HOLLYWOOD SEEKS MEDICAL FREEDOM
Film & Television Workers Continue To Fight Discriminatory Film COVID Restrictions
By JUDITH ROBINSON
(New York/Boston/Miami/Los Angeles, Thursday Nov. 21, 2022) Film and television workers are petitioning SAG-AFTRA’s president Fran Drescher, demanding that the union allow Its unvaccinated workers to return to work. The division in the industry has caused many unvaxxed entertainment personnel to become suicidal, or to consider leaving the industry they say is controlled by powerful political and business interests.
Most of us weren’t alive when Senator Joseph McCarthy made his random attacks on Hollywood’s actors and writers, labeling them Communists, and ruining their careers. Although that was seven decades ago, the effects of McCarthy’s black lists are still being felt. London based agent Blanche Marvin’s husband, producer Mark Marvin (AKA Marvin Kline and Lee Marvin’s brother), was one of those black listed contributing to his alleged suicide in 1958. Although my friend Blanche, now in her nineties, still visits America, she has never felt comfortable enough to return to the U.S. to live.
But were McCarthy’s attacks random? A common thread among unvaccinated film & television workers, currently barred from practicing their craft, is a belief that the attacks on their industry, both past and present, are far from random and they are backed by pretty powerful entities. Actors, producers, directors and craftspeople alike argue there is an organized, tactical, ongoing assault, from the production companies and their unions, that has nothing to do with public health or their political beliefs.
Most of those I interviewed said that Hollywood has been co-opted by “the Cabal”, “the CIA”, “the mob”, “the intelligence services”, “the pharmaceutical giants” or “the big insurance companies”. Stunt people, actors, directors, agents and casting directors have collectively expressed the opinion that their unions, their funders and their producers have been taken over by what Catherine Austin Fitts calls “Mr. Global”. And their creative products—movies, series, television shows—are being used as propaganda to control and modify citizens’ behavior.
“I am 100% certain that the government is behind the vaccine mandates,” Carlos Guerrero, an actor based in Miami, said. “That’s why the unions are not budging on the vaccines. Even after that 50,000 page report was released in February proving that Pfizer knew about all the adverse reactions before putting out its vaccine, the union’s still pushing them. As he details in his latest video: “Un-Masking The Mandates”
Although the American government has pledged millions in funding for arts organizations during this critical pandemic period, Guerrero said he is disappointed that the dollars pledged in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Funding Bill for the Fiscal Year 2023 in June, will only go to two organizations. According to a government press release, the bill will provide “$414 million for both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities”—essentially government controlled agencies.
Guerrero knows Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, who recently called for a review of the mandates “because members’ livelihoods hang in the balance.” Guerrero said, “Fran’s been an anti-vaxxer for years… But when she tried to speak out at a union Zoom meeting, the board members shut her down. She can’t go up against big pharma. They’re the number one sponsor of commercials in the world.”
Another actor asked me to keep in mind that Pfizer was one of the sponsors of the Oscars and that David Koch is a major patron of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. New dealmakers at Broadway’s 41 theatres have often replaced the industry’s illustrious roots, in heroic tales and larger-than-life characters, with what sells and what attracts donors.
New York Magazine did a colorful profile of Jason Roth, the youthful owner of Jujamcyn Theatres—a company that owns five of the old blockbuster theatres on Broadway. Dubbed an “industry evangelist,” Roth, with his MBA from Columbia, is bringing in new audiences through “non-Broadway-style scores, young protagonists, and immersive stagings.” While he has been successful at attracting a new crowd, Roth may also be scaring away some of the aging regulars. The article states that “some patrons in the nightclub environment of Fela! resist entreaties to stand up in place and gyrate their pelvises. And older audiences at the St. James seem appalled that on the stage where Carol Channing once descended a vast staircase, now a heroin dealer does.”
There seems to be a finer line than ever between the arts and business communities in the United States, and the latter appears particularly primed to make a buck—especially because of the pandemic-shrunken crowds. That’s not to say that that alliance is all bad. Robert E. Wankel, Chairman of the Shubert Foundation, owner of 17 Broadway theatres donated $37.6 million to 609 arts organizations, “including not-for-profit theatres, dance companies, academic theatre training programs and related service agencies” this year, earning himself the 2022 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award.
But owners of large theatres, television networks and movie studios have become more conscious than ever about pleasing their patrons—such as the pharmaceutical giants. The content of shows, and the way business is conducted in the arts community, is rapidly changing. Vaccine mandates are just one of the many accommodations being made to reflect that growing economic partnership.
And the unions seem to have fallen in line with arts managers’ dictates. Guerrero, frustrated with SAG-AFTRA’s refusal to stand up for the rights of unvaccinated members, made nine short powerful videos. In the first segment, which has had 100,000 views, the actor outlines how the union’s website declares there is a “no tolerance policy against any discrimination of any kind against any of its members.” He also said that “they claim to fight for our rights and our protection… Yet today we have a return to work agreement that was made up by a few selected people… that allows a producer to discriminate against some of SAG-AFTRA’s members… the unvaccinated.”
