind it. And so, you know, I am in the process of trying to get it started back up and you know, at the start of this year reaching out to the people that had been helping seeing it, they're still interested in that trying to find new people to do it and trying to pull together a plan for how to do it in a way that is much more manageable for us on the back end because it just it was absolutely unsustainable. It's it's It's kind of a miracle, but we managed to sustain it for the amount of time that we did. And we're going to need to set some ground rules on the page, because people like, threatening us, you know, I'm gonna like, I'm gonna tell your members that your betrayal to them, like, most of my members wouldn't believe that because they see all the work that I do for 871. But just, you can you can think that the contract is not good enough, you can think that we should have voted no, you can think any number of things. But I, I honestly don't know how anyone looks at what we did. And says we didn't do enough. Like, we didn't do exactly what you thought we should have done. But how many members were paying attention on August 1, when we started the page?
Zack Arnold 55:58
Well, I think I think history is going to look back on whatever it is that comes next or comes in the future. And this is going to be what's essentially going to be the turning point. I think everybody expected things to change overnight with how fast it grew, and just how energetic and how much there was behind it. But I think looking back, if we're talking about what is that that absolute tipping point where things started to change, and we can trace it back five years, 10 years, I think this is going to be one of those massive turning points in history. I really, I think one of the things that it shouldn't need to be said, but it needs to be said anyway. And it needs to be said on the record. Thank you. You didn't deserve everything that was thrown at you. You didn't deserve any of it that was thrown at you were mistakes made. Absolutely. But at the end of the day for me as somebody that's been doing this for years, not with the level or capacity that you are, but I've been doing this for seven or eight years now. And I was watching as it was all evolving. And I started to see all the kind of the wheels come off the cart, so to speak. And what I saw is somebody that had a huge heart that just wasn't really familiar with how to manage that volume of social media and that level of growth so quickly. And I was just like, Man, I feel so sorry for them, because they're making a lot of similar mistakes that other people make when growth starts to happen. But there's never any like anger or any it was just like, Yep, those are all kind of rookie mistakes. And you know, we've all made it before, but you just you made them so publicly in a period of time when people were so angry that now with all the anger with how the contract went and everything else, why have Sony to direct that anger towards none of what you deserved?
Marisa Shipley 57:31
I have crew members DMing me like you have to say this thing. And I'm like, I'm not. I am not a reporter. Like I we anonymize these stories to protect crew members, but also because like I am not equipped to fact check stories and clay, like vigilante reporter, because people are damning us like it just there started to be a level of like, you have to do this for us, like, serve, keep keep doing this thing perform. And and from crew members who, you know, we had been talking for so long on the page about personal boundaries, and, you know, work life balance and being respectful to one another. And it just felt like none of that same consideration was happening for the people on the other end of the DM,
Zack Arnold 58:35
because you're just an Instagram account. You're not real people, you're just an automated Instagram account that is sharing all these stories and meeting our needs. And people don't see the face behind it. And if anybody understands the absolute hypocrisy, of talking about work life balance, while burning yourself out completely into the ground, if there were a club, I am the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Because I've done that more than once. And I've had to learn over years and years, how do I not only talk about this stuff, and share the resources and share the stories, I have to live it. If I don't live it, I can't talk about this is what you need to aspire to. I can't figure it out. I'm still burn out all the time. But here's how you can not be burned out. It's a really fine line to walk. And I've been in the place where you have more than once I've even written about it. Where I have an article is called how a burnout coach completely burned out like yep, I'm the author. So I understand what that's like and how hard it is to manage all of those things. And we could go even deeper into all that and even deeper into kind of all the machinations of the politics. But I want to make sure that we also discuss what I think is the most important question. What the hell do we do from here? Right. I think that's the most important thing because something has started, the conversation has started. And I feel that now the hurdle has been overcome that I've been trying to overcome for years and years, which is people are aware of this. I've been just trying to get the awareness out there. don't understand how bad things are people think, Oh, I'm just an overt complainer, or I'm overly dramatic, right? No, this is a systemic problem that's worldwide throughout the entertainment industry, the awareness now exists, I'm hoping that it still exists for years to come. And this isn't just like, a little, you know, flame that started and now it's been put up. I don't think that's the case. I think it's been it's been tamped down for the time being, but it's definitely going to flare up again. But the big question is, how do we affect real change? I certainly have a lot of thoughts on this subject, I want to come back to you at first because I feel like you've been, you know, been so kind listening in the background for a bit. So I want to go back to you. And then I want to come back to you, Marisa. But what do we do from here to make sure that we are not treated like expendable widgets, and our expertise in our experience is valued and respected.
