By Hunter Via

I recently traveled to Capitol Hill with CreativeFuture and my team from the FX show Snowfall to speak with Members of Congress. As a film and television editor, I’d hoped to give our elected officials a more complete picture of the growing constituency working in entertainment— one whose employment depends on sensible policy decisions and the strength of copyright laws.

Entertainment represents a vital, driving sector of today’s American workforce. The core copyright industries account for almost 7% of our national exports, generating more revenue per year than pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, and agriculture. Together, they comprise a $1.2 trillion annual business representing 5.5 million jobs across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Most in those jobs aren’t studio heads, movie stars, or CEOs. They’re hardworking Americans like you and me – the little guys. As an editor, I’m one of dozens of names appearing in a movie or television show’s credits. On red carpets, I go largely unnoticed. That’s okay — the cameras aren’t there for me. But I know that my job is just as important as any.

Speaking with policymakers, I took the time to explain what being an editor means — the job’s importance in finishing episodes of everyone’s favorite TV shows, and what it’s like to be part of the core team bringing a creative vision to life.

After earning a pair of degrees in communications and production, I moved to Los Angeles to find a job. I worked my way up the ladder on shows like The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, and The Walking Dead. At every stage, I’ve relied on the strength of the entertainment economy to continue building my career.

Traditionally, the creative communities and policymakers have had a mutually beneficial relationship. Copyright protections ensure people like me actually get paid for the work we do and the creative industries become a significant revenue source for local economies.

Explaining this to Members of Congress, I referenced my experience working on acclaimed director John Singleton’s new TV series Snowfall on FX. It’s no secret that California — where Snowfall is shot — benefits tremendously from entertainment. California’s creative industries employ over 191,000 workers — the economic output of this regional workforce exceeds $62 billion per year.

Other states aren’t lagging far behind. Louisiana, Washington, and Minnesota have jumpstarted their economies by embracing creativity. Georgia ranks behind only California and New York in terms of television and film production. In 2015, $7 billion went directly to Georgia’s towns and cities; in October 2016, 33 new productions launched in the state, filling thousands of positions with local hires. The impact has been so great that the prestigious Pinewood Studios — home to legendary filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese — opened a state-of-the-art facility on 700 Georgia acres.

I, too, learned something new from my Capitol Hill conversations: powerful entities that oppose copyright protections are growing and they speak in sound bites about the issue – claiming that copyright stifles innovation.

One of these entities, Google, receives 900 million notices a year about copyright-infringing material available on its platforms. If creatives who own copyrighted material tell Google 900,000,000 times annually to take it down, imagine the millions illegally enjoying our content!

I can talk to hundreds of policymakers, but I need your help to truly level the playing field. This fight is going to take everything we have — from informing the public about what creative industries contribute to society, to shifting away from blasé attitudes enabling widespread piracy.

Change starts with education. We must teach kids that stealing movies, music, television shows, books, and photography with the click of a mouse isn’t a victimless crime – it hurts real people. We need to call out friends and loved ones who think accessing stolen content is okay. We need to connect with young creatives — the future editors, grips, filmmakers, musicians, and writers who make up tomorrow’s creative voices — to convey how the jobs they save may be their own.

But what can you do right now to help the millions of creatives like me who rely on copyright to make a living?

Join CreativeFuture – the organization that brought me to D.C. to learn about the issues and gave me the opportunity to tell my story. There are no dues – they just want your voice.

I went to D.C. because I care deeply about those of us working in film and television. I care about our ability to make a living and the health of our industry — and making sure stories that need to be told continue to be.

Snowfall is one of those stories and I’m proud to have helped craft that narrative.

My worry is that without serious copyright protections there will be fewer opportunities to produce relevant stories like Snowfall – those in which we see ourselves depicted authentically in the rich tapestry of American life.

Hunter Via is a film and television editor and a member of the Editor’s Guild, American Cinema Editors, and the Television Academy. His credits include The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Arrested Development, Preacher, Taken, and Snowfall. He has twice been nominated for the American Cinema Editors Eddie Award® and won once.