Drew Waters and Erin Bethea are both working actors who met on a movie set in 2012. It's a Hollywood love story in real life, but the couple decided to leave Los Angeles and head for the "Hollywood of the South" in Atlanta.
"One day we looked at each other and I was like, 'I think it might be time to go to Georgia for my acting career,' which is a sentence I never thought I would say," Bethea told Scripps News.
Once in the Peach State, Waters and Bethea got married and opened their own production company, Argentum Entertainment. Then it was in spring of 2021 — amid a worldwide pandemic — that Bethea fulfilled her dream of opening Greenlight Acting Studios.
"Just out of the desire to offer actors the opportunity to continue their personal growth, even in the midst of a worldwide shutdown," she said.
Fast forward to 2023, and actors again are experiencing a different type of shutdown — this one self-imposed.
SAG-AFTRA union members now walk the picket line, demanding a new contract with better pay, safeguards from artificial intelligence, and more residuals from streaming services like Netflix and Disney.
"We start out doing one, two, three, five jobs, trying to keep up with our love and passion for this," Waters said. "And then to see it exploited everywhere, and we have no gain from it."
Meanwhile, the strike doesn't just keep actors off the set. They're also not allowed to participate in auditions or rehearsals, which means places like Greenlight Studios can't produce audition tapes for actors until the strike is over.
During this time, Waters and Bethea are both encouraging actors to find other ways to keep their skills sharp, like taking classes or participating in student films and musical theater.
Bethea says the strike isn't just about the present, but about protecting the future of the industry that keeps entertainment alive.
"It's also about taking the necessary step back," she said. "So that the next decade and generation of actors that come after you are set up for success."
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