Amy Thurlow 1:00:49
Yeah. And I actually think that Marisa's experience going through all that vitriol, actually, like kind of shines a light on, like some of the things that we need to do internally. And I'm, this is not, this is no political statement about, you know, how people voted on a contract at all. But I think the fact that people couldn't recognize after having all those conversations about what had happened to them, that they were then doing it to another human being is, I think, very evident of some of the culture and actually like leadership training that we need to do internally. And like be more aware of, because I think a lot of the stem, I think there's like multiple ways in which we have these issues. And like, of course, the biggest thing, I think, is truly studios, it's like, you know, when you only have a penny and a pound, it's like, you can't get every it's that Zen diagram that we were talking about earlier of like, you can't keep making miracles happen, and someone has to stand up and say, we can't make that happen. And we need more money. And we need, you know, I need three people to do this job instead of one. And I think it's partly that we have to push the studio's to give us what we need to do our jobs in a way that's humane. And it's also that we internally have to figure out how to set boundaries, and also make it a comfortable working environment for those that are below us. And so I really think it's like a lot of culture shift. And so like a lot of the stories that really, I found the most upsetting were ones like, specifically about women who had had miscarriages, and then they didn't feel that they could speak up and say, this is happening, and I need to leave. And I think we're sort of in this place where it's like, not every, you know, I'm sure that if you talk to like a studio exec or a line producer, like if someone had come to them, like not every line producer is going to sit there and say, Well, yeah, she should have had a miscarriage on my said, most of them are also human beings who would be like, That's atrocious. And like, I think we need to rebuild our environments in our workplaces, so that we're comfortable speaking up and saying things and I think that a lot of what I saw is is it really gave us this sort of shield and way to communicate all these things that have been happening to crew members in a way that felt safe and protected. And I think the next step is that we also have to say those things as individuals on cruise, and speak up and say in ways that are professional, we need to learn how to set boundaries in a professional way. And like, I think that we need to get rid of people who don't respect those professional boundaries. And like we it's like kind of a little bit like, you know, I think we need to dig out the toxic people in our community and like, just get rid of them. Like, we don't need someone that's gonna kind of it's like, truly I don't think that the studios want that. Like I don't think the studio is one an op ed, or in expos a like every couple months about another toxic showrunner that treated everyone so horrifically and then has you know a bunch of people on record saying that you know, they had X y&z horrific behavior. I think it's like much more beneficial not only to us as workers but also to the studios to just get rid of those people from the beginning so that they can't continue to like become, you know, massive showrunners who now they think that like they have to have those people like I think there's for every person that's toxic. There's like five people that aren't toxic that are just as good and I think we all have to like push our mentality to like believe that. And to get rid of this sort of like toxic artist like idea. Yeah, I
Zack Arnold 1:04:58
agree with all that company. And I'm going to go over to tumorous in a second. But there was a quick story that I want to tell that for my longtime listeners, they've heard it about 100 times I've written about it over and over. But for anybody that has not heard this story, it's one of the one of the clearest stories that really encapsulates all of our problems. And the story comes from Walter Murch. And I don't know if either of you are familiar with Walter Murch, but he's essentially the godfather of the editing profession. And I say that no pun intended, because he literally worked on the Godfather and the Godfather two and Apocalypse Now like he, he really is kind of the the modern, you know, Godfather editor of our industry, has been very prolific doing education and speaking and talk for decades writing books about the craft. And he told a story on my podcast that had stuck with me ever since. He said way back in the 70s. So now this is like 50 years ago. And as a side note, I can't comprehend the fact that the 70s were 50 years ago, don't get me started on that. But back in the 70s, he was working on a big studio film, he wouldn't say what it was, but most likely, it's probably one of the godfathers or Apocalypse Now or something in that that range. And he and his team went to one of the studio executives. And he said that based on this really long schedule, seven day a week, 16 hour days, they said, listen, something needs to change. Everybody's dropping like flies. And the response was, then gets more flies. That to me, is the entire entire industry and all the systemic issues in one single story. And I think it's a very complex system with a lot of things that need to change. But if I had to simplify it down to one thing that's going to change this industry more than anything else, it's when there are no more flies that are willing to do the job. So if we all learn how to say no, and we feel empowered to say no, and we're not fearing for our jobs, or livelihoods, because we can say no, that's when I think that things really start to change. And with that, I'm going to transition over to you Marisa to see what your thoughts are about what we do next.
