TORONTO — A national charity serving people in the entertainment industry says it has doled out $1.2 million in aid to Canadians affected by the Hollywood actors and writers strikes.
The AFC, formerly known as the Actors' Fund of Canada, says more than 500 film and TV workers have tapped into emergency financial support since the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on May 2.
Executive director David Hope says the need escalated when the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists walked off the job July 14 and shuttered more sets.
He says more than 500 additional applicants are seeking help but the AFC’s emergency financial aid program has already been depleted for the year. It's turning to the public for donations.
The dual SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes halted most U.S. productions shot in Canada, putting tens of thousands of local talent and crews out of work.
Hope says many of those are gig workers who are struggling to buy food, pay their rent or mortgage and meet other basic needs. They include actors, directors and crew.
"Members of the public often perceive the film and TV business as glamorous and that folks in the business are very highly paid and live a life of luxury. Really, they're working folks like everybody else," Hope said Monday.
“Because it's gig work, it's quite variable…. People had a steady income and they were paying their mortgage and they were feeding their kids based on that. That work is gone now.”
The AFC offers up to $2,000 to people who are most at risk, and also provides wellness webinars and sessions on how to find temporary work.
"You know, that $2,000, if you live in Toronto or Vancouver or many other places, is not even enough to pay your rent," Hope said.
"We're able to buy people a little bit of time to help them manage their situations and to help them find alternatives that will carry them through to the end of the strikes, whenever those might be."
Hope said the cast and producers of the B.C.-shot series “The Good Doctor” donated more than $10,000 to the AFC in recent weeks, and that included contributions from stars Freddie Highmore, Paige Spara, Will Yun Lee and Daniel Dae Kim.
Hope said a similar amount came from the cast and producers of the B.C.-shot series “Fire Country,” with donors including co-creators Tony Phelan and Max Thieriot, and stars Diane Farr, Billy Burke, Kevin Alejandro and Stephanie Arcila.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press