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The coronavirus has devastated Hollywood workers. Here’s how some are trying to help

TV writers Deirdre Mangan, left, and Liz Alper
TV writers Deirdre Mangan, left, and Liz Alper are Los Angeles activists working to bring attention and change to low wages and grueling hours of Hollywood assistants.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Hollywood unions and others are chipping in to provide emergency relief to workers hard hit by the coronavirus.

Activists who have been advocating for the rights of assistants in Hollywood’s film and television industry have launched a fundraising effort to help these low-paid workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The three women who have been spearheading the movement known as #PayUpHollywood — Liz Alper, Jamarah Hayner and Deirdre Mangan — along with a group of leading TV writers and others, created a GoFundMe site to raise money for assistants who face lost work as productions shut down.

The Junior Hollywood Radio & Television Society and YEA! a nonprofit organization supporting activism in the entertainment industry, also are backing the fundraising effort.

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“Unless and until Hollywood studios commit to compensating their support staff during production shutdowns, this fundraiser will provide a modest one-time stipend to as many Los Angeles-based support staffers in need as we can support,” Alper said in an emailed statement. “We will be asking support staffers to fill out an application for aid, then we will verify and fulfill requests based on the order they are received and the urgency of the applicant’s personal situation.”

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The move comes as a huge swath of workers in Hollywood face film and television shutdowns, affecting thousands of workers across the country. Hollywood assistants in particular are vulnerable because of their low pay and many do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

The effort is in collaboration with TV writers John August and Craig Mazin and their podcast “Scriptnotes.” They have offered to match dollar-for-dollar everything raised on Tuesday. Producers including Greg Berlanti also pledged to match donations. Producers Julie Plec, Damon Lindelof and Jonah Nolan are among the donors.

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Their aim had been to raise $100,000, using the proceeds to offer assistants facing partial or total wage losses donations ranging from $450 to $900. The GoFundMe page had raised $132,585 as of Tuesday afternoon.

The group #PayUpHollywood was launched online last year, emboldened by the #MeToo movement and new labor laws protecting gig workers. It drew huge support via social media to take the industry to task over its questionable labor practices.

“Chernobyl” screenwriter Mazin and August, a writer of “Aladdin,” used their “Scriptnotes” podcast to highlight the topic, sharing stories of writers’ assistants, production assistants, agency assistants, studio assistants and temps.

The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has been widespread across entertainment and other industries. Some 18% of U.S. adults reported that they had been laid off or that their work hours had been cut, a new poll found.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — which represents more than 150,000 members employed in stagecraft, motion picture and television production — on Tuesday said it committed $2.5 million in donations to three entertainment charities: the Actors Fund, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and the Actors Fund of Canada.

“These charities have been assisting and supporting IATSE members and entertainment industry workers for a very long time,” Matthew D. Loeb, international president of IATSE, said in a statement. “They understand the needs of these workers and are perfectly situated to act as our partners to help those experiencing hardship caused by the current health crisis.”

The Artist Rights Alliance, a nonprofit, artist-run organization advocating for music creators, wrote to majority and minority leaders in Congress urging them to address the particular issues faced by musicians and other entertainers, who’ve also faced hardships as concerts and festivals have been canceled to stop the spread of coronavirus.


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