Marisa Shipley 1:06:57
Yeah, I agree. Um, for the long time on IA stories page, we have been saying, like, I hope that this makes crews feel comfortable having these conversations now with their teams, and on their shows, and in their sets and in their offices and at our locals, because we can't just have it on the internet. And we can't just have it anonymously, like Amy was saying, and I hope that people cruise feel more empowered in knowing that, so much of this as a shared concern and experience speaking up to somebody on their sets, to their department head and pushing back. Because I think some of the problem is the like suffer in silence. Like we all need to just get through it. And when enough of us are saying no, something changes, or, you know, I'm not gonna be that fly on your show, I am going to take another project, which listens to me when I say this is not going to work, because, you know, insert reason why here. I also hope that, you know, I know that the negotiation process and the vote was frustrating for a lot of members and left people with, you know, a myriad of feelings about their locals and about the Union. But I hope that people get more involved in their local and are involved from, you know, earlier on and at an increasing degree so that we have these conversations earlier in the process. And members have kind of made themselves much more clear to their leadership on what is important to them, and how that they feel about it. I really do believe in the power of organized labor. And, you know, the union is the members. And the members have such power in building relationships and working on committees and telling their stories, and I hope that people engage in in their locals and in the process. And, you know, it's not working for them push for the process to change. That's what you know, the democratic process is all about. I think that the members of our negotiating committee at 871, learned a lot through the process and through seeing negotiations play out and were able to, you know, have conversations with their peers, from you know, that slightly more involved place of seeing the way that it all played out at their level. And I think the more members that are involved in that, the better.
Zack Arnold 1:09:53
Yeah, I agree with all that. And one thing further that I want to point out going back a little bit earlier to when things were really kind of exploding and then all of a sudden to turn for the worst. I think one of the things that happened and obviously this was not your intention or the pages intention. But I think one of the reasons that things got so messy so quickly now that we can kind of look back and analyze it is that without you having any intention of whatsoever, you set a completely unrealistic expectation for hundreds of 1000s of people that have no idea how negotiating works. So all of a sudden, they see this page saying, Yeah, better working conditions and less hours and screw 16 hours a day, we want our 10 hour days, they don't understand how much goes into the process of negotiating in good faith bargaining and the conversations that have been have had for well over a year just to get to the point where we were so close to striking and then not striking, and all of that. And I think that you set such an unrealistic expectation for the world that people thought they were going to. And I think one of the quotes that I read, I don't remember what it was in one of the articles that I was in like a Variety article or something. But somebody else had said that we essentially the the weekend before the strike was going to begin, we all shook hands on Friday, and said see when the brave new world, and then all of a sudden, it's like, Shit, I have to go back to the same hellhole on Monday. And there was this unrealistic expectation that things were just going to change overnight. And, you know, without being your fault, you know, specifically, part of that was the fault of the page making people think, well, now it's out there now everything's gonna change. Right. Right.
