LOS ANGELES — THE word from United States film and television technicians is that the studios' trend toward hiring foreign workers is pushing them out of work.
Some US technicians see the hiring of mostly nonunion cinematographers, costume designers, art directors, and makeup artists as an attack on organized labor and a break with the tradition of promoting from within. Others see it as big business cutting costs, like Ford building cars in Mexico.
The studios say film production has become an international business and producers should have access to an expanding talent pool.
New visa rules give the local unions a small say in who can - and can't - come in.
"We're trying to keep American jobs for Americans," says Carole Frazier, executive director of the Costume Designers' Guild, where unemployment runs 50 percent. "I was just able to stop a British designer from working at Sony Pictures. In this day and age when jobs are so scarce, we have to fight for everything."
Ms. Frazier points out the nationalities of costume designers on recent films for example: "The Cotton Club" Italian, on "Patriot Games" Australian, on "Batman Returns" British, and on the upcoming "Bram Stoker's Dracula" Japanese, she says.
"We are not being xenophobic," says Bruce Doering, director of employee relations at the guild. "We have hundreds of [cinematographers] who are foreign-born."
While no exact figures are available, various estimates suggest as many as half of all films employ at least one foreign worker. Some independent films use foreigners in almost every job.