The Future of Work-Life Balance in Hollywood

Old systems are being challenged and new frontiers are being embarked upon. What does this all mean for the future of work-life balance in Hollywood?

Unprecedented Times

Uncertainty hangs in the air still, which actually indicates change is coming. We’re emerging out of a two-year pandemic which has been a catalyst for a lot of change. People are leaving their jobs in droves, signaling what experts are referring to as the Great Resignation. In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million individuals left their job; a stark number alone, however, when paired with previous monthly data, there are millions leaving. People are unhappy for a myriad of reasons and believe they deserve a better work environment.

For Hollywood specifically, the pausing of production delayed releases and stalled pay. The top of the food chain executives have emerged unscathed, but for much of the industry, namely the labor, it was a difficult time but also brought reflection. At this crucial point, many realized that they wanted better working conditions and pay, all with the idea of having an improved standard of life.

Streaming Saga

The pandemic has produced an insatiable demand for new content to be produced. On one hand, it’s great for supply and demand; on the other hand, it procures burnout as a byproduct amongst those creating this entertainment.

Fueling this fire is the extensive list of streaming services entering the ecosystem. This has always been the aforementioned prediction, however, this trajectory of streaming services was hastily accelerated with the pandemic, forcing the industry to pivot hard and fast.

The streaming wars are here with viewers wading through the sea of choices. Streaming services are scrambling to offer exclusive content from their studios in order to appeal to consumers and get them to subscribe. The onslaught of streaming platforms, paired with an industry meandering into the digital age has left a gap in scalable original productions to satiate “streaming’s ceaseless content thirst” and has only “opened battle lines across the business” according to The Hollywood Reporter. For this reason, streaming services have actually exacerbated a broken system while creating a vicious burnout cycle and prompting a reassessment of job capacity.

Adjusting the Living Wages

With some productions still on pause and the overt prosperity of executives profiting significantly off streaming, industry labor got fed up. The halting of work forced Hollywood professionals to reevaluate their line of work. This step back allowed many to recognize that the long-overdue shift in wages, hostile and/or dangerous work conditions, and lack of job security weren’t terms that had to be accepted. The pause noted the volatile risk this line of work renders, and people took action, namely by social media, to advocate. Trends like #PayUpHollywood which began in 2019 gained traction more than ever. In a #PayUpHollywood survey, they found that "nearly 80 percent of Hollywood assistants and other support staffers made less than $50,000 in 2020 and over one-third made less than $30,000". IATSE members added #IALivingWage, #IASolidarity, and #PayAnimationWriters to the conversation, attaching personal stories that “focus attention on their working conditions and wages that were up for reappraisal”.

Guilds and unions saw unheard-of participation as well. Even within these bodies, there is some division over how much to negotiate along with, according to the LA Times, “vigorous debate, high turnout, and close election[s], indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity” all in the name of labor activism. One thing that needs to be made clear, a living wage is vital for all parties to thrive.

Reframing the Hustle Mindset

Aside from the obvious wage conversation, the reevaluation of job expectations also came. It is absolutely no secret that making it in Hollywood is hard without money and connections. Oftentimes, it’s grueling just to get a foot in the door. This was the past mentality to break in; a pre-pandemic exception where the name of the game was to hustle, network, and work around the clock to make your dreams come true.

The pandemic forced people to “realize how important rest periods were” and with many not fully appreciating them “until they actually were getting rest” and “having three meals a day at regular times”. The ideas of “walking lunches” or “ultra-tight turnaround schedules” sound completely absurd now.

This reprioritization aligns with the new value of improving quality of life. To work smarter, not harder, and avoid compromising. We are turning away from grueling work to an emphasis, nay prioritization, of physical and mental health.

Inclusive Workspaces

Contributing to the mental health equation are safe, inclusive workspaces. This has been a long time coming, but progress is being made (with a long way to go). Spurred by the #MeToo movement and George Floyd Protests, which created the most lasting change the industry has ever seen, companies and teams are working to be more mindful of inclusivity.

Safety is also now a paramount priority with more and more measures being called for to be implemented especially after the high profile (and preventable) death of Halyna Hutchins on the Rust set. Until workspaces are conducive to working conditions, progress cannot be made to enable proper work-life balance.

Gen Z Entering the Workforce

This youngest generation always seems to be bringing the buzz and it’s no surprise as to why. Shaped by their upbringing, Gen Z expects all of these previously outlined points. EBN notes that “there’s been a monumental shift in what younger employees want from a workplace” citing: 

  • Diversity, equity, inclusion
  • Transparent Pay
  • Mental health as a long term priority
  • Flexible and supportive company culture
  • Ethical companies and practices

They generally prioritize mental health and reject the workaholic mindset. There is a huge cultural shift towards work-life balance. In China, known for the 9-9-6 work culture where individuals work twelve-hour days six days a week, the "lying flat" movement is gaining traction where people choose to rebel against the working status quo and slow down. 

Gen Z may be wise beyond their years, but even more important is that they hold the key to the workforce future. This generation "represents approximately 30% of the total global population" and "by 2025, is predicted to make up 27% of the total workforce" which is stark data. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to take notes and implement these cultural shifts.

What’s it all mean?

It is clear that post-pandemic we are trending towards mitigating the discrepancy that currently stands with work-life balance in the entertainment industry. The answer to creating better balance in Hollywood starts with bringing new standards into the industry and ensuring the workers are fairly treated. We have to remember we are humans creating entertainment for humans and not machines.

The future for work-life balance in Hollywood is appropriate living wages, inclusive workspaces, decent working hours, and suitable expectations. Though there is a long way to go, the future is starting to look a little brighter.

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