Core crew members for comedian Ellen DeGeneres‘ long-running daytime talk show are furious with producers over perceived misdeeds during the coronavirus outbreak. According to a report from Variety, the approximately 30 people who make up the show’s stage crew only received vague responses about updates on the show’s production and their employment status from producers for multiple weeks and were later informed they would be taking massive pay cuts.
Variety‘s Matt Donnelly broke the story, citing insiders affiliated with the series. Per his report, crew members are also angry the show has hired a non-union tech company to help DeGeneres film her show remotely from her home in California.
The last studio episodes of the show were shot the week of March 9 and crew members were reportedly paid in full for the weeks of March 16 — when the Warner Bros. lot was shut down in response to COVID-19 — as well as March 30, upon return from a previously scheduled break. However, Donnelly wrote that crew members informed him it was radio silence from the higher levels of production throughout the process, with little information being offered on the occasions that calls were actually answered. On April 2, the stage crew was then blindsided by news that a remote set had been built at DeGeneres’ residence, only learning about it from social media. They were later told to brace for a 60-percent reduction in pay, in spite of the fact that new shows are in active production.
When asked to comment about the situation, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television — the syndicated show’s distributor — gave a statement to Variety that did little to explain the lack of transparency.
“Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind.”
In regards to the hiring of Key Code Media, the Burbank-based audiovisual company that producers contracted to run the technical aspects of DeGeneres’ remote show, a WB spokesperson cited social distancing as the reason for using the company.
“Due to social distancing requirements, technical changes in the way the show is produced had to be made to comply with city ordinances and public health protocols.”
For her part, DeGeneres received backlash for making a joke about quarantine, but expressed love and support for the people who normally handle the day-to-day production of her show when it returned to air on April 7. However, those crew members have reportedly been treated differently from people in similar positions with other shows. Variety reported that stagehands for Jimmy Kimmel Live! were paid out of pocket by Kimmel during his show’s hiatus and have since received full employment rates from ABC. Crew members of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Desus & Mero are also said to be receiving full pay.