Marisa Shipley 1:11:29
I think I think our success in making the stories feel personal and feel universally applicable, was that people applied their understanding of what change should look like, to varying degrees, but like applied the call for change to what they specifically thought that was going to look like, because we had decided not to speak specifically about contract terms, because that felt too difficult. And it wasn't possible in the stage of negotiations that we were at. And that's, you know, that's not our role that is for locals to communicate with their members. Because, you know, the way the contract plays out for our eight seminar members is different than how it plays out for an editor is different from how it plays out for a member of 44. And so the page couldn't, and shouldn't I don't think have been the place for that communication. But because of that, it you're right, that there was this assumption that we all understood it the same, because we had been so successful in telling stories that felt true and honest to everyone. And so at that, like split point of, oh, wait, like, that's not my understanding, and I want x and this person is saying why, like, it was just so much all at once. And it was just hard, hard for all of us who process and hard to explain without making it sound like excuses. And, yeah,
Zack Arnold 1:13:08
well, the reason I bring that up is essentially because I wanted to strengthen your point, which is there has to be number one more awareness of the process. And number two more engagement and involvement. Because one of the reasons that in some people will argue this, but I would say we very clearly lost the battle. I don't think there's any, there's any way around it. I don't think that we we got what it was that we deserved in any stretch of the imagination. And if you talk about Well, based on good faith bargaining and what we asked for in the beginning, we get everything we asked for shirt. Great. I understand all that. As far as us being valued and respected as human beings, we didn't even come close to that in this contract. But a lot of that is because people were setting unrealistic expectations, what it should be, and lack of understanding of the process and lack of communication because like you said, a lot of the presidents of the locals, I don't even know my members really want right. I know that with the editors guild, specifically Cathy Ripola, who also has been vehemently attacked through a throat a lot of these negotiations very wrongfully. So I've had her on the podcast and talked about all this as well. But she was advocating for all the needs of the members, but then eventually said, if you guys are going to vote this contract down, tell me what it is you want instead because I thought I got you everything you wanted in a lot of that is just a month before the contract negotiations. Oh, this is what I want. It's like good, but you needed to tell us that a year ago, you need to actually be a part of it. Right?
Marisa Shipley 1:14:32
Yeah. But I think also the the perspective of losing the battle. I think it depends on what battle you're looking at, I think if so specifically for the 801 members, right? Our members who are making the lowest wages, so we're at between $16 and 17.64 Those four crafts script coordinator, writers, assistant art department coordinator and assistant Production Coordinator are the four crafts affected by the living wage proposal. So in this first year of the contract, they want Up to 23.50, in the second year is 24.50. And in the third year, it will be 26. Do I think that is enough? No. And Assistant art director makes about $44 an hour. So as an art department coordinator, I'm still significantly behind that position. But I was at 38% of that position. And now I'm close to 50% of that position. And so for a lot of our members, while there is still an enormous Gulf, to like a enormous gap to bridge in terms of wages, it was a huge increase for our members and an increase that we have been fighting for, for years, years and years. And have significantly, Amy can speak more specifically to it, but has had a real personal impact on our members. And so, for me, like it was a very complicated decision for a lot of our members, because it was like, wrecking, there was recognition by a lot of our members affected by that increase that like, this is going to personally changed my life. And there's still so much ground that we need to gain. But there is an improvement. So for me, it was like a yes. And like, Yes, this is an improvement. And there is a lot of work to do. And for me, both of those things can be true.
Zack Arnold 1:16:31
Yeah, I think that's a really important perspective. And, Amy, I'd love for you to go even a little bit deeper into that, because I know that for me and local 700. I mean, the contract for me personally didn't change anything. Because just full disclaimer, I love what I do. I love the people that I work with, I'm not exploited. I mean, yeah, there are times when I work long hours, and I'm in the trenches, but I kind of secretly love it. Kind of a workaholic. And I love what I do. So I don't complain about it. But for me, it was about the much bigger picture. And just like you said, the systemic change. And for me, I feel like the battle is lost, quote, unquote, because I feel like the systemic change we're working towards really wasn't addressed as much as it could have been. But Amy speak to me from the perspective of somebody that is an 871, where I think if any local certainly had a big one, it was you guys.
