My MEAA Story: Merryn Schofield
Merryn Schofield is a freelance screen art department worker.
I studied at the Design Centre in Enmore and managed to get a few short film jobs here and there, but got my break by being an art department attachment on a TV series called Here Come the Habibs in 2015.
From there, my career blossomed when I got work at Home & Away and then onto other film and TV jobs. One of the highlights of my career would probably be having the opportunity to work on The Drover’s Wife with Leah Purcell. We filmed down in the Snowy Mountains for about four weeks, and it was just beautiful country and a great crew, both challenging and rewarding. Another highlight would be having the opportunity to work for six months in Brisbane, which is where we reside now.
To be honest, it took a while to come around to joining MEAA because there’s a lot of scepticism about the union. However, the more I worked the more I realised the power that they can hold around negotiations, contracts and working rights. My partner is a big believer in unions and hence encouraged me to join and be more active.
Studios and production companies continue to exploit us and take advantage of crew. They are doing this by taking away off-set lunches, capping tool and equipment allowances and keep wages low. It’s important to join the fight so that studios and production companies stop stamping on our working rights. The more people who join the union, the more power we will have during the negotiation periods.
Recently, I was part of the campaign against NBCUniversal/Matchbox, who were refusing to provide termination payouts after our production was suspended due to the strikes in the US. We put together an open letter to the producers that got about 500 signatures in less than a week, which is an amazing result! I’ve also joined a rally outside Village Roadshow Studios in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild strikes in the US.
We live inside the success of past struggles by previous union members. Unions across the world are so important because without them we wouldn’t have things such as paid overtime, pay increases, injury compensation, sick leave, holiday pay, anti-discrimination laws, etc. Every human achievement is collective, even in the most aggressive corporations.
I am inspired by this insight by Sam Wallman [from Our Members Be Unlimited: A Comic About Workers & Their Unions]: “The strangest, most special thing about unions is that they have ever even managed to exist at all.” It’s so true!