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How other Hollywood workers are being affected by the writers and actors strikes


As the labor strikes in Hollywood roll on, we wanted to try to understand how the strikes affect other workers in Hollywood, not just writers and actors. We're joined now by Doug Dresser, a longtime location scout near Denver, Colo. Thanks very much for being with us.

DOUG DRESSER: Thank you so much for having us, Scott.

SIMON: And Bryan Mendoza, who's a boom operator in Los Angeles. Thank you for being with us.

BRYAN MENDOZA: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And I'd like to begin by helping us understand what is it you do that we might not see without knowing you had a hand in it, for example. The location scout, Doug Dresser.

DRESSER: Well, what we do is we go and we find the places to shoot a motion picture or a television program, television commercials. We're the ones who actually go out and find the actual space to shoot a movie. I've done and worked on movies such as "Baby Driver," "Kill Bill" and "Little Women."

SIMON: And Bryan Mendoza, boom operator, you make it possible for us to hear the actors.

MENDOZA: That's correct. The sound department is responsible for recording all of the sound on set. So a lot of the times, we're either following people around, holding a microphone over their head or putting microphones on their bodies. Some of the most recent projects that I've worked on include "Joker: Folie a Deux," the new Joker sequel, "Barbie," and "Ford v. Ferrari" is another good one.

SIMON: "Barbie." You worked on "Barbie." Sorry.


SIMON: Well, let me ask you both, how has business been recently? Mr. Dresser?

DRESSER: Well, you know, as you can imagine, it has been rather slow. I think that one of the things that we wanted to talk about today was that it's not just the millionaire actors and these big, famous people that you see all the time, but there's tens of thousands of people that work in the industry supporting the motion picture and television business that are out of work, and we're hurting.

MENDOZA: There is very, very little work to do. There is still a little bit here and there, nonunion stuff and commercials that are still filming, but there's very, very little of that. We've just been trying to find ways to keep ourselves busy and find other ways to make money. The bank accounts are all getting pretty tight at this time.

SIMON: When you say other ways to make money - and I don't mean to be flippant about this - I mean, does that mean driving Uber or Lyft or what?

MENDOZA: It really means just about anything. I have a friend who actually just got a job at Six Flags Magic Mountain last week in order to keep the bills paid.

SIMON: Doug Dresser, what do you hear from friends and colleagues?

DRESSER: It's terrible. I mean, we have friends that are digging into their retirement funds. They're taking their children's college funds just to pay the bills and to make their mortgages. Some of them are moving out of their houses, moving in - they're downsizing 'cause we don't know how much longer this is going to go. I'm personally a Teamster, and we're not officially on strike, so we don't get some of the strike benefits that the Screen Actors Guild or the Writers Guild members are getting. There are some funds that have been started that are trying to help industry workers that are affected by the strike. But the money is short, and it's difficult to get to.

SIMON: Bryan Mendoza, how do you feel about the strike if it comes at your expense?

MENDOZA: You know, I have a lot of writer and actor friends, so I am in support of the strike, absolutely. It's just making things very rough. I would like to say that our union has been helping out a lot, though. They've been putting on food drives and trying to help people with their medical hours in order to keep their insurance.

SIMON: I have to ask you finally, do you and your friends and colleagues talk about how much longer you might be able to hold out?

MENDOZA: Yes. That's actually been a common conversation. We've run through our savings at this point, and we're all trying to figure out how we're all going to stay afloat, hoping this is going to end soon.

DRESSER: Yeah, absolutely. We talk about it all the time. It's the only thing we have to talk about aside from our children and really, ironically, what movies we're watching on TV. And if anything, what we learned in COVID is that our family time is priceless, and we spend a lot of time away from our families. We have to work 12, 15 hours a day sometimes on a movie set, the locations department. And so we do always appreciate the time that we have when we're able to be home, when we're in between shows, and we can do that. But we plan for it. This, much like the pandemic, is unexpected, and it's lasted a lot longer than we expected.

SIMON: Doug Dresser, a location scout, and Bryan Mendoza, a boom operator in the film industry. Thank you both so much for being with us. Good luck to you.

MENDOZA: Thank you.

DRESSER: Thank you so much, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.