Amy Thurlow 1:17:18
Yeah, I think it's a really complicated ceiling, because these positions have been so underpaid for so long. And like, basically, like, I guess, from my perspective, um, you know, when I started working as a script coordinator, like my second job as a script writer, I was literally offered and then paid minimum wage, despite the fact that I had experienced during the job and despite the fact that like, you know, anyone can tell you like, if the scrub printer goes missing, it is a huge problem. It is a like, you know, burned down the house looking for the scrub printer, like it just is such a, you know, we're so needed that we have to be attached to our phone at all times. Like looking at the computer constantly, like we're just such a necessary part of the production and like for us to get paid. Literally minimum wage, it was like, you know, our rates came up when we unionized, but not nearly to what we're worth to the production. And so to be that underpaid, I guess, and like having, you know, it's like having all these years of experience to even get to the job because, like, you can't just jump into I mean, every once in a while someone tries to hire a script editor that has never done the job. And like, we can tell you how that like turns out and we can like, there, you know, a million threads of emails and like, you know, people will tell you, like, if when someone that takes the job that has never done it before, like it basically means that someone else is actually doing the job for them because they're coaching them through every single step of the, the you know, the process so I guess for us it's like to go up to 2350 You know, and it's also we we have to defend our hours but we're generally like needed 24/7 So in theory we should be able to defend the 60 hour a week it's like it's a huge difference for us. But I guess for me like this whole situation like with the contract I guess the way that I have seen it is like I see this all as a win because going forward it's like we now know things have things have happened that we like can't put back in the box so like you know the I don't know that we have one the last time was that we if ever had a strike authorization vote but like that we not got 99% Strike authorization vote, that we launched the IA stories and that, you know, it took off so much like that so many people were interested in knew what was going on in terms of the negotiations, enough to even be fired up about it and angry about it, I actually think is a win because ultimately, we need all this momentum and like we woke in the sleeping giant to push forward, because none of this stuff, like, it takes generations to create real change in the industry and like, create real change in general. And like, I just think that we have so much work to do, and like, I just don't think that it was ever gonna be able to, like, be sort of, you know, like, I think we maybe could have gotten more, but I don't, we weren't, we were never gonna, like, get everything. And I think that's true of all negotiations, it's like you never get everything, you always have something that you're pushing towards. And I really feel like we we push forward a lot. Even if it's not even even if we were behind for so many years. And like, I guess I feel that way about our specific crafts too, because it's like, we should have never been in a place where we were getting minimum wage, like our work and our value. And like, there's not truly that many of us, like, you know, we're worth a lot more, and we should have never been there. But we are now at least like a little bit closer to where we should be. And like the fact that we've gone from making minimum wage to almost double minimum wage at this point, like, I think is really phenomenal in a way. And like, I think it's like if we can keep pushing this quickly, then like, you know, in by the time I'm, you know, a showrunner, my script printer might actually make, like a real working wage, and like be respected as a department head, which is like, also kind of wild to think about,
Marisa Shipley 1:22:05
I think that, you know, all of us have talked about needing, like real cultural change, we need, like systemic culture change. And for me, I think it's a mistake to put all of that on the contract. I think, yes, the contract needs to support, sustain, force, some of that culture change. But like, it really is, needs to be like top to bottom, small to system. Culture change. And that is from, you know, I think awareness is part of that, yes, there is a huge increased awareness across crew of the issues that we face, I think, in the general public, who has been paying attention to whether it's the Instagram page, or a lot of the press, because of the Instagram page or negotiations. But I think it's, you know, we need to keep having these conversations with our casts. And our writers, like, if writers rooms really understood the impact on humans, of making that an outdoor night scene, or requiring, you know, plot point X that like, isn't important to them, it just was convenient. But like, it's convenient in the writers room, and not when you're making a play out on stage or on location, or whatever. And I just think there needs to be part of that is on us speaking up the the crew members impact is speaking up. And part of that is on creating a culture where it is listened to. And we need to be having those conversations consistently enough that like, it's a part of the culture, and not all of that can can