Celtic Studios takes surprising direction during writers’/actors’ strike; Louisiana actors weigh in

Celtic Studios takes surprising direction during writers'/actors' strike; Louisiana actors weigh in
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Kevin O’Neil, executive director of marketing and operations at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge, has a plan — one he’s been working on for months.

O’Neil has been following the almost-three-month-long-and-counting Writers Guild of America strike, which started May 2, and the Screen Actors Guild walkout, which began July 14.

Writers are seeking higher compensation all-around, including salaries, pension plans, health funds and residuals. Actors, meanwhile, are specifically calling for their fair share in profits from the large streaming services and protection from artificial intelligence.






Kevin O’Neil




In a best-case scenario, O’Neil said if the parties reach an agreement in two weeks, production schedules would still not resume until at least September.

“And that’s best-case. It probably won’t happen that way,” he said. “It’s going to take a while.”

As point of reference, the 1980 actors’ strike lasted 77 days, while the 1981 writers’ strike stretched 96 days. The 2010 writers’ strike lasted for 100 days. 

Realizing early on that the strikes were inevitable, O’Neil mapped out a strategy for how Celtic, one of the largest film studios in the South with five large stages and two small ones, would operate should all facets of film and TV production shut down.

The most recent Baton Rouge-shot project, the film “Re-Election” starring Tony Danza, wrapped shooting last month.







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Former Baton Rouge actor Wes Brown and Mississippi native Lacey Chabert star in ‘Haul in the Holly.’ The 2022 holiday movie will have an encore airing at 7 p.m. Saturday.




O’Neil’s solution: community outreach.

Celtic’s full-time staff of five plans one, possibly two, free camps for children and their parents before school resumes. The children will be instructed in acting basics, while adults will learn how to be the parent/manager of a young actor.

Details are still being worked out, O’Neil said.

Also in the works are High School Film Trade Days for juniors and seniors, once school starts. The trade days will expose students to possible future careers in film and television production.

O’Neil, who came aboard at Celtic in January with 25 years experience as an assistant director, said he recognizes the need for the studio to engage more with the community.

“We’re not just a studio. We have 30 acres of office space, with renters outside the entertainment fields. We also do event rentals,” he said. “Some people still don’t know we’re here.”

The indie side of things 

Baton Rouge independent film production company Unoriginal Films, although unaffiliated with WGA or SAG-AFTRA, shares their views on the issues.

“We firmly and proudly support the strike,” said Joe Carleton, who founded Unoriginal in 2019 along with Nathan S. Hall, Marshal Talon Hodges and Brendan Pyron. “The studios have long since needed to come to the table with a better deal for those that create their content.”







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Joe Carleton




As an independent studio, Carleton said the strike will not impact the production timeline for its current project, the film “Beware the Box Folk.”

“We do not currently contract with any of the major studios,” Carleton said.

With the $50,000-budget dystopian crime thriller fully funded now, pre-production is set to begin Aug. 1, he said.

“Box Folk” will be filmed entirely in Baton Rouge and will involve a local cast and crew. 

A word from actors with Louisiana roots 

Former Louisiana actors Louis Herthum and Wes Brown, who have both lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for years, say they plan to join their fellow actors on the picket lines.

In New York, Louisiana native Brooke Hoover picketed with three of her best friends and SAG-AFTRA members outside the Netflix/Discovery/WB’s Manhattan offices on Wednesday.

Hoover joined about 150 fellow strikers, among them Susan Sarandon and her son, she said.







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Louis Herthum




“Bill Irwin (‘Spoiler Alert,’ ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’) was picketing at the location a few days ago. He drove by (today) and honked. A lot of support from passersby,” Hoover said. “People who aren’t in the industry jumped on the line with us, with their dogs and children and supported. The Lee Strasberg Institute for Film and Theatre showed up with plenty of water and snacks.”

Meanwhile here’s what each of the Louisiana actors had to say earlier this week about the strikes:

Louis Herthum (“The Peripheral,” “Westworld,” “Murder She Wrote”): “This strike, at least for the actors, is a long time coming. We should have gone out years ago but weak leadership in our union is what has brought us to this point. …It’s hard to tell how long this one will go but it could be lengthy. It’s very unfortunate that it had to come to this. While I applaud and support my union negotiators for standing firm, I just wish that they had done so in the past. Catch up is a hard game to play. … And there is a SAG-AFTRA election coming up (ballots go out Aug. 9) in which I am running for board seats, national and local (Los Angeles) so I will be dealing with that as well.”

Wes Brown (“True Blood,” “Deception,” “Christmas at Graceland”): “This is not for the millionaires. This isn’t for the movie stars. This isn’t for the television stars. This is for the 95% of SAG members who are just trying to pay bills, mortgages, rents. Trying to make a $26K minimum so they may become eligible for healthcare for themselves or their families. This is for fair wages.”







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Wes Brown




Brooke Hoover (“Manifest,” “Who’s Dat Phat Girl?” podcast, audiobook narrator and comedian): “In order to qualify for health insurance and pension in between those projects, I sustain myself with union background work. And, since we started working after the lockdown of 2020, that’s been my main source of income. … There’s clearly a major disconnect with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and the life of a working actor. For one, as a background or principal performer, AI would affect my income greatly — and not just my income but the craft of our profession. My former survival job (transcribing for post-production reality TV) went away because AI took over.







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Brooke Hoover




We need our audience on our side. … As a reminder, during lockdown, our shows kept people entertained. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t merely a bunch of writers and actors fighting for fairer wages; it’s people fighting to protect our economy and have our autonomy, privacy and individuality protected in a climate now threatened by robots.”

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About Mary Weyand 11873 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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