Producers of 'Biggest Loser' plan to bring in replacement workers this week, show's DP says [update]
[UPDATE: IATSE said Sunday the union and its various production locals planned to stage a large rally on Monday at the King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas where "The Bigest Loser" is produced to "face-strike breakers crossing their picket line."]
The labor dispute between crew members and producers involved in reality TV series "The Biggest Loser" could get ugly.
The producers plan to bring in replacement workers to resume production of the NBC series next week, according to the show's director of photography.
"The companies that produce Biggest Loser have decided to replace everyone with scabs and try and limp along as a non-union production," Vanessa Holtgrewe, director of photography for "The Biggest Loser," wrote in an e-mail circulated to colleagues and obtained by The Times. "These companies, 3Ball and Reveille, who have produced union shows in the past, are willing to fire 50 to 60 people that have worked for them for years."
Representatives of NBC and Reveille have declined to comment on the dispute and were not immediately available to respond to Holtgrewe's statement.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees announced Wednesday it was mounting a strike against the show, saying producers have resisted efforts by the union to secure union benefits for the show's crew members, from makeup artists to grips and camera operators. The crew walked off the job Monday, shutting down production of the popular NBC show.
The union, which this week picketed outside the Calabasas Ranch where the show is produced and outside production offices in Redondo Beach, plans further protests next week.
"Biggest Loser is the last big reality show standing that is not a union show," Holtgrewe continued in her widely circulated e-mail. "Survivor, The Bachelor, American Idol, Project Runway, Top Model...these are all union shows. We've been using union members' expertise, safety knowledge, and skill sets for many seasons, without paying the union for it. And now the check has come due."
Holtgrewe added that she hoped the dispute would end soon. "As the head of the camera department, I feel a responsibility to my crew, and I want us all to return to shooting overweight people sweating, crying, and shedding pounds. I believe in the change that this show can inspire within people, and right now it is very inspiring to me."
-- Richard Verrier