One after one, on camera, representatives of the 160,000 strong SAG-AFTRA state their name, their location, their role in the industry, how long they’ve been a member and the fact that they’re being discriminated against. Near the end of the video Drescher speaks up against vaccine mandates—an ironic and haunting moment considering that the union she represents appears to be in complete opposition to her expressed views.
In his 2nd video, Guerrero points out that in order for SAG-AFTRA members to go to the Screen Actors Guild annual awards show, they must be fully vaccinated and boosted, masked and answerable to COVID enforcement officers. In the 3rd video, Jennifer Badger, a stunt coordinator/performer for 29 years, states how she “lost a peer to suicide,” due to the mandates, and that she has several more she is “worried about.”
In the eighth video, Guerrero addresses an anti-mandate rally in Los Angeles in April, and talks about his father who was a famous actor in Cuba. “He fled as soon as they started giving peoples’ homes away—peoples’ businesses away and controlling the media—everything you see happening here today. People don’t see it. We have to fight hard enough to make them back off,” he said.
Guerrero’s 10th video entitled “Leadership Misinformation Investigation”—a damning report—has just been released.
Guerrero put up a Facebook page called SAG-AFTRA Members Against Vax Mandates. It was taken down when organizers told him, “It violated community standards for giving medical misinformation”. He said, “There was nothing medical on it.” Guerrero managed to get the contact information for the 200 people who had signed up before the page mysteriously disappeared.
“I’m really mad because I’ve lost a ton of opportunities,” Guerrero said. “Meanwhile, Duncan Crabtree Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director is making $1 million a year (including perks). And he appointed the former Executive Director to a consultant’s position and paid him $600,000 a year. The executives are not even answering emails from their members… And there is no vaccine mandate for SAG-AFTRA staff and employees. They won’t conduct in person meetings with the members.” Guerrero said the reason the 25 regional offices are still closed across the country, when most other American companies have opened up again, is because the administrators don’t have the guts to face up to their angry members.
Chuck Slavin, an actor/precision driver/cameraman has been hosting Zoom meetings, twice monthly, for film and television workers who oppose the COVID restrictions on employment from across a broad spectrum of unions, loosely called Unions for Unity. He said, “More and more people are stepping out of the shadows from all the Hollywood Unions. We have new people coming to our meetings every other week. The biggest fear for most is of being blacklisted.”
One of Slavin’s biggest concerns is that SAG-AFTRA and the other Return-To-Work Signatory Unions, “haven’t budged. They’ve turned against their own members. A union should be about many voices, many opinions. But instead, they’re saying, ‘we’re going to tell you what’s good for your body’. They’re not doctors and have refused to provide their current science or access to their hired epidemiologists.”
Slavin said, “Talk within the industry is that major studios are making millions of dollars a week on the mandatory, three times a week COVID tests. All the cast and crew of all studio productions, vaccinated and unvaccinated, are obligated to test only at that studio’s specific clinic. I don’t know if that’s considered a cabal, it’s certainly a conflict of interest to see the testing end.”
A 36-year-member of the Screen Actors Guild (now part of SAG-AFTRA), and a star of several motion pictures, was one of those asked to leave the set. “At the beginning of this whole thing last year I was just devastated,” he said.
The actor didn’t stop at kicking people off his movie sets, he actually asked unvaccinated movie goers not to see his films. “Stay home until you are convinced of these very clearly safe vaccines,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
Dorian Kingi, a 2nd generation creature actor said:
“I have heard one of the studios owns one of the biggest testing facilities in Los Angeles. When an actor has to go to a testing facility outside of their regular working hours and location, they are paid an inconvenience fee of $250 per SAG-AFTRA’s Back To Work Agreement if they are not working that day. If they are working, there is no fee paid to test. People have told me that they have been forced to test up to five times a week. The COVID budgets are eating into the production costs.”
Kingi added that he “won’t put Q Tips up (his) nose” because he “got a sinus infection as well as other side effects from constantly being tested.” He said the biggest obstacle is getting the job, because productions just aren’t casting unvaccinated people. The obvious best course of action for entertainment workers who can’t, or won’t, be vaccinated would be to apply for an exemption, but Kingi says those are impossible to get unless the applicant has “the exact look and skill set.” He says getting an exception “has nothing to do with someone’s religious beliefs or medical history. If they want you, they’ll get you.”
“There’s a double standard across the whole industry,” Kingi said. “I acted in a TV show pre-SAGAFTRA vaccine mandate and now post-mandate, I am being discriminated against.” He said he’s “been offered multiple roles from many studios. I’m cast, but upon final booking I’ve had the role retracted based on my medical status. After a lifetime in this industry, the convention circuit is the only nondiscriminatory forum to connect with fans and creatively express my artistic passion.” He said there is no masking or other restrictions at the convention autograph signing sessions. “I was shaking hands with thousands of people—so were the other actors.”
Kingi said he is going to stand up. “The harder they push, the less willing I am to comply—just because of the hypocrisy. They’re writing the rules as they go. I have a list of a hundred people who are willing to launch a lawsuit.”