be or is negotiated, like some of that is in in the ways that we play out. And so I think, I think it's a mistake to put all of the expectation of cultural change in the contract. And I, you know, fully understand why. For some people, the contract didn't meet the moment for them in the change that they they were looking for, but it's one piece, you know, one piece where we made some progress on some of the things and that is the baseline, right? It's not everything, and it is harder to negotiate beyond that baseline. But the more that we push, the more that we try it, the more that We succeed, like helps set the precedent and will help us in three years. And so, you know, I hope that in this moment crews are not only, you know, having the conversation, but are also, you know, asking like, what, what we all can be doing what we all need to ask one another to do to all help, you essentially
Zack Arnold 1:25:27
took the exact words out of my mouth that I was just about to say anyways. And this is exactly what I've been telling all of my students, my members, my readers, my listeners, is that it doesn't matter what the contract says, the contract is not going to change the problems that we have, the contract is going to help, it's going to give us a little bit more ammunition if we needed a little bit more protection. But I firmly believe that things are going to change, they change from the bottom up and not from the top down. Yeah, because there are plenty of protections and I say protections and air quotes for anybody listening and not watching protections, there are plenty of protections that we don't get, because they're not enforced because people are too afraid to enforce them for fear of losing their job. So at the end of the day, we are the solution. We as individuals have to advocate for ourselves. More importantly, we have to advocate for those around us. But I don't think anything changes from the top down, we're never going to magically get a contract that says Oh, my God, I've got my work life balance back in Hollywood respects me now. Never going to happen. It has to happen from the ground up. And I think that the the work that both of you have done with IA stories is started that very important conversation. And like you said, once you open Pandora's box, you don't close it. So I think things are they've simmered down, we've just kind of settled back into the trenches for a while. But I don't think there's any doubt that it's going to be a very different conversation that begins whenever the contract negotiations start up again.
Marisa Shipley 1:26:50
Yeah, and I don't say any of that flippantly like, it is hard to do this, and it is hard to speak up for yourself and speak up for the people around you. But you know, you get better with practice. And the reality is that the living wage proposals, and the the gains that we were able to make on those wages are, you know, built on the backs of years of work by coordinators to negotiate better rates on all of their individual projects and raise up the rates so that while our contracted rates were low, some of us had negotiated ourselves up to about the point where these living wage proposals brought the contracted wages up. And it took communicating about our rates and saying, This is what I'm negotiating for in this project, and speaking openly about rates to the crew members around us and other art department coordinators and doing a pay equity study. And like all of that work, I think it you know, if you aren't familiar with that work, it can look like we just made this big game, but it is six years of work by lots of members pushing and talking and working with the local and the local, pushing it hand in hand with the members. It's not one piece or the other. And I you know, the way that that process is going to happen, the members and the union pushing is going to be different for the different issues that you're talking about. But I, I really do believe that it, it requires both and to be successful, it's going to require all of us doing doing our piece. And that's not easy. But if if we all support one another and doing it we're gonna, you know, make it that much easier. Yep, I
Zack Arnold 1:28:41
couldn't agree more. And I've essentially built this entire business and podcasts and everything else as being a resource to actually answer the question. Yeah, but how? How do I set boundaries? How do I say no? How do I advocate for myself? How do I surround myself with people that respect me? Because I think it's a really difficult question to answer. And it's a difficult path to go down. But I've been shepherding people down that path for years. And we'll hope to continue to do so because the cultural shift starts to happen when one person stands up for themselves, and then another person feels empowered. And then all of a sudden, entire departments and individuals shows change, then they go to another show, they bring that mentality to another one. But it's going to take years, if not decades, for that shift to really fundamentally change. To the point where we look back on this conversation, we say, you thought it was a win to get paid $20 an hour. Like that's the thing that really astounds me is that there's been so much fighting back and forth about the details and the story that I kind of want to leave us with. Maybe you guys have heard this, but I had mentioned this on a few of the contract Facebook groups just to you know, kind of rile people up a little bit. But there's the story whether