Christopher Ross BSC: “It takes a village”



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Christopher Ross BSC: “It takes a village”

BY: Christopher Ross BSC

It’s been a struggle to stay optimistic since last year’s strikes but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Christopher Ross BSC highlights the importance of mentorship and allyship in our community to weather the storms.  

juxtaposition 
/dʒʌkstəpəˈzɪʃən/ 

Noun 

  1. the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect: 

“an unusual juxtaposition of colours” 

  1. the state of being so placed: 

“contrasting shapes placed in juxtaposition to each other” 

As awards season comes to an end, having celebrated alongside this year’s champions, we can reflect on having been marvelled and delighted in equal measure. We have been treated to a ground-breaking 12 months of cinema releases, full of culturally significant films, primed to stand the test of time. From Barbie to Oppenheimer, Poor Things to Past Lives, Anatomy of a Fall to The Zone of Interest, it has been stellar year for the creative output of the international filmmaking community. In 2023, comic-book heroes and heroines took a backseat to physicists and feminist icons. 

But herein lies a paradox…whilst cinemas were full, and streaming services continued to increase their subscriber counts, the filmmaking community was held captive in a stasis brought about by labour disputes between the WGA/SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP. The drawn-out negotiations, that finally lead to their conclusion in November, exposed the fragility of the relationship between filmmakers and finance. The interdependence was laid bare and during the downturn the crew members of the world bore the brunt of the burden; both emotionally and financially.  

The film industry is a complex beast. One side of the coin is inhabited by studio/broadcaster corporations… multinational conglomerates with shareholders and CEOs; concerned with dividends and mergers, acquisitions and buyback schemes. And on the other side of the coin a freelance workforce striving to create innovative work… sole traders and limited companies; concerned with financial self-preservation, private pension schemes and paying the next set of bills, all without a safety net. 

This inevitably inequitable model of corporation/freelance worker is a long-term, inflexible facet of the industry and is sadly here to stay. And as I write, negotiators for the various IATSE Chapters and the AMPTP are preparing to meet for their triennial contract discussions. Just as last year, the outcome of these meetings will have a substantial impact on the output of the global filmmaking community… the eyes of the industry will be watching apprehensively as negotiations concerning remuneration and working conditions play out. 

In the meantime, however, may I recommend taking time to avert our gaze. To focus instead on what we can do, rather than what we have stopped doing. I urge us all to look closer to home and to check in on our colleagues and friends, once again. The end of the strikes did not signal a return to work for everyone, in fact, a recent survey by BECTU highlighted that there has been little improvement in employment between September 2023 and February 2024. For the last 10 months there have been many crew members struggling to make ends meet. Many who have sought employment outside of the industry to sustain themselves. Many who have turned their back on the industry entirely.  

Opportunities have been few and far between in 2023 and, as such, it has been an exceptionally difficult year. Those who had recently challenged their skillset to step up to the next grade may have floundered with this absence of opportunity, and career-starters (the industry leaders of the coming decades) have had their journeys curtailed before they had even begun. It is imperative as the industry busies itself once more, that we seek to increase opportunity, to promote personal growth and to encourage a healthy future for all of our colleagues and collaborators. 

Filmmaking, and the wider industry, is fuelled and sustained by optimism. Writers commit years of their lives bringing a story to life and filling pages in the hope that it resonates with audiences; producers push forward with projects convinced that deals will be pulled together and finance commits; and craft practitioners dig deep into their research to confidently create original aesthetics with atmospheric world-building. 

Optimism has been in short supply since the strikes were announced in May last year with projects stumbling and finance failing to commit. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the industry is beginning to surface from its hibernation. So now is the perfect time to check in on our fellow crew members, to offer support, perhaps to lend an ear. As opportunities become more readily available guidance will be needed to ensure solid decisions. Mentorship and allyship in the coming years will be essential for the health of an evolving industry, as the proverb states, “it takes a village to raise a child” and the same can be said for our careers. 

As new projects sprout into existence the community of film must share the fruits of this optimism… and it’s up to all of us to ensure that no one is left behind. 

Onwards! 

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