People Share Horror Stories From Working in Film Industry

Film industry crew members have been sharing their horror stories online with a popular anonymous Instagram account, as a huge union in the industry prepares a possible strike.

The Instagram account boasts 95,000 followers and shares a plethora of shocking stories from experiences on set, all received via anonymous DMs to the account. The posts come as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) prepares to open a vote on whether to strike over crew members' working conditions across the industry.

@ia_stories is not run by IATSE itself, but instead Ben Gottlieb, a 27-year-old lighting technician who is a member of the union. In July, his post on his own experience of long working hours and exhaustion gained over 21,000 likes and sparked the creation of IATSE Stories, where fellow workers can share their own similar, and shocking, tales about alleged working conditions.

Common complaints include 16-hour working days, self-medication with drugs and alcohol and ruined social lives. The medical issues raised include UTIs and even heart attacks.

Posts are frequent, but it doesn't take much scrolling to find shocking anecdote after shocking anecdote. "At today's safety meeting, we were informed that a teamster suffering from exhaustion did not survive a heart attack this morning, following our third of several overnights this week. We held a somber moment of silence, then processed to start shooting yet another 13 hour night," alleged one anonymous user.

Another story from just a day ago shows the impact long working hours are having on the health of crew members. "I have regularly asked my doctor to prescribe antibiotics for UTIs that I have from not being able to use the bathroom frequently enough. Got the idea from a female stills photographer who has done the same," wrote another worker.

One recent post told an anecdote of a crew member being forced to continue filming until the moment a storm hit, after they raised alarms twice beforehand. "We shot up until it began and had to wrap out in a massive snow/sleet storm in 35 degree weather that felt like 28 degrees. A camera assistant fell while carrying the camera to the truck and had to go to physical therapy for months and had to modify the way they work for the rest of their career to ease the pain from the injury," they wrote.

Other stories included claims of leaving projects after not being awarded time off for a mastectomy and falling asleep at the wheel after work.

Many of the stories shared to the popular Instagram account express similar concerns to that of the actual IATSE, and the reasons staff are considering a strike—intense production schedules following pandemic pauses, a lack of rest periods and low pay.

On September 20, the union made its members aware that they would be holding a vote on whether to strike following failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

If IATSE votes to strike, a multitude of film and television projects will be affected, with over 150,000 industry members a part of the union, but the union says it's necessary for "change that is long overdue in this industry."

It's accounts like those seen on IATSE Stories that are making people show they are no longer willing to stand for what's been apparently going on for a long time, members told the Hollywood Reporter. "Because of social media, people are really saying: 'Oh, i'm not the only one going through this'," a Motion Pictures Editors Guild member told the outlet.

Newsweek has contacted IATSE and IATSE Stories for comment.

Film set
A file photo of a film set. Getty Images