A member, (who wanted to remain anonymous) of Teamsters Local 399 a union which includes animal handlers and trainers, casting directors, couriers, dispatchers, mechanics and drivers said, “We took a survey of our members. More than 50% said ‘No. There should not be a mandate.’” Similarly IATSE 829 also declared via email that an overwhelming amount of their members did not believe vaccination status should be a term of employment.
A few productions still employ unvaccinated workers—mainly for behind the camera positions. According to the union’s Return-To-Work Agreement, producers have the right to define the vaccine restrictions on a particular production. But union members say that the stars call the shots.
NBCUniversal, the studio behind the show “Gaslit” originally declared that only those in Zone A—the cast and those who come in close proximity with them—must be vaccinated. But Sean Penn refused to go onto the set until the entire cast and crew had received Covid vaccinations, according to CNN.
From the youngest to the oldest—the unvaccinated in the film and television industry have been struggling for two years. A zoom attendee, whose seven-year-old model/actor daughter has been barred from getting work, said, “Every audition says ‘vaccinated only’. It’s discriminatory. All of the modeling agencies want vaccinated only children. Kids don’t even get affected that badly from COVID.”
At the other end of the spectrum, 82-year-old who has been working in the film and television industry for 65 years, said:
“I’m just plain mad. I am not able to take the shots because I had a bad reaction to a flu shot. I was cast on a show and the parent company wanted me to fill out a form and tell them what shots I had had… There’s no way in hell I’m going to take one of those death shots. And if I never work again at least, I’ll be alive.”
An actor, said, at one of Slavin’s Zoom gatherings that, “I removed my photos from casting because I knew they were demanding this craziness… I’m so disappointed that the unions are so politicized…The union has an agenda which is supported by money.”
Several members at the Zoom meeting said they are regularly writing their union executives to complain about the discrimination. They have either received no response or form letters. Only a small few said they’re getting personal responses from Descher.
One actress, said at the meeting:
“I’m so exhausted. I’m so ready to get this resolved. For every single job that rejects me, I notify diversity and let them know. This discrimination is illegal. I’ve had it. I’m not putting up with the madness anymore. I told SAG they’re in collusion with the devil… I’m documenting everything. They’re going to be held accountable.”
An actress from Burbank added:
“I feel like I’ve moved to China and I’m a medical experiment. I’m the oldest of five children. I noticed when my siblings got the vaccine there were problems. One of them got leukemia and another got extreme allergies. It’s so wrong to do that to a child who has no defenses. When I was a child I got 10 vaccines. Now there’s 72 vaccines… This industry is run by fear. The only way to stop them is through fear. We have to make them feel afraid. They’re selfish. They want the power and without us holding them responsible they will never care.”
Kingi said, “It’s sad because 90% of the peers in my age bracket have caved either voluntarily or forcefully taken the shot… I will not comply. I will not bend. I will leave this business and go do something else.”
In a letter to union president Fran Drescher, Heather Berman, a New-York based actor/dancer member of SAG-AFTRA wrote:
“You have a golden opportunity to go down in history as a champion for holistic health. You have a platform to use to educate our industry… You must speak up and end all mandates. That means testing, masks and all shots. We can never again let the government or any employer, union, school etc. dictate how we take care of our health… We don’t need Hollywood to be artists and we don’t need this union. True artists will make art no matter what. But my letter is for the young artists who haven’t had a chance to fulfill their passions in this business. They deserve to be able to work and thrive in their chosen field. Doing what’s right, restoring trust in this union is what needs to happen. Be the one who blows the lid off of the hypocrisy.”
“I write this from the position of someone who has been double-jabbed… Unvaccinated performers could face discrimination, abuse, isolation and significant mental health issues… I am deeply troubled by the naming and shaming… Whatever your feelings over those who choose to remain unvaccinated, we must not create an industry of division, in which naming and shaming an individual becomes commonplace.”
In May of 1993, I drove Blanche Marvin to Davenport, Iowa, to find the ancestral home of her husband, blacklisted producer, Mark Marvin. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she said, “I’ve seen it. Mark wanted me to see it.”
A faraway look in her eyes said it all. For years, she had longed for her American homeland. But she was banished by a madness that overtook Joseph McCarthy and is overtaking many union and health officials today. There is a longing in all of us to return to our ancestral homes—the cerebral place we inhabited before the pandemic—where the roots of our normalcy, reason and sanity live.
Slavin said, about his Zoom gathering of actors, casting directors, set designers, directors, stunt people, and even some executives from all over the United States:
“This is a community of heroes. We’re one giant rock band. There are a lot of people who will take the arrows. We have each others’ backs. We’re going to make these people accountable for the losses that have come from the vaccine… Every day there are more and more wins.”
Whoever “Mr. Global” may be, Slavin, Guerrero, Kingi, Berman and those like them, are putting him on notice. While there may indeed be a Cabal, there are also hundreds of people willing to stand up and fight back so that no more Mark Marvin’s will be forced to commit suicide. They declare that the time of restrictions and discrimination is over.