Actresses turn to reikiduring the write strikes, Ashli Haynes, Holly Cinnamon, and Kyra Jones are grappling with a mixture of anxiety, fatigue, and frustration as the strikes persist.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has endured for more than 120 days, while the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike has crossed the 50-day mark. These prolonged strikes have disrupted the entire entertainment industry, with no clear resolution in sight, despite renewed negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Film and television productions remain at a standstill, leaving those in the industry without work and struggling to meet their financial obligations.
For creative professionals in the entertainment sector, financial challenges and job insecurity have always been persistent concerns. However, the strikes have heightened these worries. Haynes, Cinnamon, and Jones all express a strong desire to return to work, but they are equally committed to fighting for fair working conditions, even if it means enduring the stress and anxiety that accompanies these strikes.
Ashli Haynes made her breakthrough in the world of entertainment with a lead role in the series "Leimert Park," a debut showcased at Sundance in 2018. This opportunity marked a significant milestone in her career, working alongside Homegrown Pictures and Macro, eventually culminating in the show becoming a BET+ original production.
Beyond her role in "Leimert Park," Haynes secured a recurring part as Courtney in the Lena Waithe-produced BET series, "Twenties." She reflected on her journey with pride, having appeared in five out of eight episodes in Season 1 and three episodes in Season 2, describing it as a manifestation of her aspirations.
"Twenties" initially premiered its first season in March 2020, with a second season renewal, albeit delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, Haynes faced a disconcerting issue—untimely payments. According to industry standards, actors should receive their initial payment two weeks after an episode wraps, and residual payments should follow within one to four months after the episode airs.
However, Haynes claimed that this norm didn't apply to her or the cast. Residual payments for the first season didn't materialize until preparations for the second season were underway.
"Then all of a sudden those checks were in the mail," she remarked. "Even though the second season of 'Twenties' aired in December 2021, we still have not been paid residuals for the second season."
While the series hasn't been officially canceled, its future remains uncertain.
The current strikes in the industry have further exacerbated the financial challenges faced by writers and actors like Haynes. Stress and mounting bills have become part of their daily lives. Nevertheless, Haynes remains resolute in her belief in fighting for justice and what she deems right.
To mitigate the financial strain, Haynes ventured into entrepreneurship, establishing a mobile spiritual shop named "The Star Magic School Bus." Her refuge offers a range of services, including tarot readings, Reiki, sound healing, and the sale of spiritual goods.
For Haynes, the heart of television and film lies in collaboration. She underscores the need for those in influential positions to care about every individual in the industry, regardless of their status. In her view, it's this mutual support that sustains the magic of cinema and television.
Efforts to obtain a response from BET regarding the issue of residual payments were met with silence as the network declined to comment.
Canadian actress Holly Cinnamon, known for her role in Netflix's "Daredevil," shared her experiences with the industry's complexities. She highlighted the frustration of holding her schedule for five months without pay and the challenges of working for free on unpaid script readings. Cinnamon stressed the need for more transparency in residual payments, which often fluctuate significantly, making financial planning difficult.
Despite her struggles, Cinnamon is proactive, returning to teaching yoga to make ends meet and working on her first studio album under her label, "The Female Gayze." She hopes for a swift resolution to the strikes and greater transparency in determining pay rates.
“I just don’t think AI can be a part of the creation process,” she said. “If there’s no humanity in something essentially about human storytelling, what kind of quality material can it produce?”- Kyra Jones
Kyra Jones, who joined SAG-AFTRA in 2020, shared her experiences as both an actor and a writer. She discussed the disparities in payment structures between actors and writers, with writers often receiving weekly rates while actors are paid per episode. Jones also raised concerns about missing residuals and their impact on her financial stability.
Jones, like her colleagues, is wary of the potential influence of AI in the entertainment industry, fearing that it may prioritize quantity over quality. She expressed concern that marginalized voices in the industry could be left out as AI adoption increases.
While the strikes have created financial challenges for Jones, she has managed to secure a part-time job at Northwestern University to help cover her rent. She finds solace in the solidarity within the writing community and the connections forged during these challenging times.
As the strikes continue, these actresses, along with many others in the entertainment industry, face ongoing financial pressures but remain committed to fighting for fair working conditions and maintaining the integrity of storytelling in the face of potential AI disruption.