or not it's true, I don't know. But the the parable of it is perfect. Or if you take a jar and you fill it with 50% red ants and 50% black hands. They don't do anything. You shake the jar. They'll eat each other alive until they're out Dead. And what we've been doing for years is the right answer fighting the black hands. And essentially, we need to be asking, Who the hell is shaking the damn jar? Why are we not talking about them? Because there were conversations where people are saying, well, you know, it should be a 12 hour day, but no, it should be a 14 hour day. And I'm like, are we really justifying that we're even asking for a 12 hour workday? Like, do we see the absurdity of this and again, the absurdity of if you go missing for four hours, Amy, and you can cost production hundreds of 1000s of dollars, and the person with that level of expertise is getting paid now 22 or $23 an hour, I can't even begin to explain the absurdity of that. Right. So that's the systemic change that needs to happen that a contract is not going to change that we are going to change, we meaning the three of us on the call, and everybody else that's listening and watching, we are all the ones that have to affect it. And we can't wait for the contract to do it for us. So on that note, I want to be very conscious of your time, because talking about work life balance and setting boundaries. I've kept you both up late. And I apologize for that. But this has been a long time in the making. I've been very excited about having this conversation. And I can't thank you both enough for being here for being so honest. But all of your experiences and all the things that we can do to affect positive change in the industry. So if somebody wanted to learn more about either of you individually, or they want to get a hold of you, and they want to connect and they want to be a part of this, how can they do so Amy, and then Marisa
Amy Thurlow 1:31:26
and I'm on Twitter, and I am I'm fairly vocal on Twitter. And my handle is athurlow. A-T-H-U-R-L-O-W
Zack Arnold 1:31:37
excellent and Marisa,
Marisa Shipley 1:31:38
my personal accounts on social media are marisaship. M-A-R-I-S-A-S-H-I-P. And then also the IA stories account. Once we get it back up and running.
Zack Arnold 1:31:49
Yes, and that's something that we're going to talk a little bit more about offline because I have some some thoughts and ideas. But on that note, I can't thank you both enough for being here. And I really hope that this conversation can have a positive impact and inspire people to take back their lives and set boundaries and create a better working and living life for us in the world of Hollywood and entertainment. So thank you both so much for being here today.
Thank you for listening to Episode 174 of the Optimize Yourself Podcast. To access the show notes for this episode with all the bonus links and resources that we discussed today, as well as to subscribe, leave a review and more, simply visit optimizeyourself.me/episode174. Once again, thank you so much for investing your time and energy with me here today. Stay safe, healthy and sane, and most importantly be well. Oh wait. Last thing before you go, I wanted to let you know about my brand new weekly email newsletter that I have titled The Case of the Mondays. It releases every Monday morning, and it shares my best advice, insights, resources and strategies to help you build a fulfilling creative career doing work that you love without totally burning yourself out in the process. It's totally free. And when you sign up, I'll even send you a five-day email course to help you take the first few and most important steps towards designing a career path that makes sense for you. To sign up just visit optimizeyourself.me/newsletter
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Marisa Shipley is the President of Local 871 and a freelance Art Department Coordinator, Set Dec Coordinator and Construction Estimator for tv/film in Los Angeles. She initially got involved with the Local as a member of the ad-hoc Art Department Coordinators Public Relations Committee, working to get signatures on a petition showing support for better wages for her craft prior to 2018 negotiations. As the chair of the Local 871 #ReelEquity pay equity committee Marisa has focused on a collaborative approach to tackling pay equity issues affecting women in entertainment, particularly those working behind the camera.
Amy Thurlow is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Los Angeles, California. Amy has worked in television for many years. She started her career as a Writers’ PA on the groundbreaking show GOSSIP GIRL and most recently Script Coordinated for Fox’s OUR KIND OF PEOPLE. Her other credits include TWO SENTENCE HORROR STORIES, SLEEPY HOLLOW, WITCHES OF EAST END, KRYPTON and NO TOMORROW. In December 2021, Amy was elected to represent Script Coordinators on the Board of Directors of Local 871. Amy graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a degree in Film and Television Production. Her work has been recognized by the WB Writers’ Workshop, Sundance Institute, Austin Film Festival and Final Draft Big Break Contest. Outside of writing and activism, Amy has a myriad of interests including performing the occasional stand up routine, teaching friends how to cook the perfect roast chicken, and deciding to run marathons even though she hates running.
The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).
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