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SAG-AFTRA, WGA Strikes Hit Home in Chicago

At Cinespace Studios in Chicago's North Lawndale, home to shows like “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD,” guard shacks are empty and production trailers sit in the parking lots, which could cost the city millions

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The actors raising picket signs Friday morning in Chicago's Daley Plaza weren’t playing a role, they were living a storyline none of them said they would have chosen.

Both SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America are on strike and are appealing directly to their audience in the nation’s third largest TV and filmmaking market.

 “We are here to fight until we get our next contract,” said Eric Chaudron, the executive director of SAG-AFTRA Chicago.

Among the actors attending the rally was Sean Astin, the Lord of the Rings actor whose mother, Patty Duke, was once president of the Screen Actors Guild.

“They can’t make it without us...they don’t have anything if they don’t have us,” he told the crowd.

The actor’s Union, SAG-AFTRA has been on strike for 21 days. The Writer’s Guild of America is coming up on 100. Their combined strikes are idling the once booming film and TV production industry in Chicago.

In all, the state of Illinois says it had a record year last year with almost $700 million spent in film and TV-related expenditures, along with more than 15,000 jobs.

But at Cinespace Studios in Chicago's North Lawndale, home to shows like “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD,” guard shacks are empty and production trailers sit in the parking lots, which could cost the city millions. The strikes are also impacting the technicians, grips, caterers, and others whose livelihoods depend on movies being made and TV shows being shot in Chicago.

Amy Morton, who plays the role of Trudy Platt on "Chicago PD," is a regular at SAG-AFTRA events. She expressed her frustration to fellow union members at the rally.

"We knew going in that the actor’s life wasn’t going to be easy, but give me a break, shouldn’t it at least be respected?” she said.

While union members gathered both in Chicago and in Los Angeles, the lack of content may be having some effect.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers called for new talks Friday with the WGA.

“This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry,” the organization said in a release, “and we take that very seriously. Our only playbook is getting people back to work."

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