Film and TV workers in Georgia are trying to make ends meet during the Writer’s Guild of America strike, which has shut down almost all productions in the country. 

Atlanta Civic Circle spoke with two Atlanta location scouts, Kevin DeMunn and Luis Clar, to gain a better understanding of how entertainment industry workers are coping during the writer’s strike. Both said they’ve been struggling to find work since late last year when film and TV productions started “spinning down” in reaction to the news of a possible WGA strike. 

“I’ve had a tough go of it this year,” said DeMunn, who’s been working as a location scout since 2016. “I had a movie I was supposed to work on in January that was pushed to February – and now they’ve pushed it to next spring.” 

Atlanta, dubbed the “Hollywood of the South,” drove $4.4 billion in revenue to Georgia from film and TV productions last year. According to Arts ATL, there are only 50 WGA members in Atlanta, but thousands more film and TV workers, like DeMunn and Clar, are affected by the WGA work stoppage.

These workers, who are mostly contractors, are seeking help from their unions to land alternative types of work, like commercial shoots, and scrambling to collect unemployment benefits. Some are leaving the industry altogether. While unemployment insurance is, in theory, made for situations like this, DeMunn said it’s proving difficult to get through the red tape. 

DeMunn is a locations manager and Clar is a key assistant locations manager for the teams that scout and manage filming locations. Both are members of the Teamsters Union Local 728. 

Typically, it’s up to DeMunn and Clar to find their next film or TV project, but as Teamsters members they have the stability of a set union contract for each gig. Teamsters Local 728 uses a standard contract that spells out their members’ pay, benefits and other specifics, so DeMunn and Clar can just sign on the dotted line and get to work. 

This system ordinarily provides some stability and clear expectations, even if they don’t know where the next job is coming from. But with the writers’ strike, TV and film work has dried up. 

DeMunn and Clar both strongly support the strike, but they said it’s put them in a financially precarious situation – and they don’t know for how long.

Getting unemployment insurance

That’s where unemployment insurance comes in. Many local film and TV production workers are filing for unemployment benefits to make ends meet. As of July 2022, new state law expanded the definition of an “employee” in Georgia to include independent contractors and gig workers, like those in the film and TV industry. 

In Georgia, your employer’s taxes pay for unemployment insurance and you become eligible when, through no fault of your own, you’ll be out of work for at least six weeks. You can receive weekly compensation from $55 to $365 for up to 26 weeks. You’re required to file a weekly claim and report on your job search process. 

Clar hasn’t yet filed for unemployment insurance but says it’s “at the top of my list.” DeMunn, however, has already made a whopping seven trips to his local Georgia Department of Labor office this year, trying to resolve his unemployment insurance claim and get paid. 

DeMunn filed a claim late last year when he saw the strike on the horizon. “I tried to file when a job ended, and they claimed I received an overpayment,” he said. “Now I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours with them.” 

He’s not alone. The Georgia Department of Labor asserted last year that it overpaid $84 million in unemployment benefits during the pandemic – either because it paid out a claim for too many weeks or at too high a weekly amount – and it’s requiring recipients to return the overpayments. Since then, workers like DeMunn say they’ve been having trouble getting new claims fulfilled. 

DeMunn still has not received any unemployment payments in 2023, even though the labor department finally determined that the hold it placed on his account was a clerical error – and there was no overpayment. He’s now waiting to receive approximately $3,600.

“I presume I’ll get the rest of what I’m owed eventually,” he said. 

DeMunn, who is getting married in August, has had to do whatever he can to keep money coming in. “I have a wedding I need to pay for. Some wedding savings have gone to things like rent and other bills,” he said. 

Union aid

DeMunn and Clar are also turning to their union for support. According to Clar, their Teamsters local has been providing some guidance on what to do now that the work has dried up, but it’s mostly up to individuals to cushion their own financial blow. 

“I just try to keep a three-month cushion at all times,” he said. 

But the WGA strike began May 1, and DeMunn believes it’ll continue at least into August. Facing several months without the usual film and TV shoots, the location professionals in Teamsters Local 728 are pushing their union to provide a business agent who can line up work for them. Local 728 mostly represents drivers, who do have a business agent. 

“They represent all of the drivers, and they do a great job of making sure they get work. We are a tiny subset of the total group they work with,” said DeMunn. The location scouts submitted their request for a business agent in mid-May, he said, and are still awaiting a response.

Unions can provide direct financial assistance to members during strikes through a strike fund, but that’s only for unions, like the WGA, that are actually on strike. 

Unions like the Teamsters and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which is the main entertainment industry union, don’t use their strike funds to pay out members when their work is affected by another union going on strike. 

Shift to commercials

Since collecting unemployment has proven a difficult bureaucratic hurdle and the union isn’t providing much tangible support, Clar and DeMunn are shifting their approach to finding work. They’re trying to secure location scouting gigs for commercials – as in the short ads you see during a Jeopardy! break. 

Commercials are still getting made, because they are typically non-union sets that don’t employ WGA writers directly, so they’re not affected by the strike. 

But Clar and DeMunn say it’s difficult to make the transition because landing gigs for commercials requires a different set of contacts. “You have to develop that network,” said Clar. 

While commercials pay a slightly higher rate, they are typically much shorter contracts than for TV and film productions, so a location scout must secure many more of them per year to make a good living. According to DeMunn, someone who works in TV typically has two to three jobs in a year, someone in film has three to five, and someone in commercials would need 20 to 25 to fill the calendar. 

They’re both hoping to pick up a steady stream of commercial gigs over the next few months, but they recognize that it’ll be difficult. As the WGA strike wears on, both are preparing to make other arrangements. 

“I have to look around and say ‘I might not make it’”, said Clar. “I have friends leaving the industry altogether.” 

Join the Conversation


  1. “I might not make it” I’ve been saying that since February. The slow down began for me in November. And as above all my January jobs got canceled. Now the strike. There’s so much talk in the media about. “What this means for you” In regards to the public ability to watch new programming. But there little talk about the 100,000 of us that are out of work and really struggling. People like me who, paint, build, pa, admin, work props, set Dec, greens. Good people make between 40,000 to 150,000 a year. We are struggling hard and it’s bad. All our savings are gone. We are out of time. I might have to shift careers as well. I’m running out of side jobs and options.

    1. Yes Diane,
      this is beyond nerve wrecking, they’ve basically focused on writers and actors, I’ve heard no concern for all the behind the scene employees who are loosing everything they’ve busted their behinds to earn! All the other little people that have sacrificed watching their kids grow up (due to working those extreme hours) to provide for them and secure their future. Now we’ve drained our savings and tapping in to our kids funds as they watch us loose things little by little and although life is not about material things, essentials are now being taken away. All these other jobs do not provide the amount needed to survive paying for the lifestyle we’ve created. My husband works 2 jobs and are about to lose our cars. If that happens how do we survive? Super unfair! My mental health as well as physical are deteriorating(totally aware I’m not the only one) I can’t even afford to buy my meds. Where are all the grants and help for Atlanta employees? There’s all kinds of grants for CA, NY! How can one of the requirements to the only grant I applied for and didn’t qualify be that you’re in good standings with your union? if I had money to keep up to date with my union dues I wouldn’t be applying for a grant! God help us ALL!!!

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