Can the film and television industries handle another strike, this time from the actors unions: SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)? No way; after the three-month-plus Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike against the studios and producers, the entertainment industries still haven’t recovered.
One caveat; as a filmmaker, I have worked with SAG in the past, employing members for a few movie projects. I have never had a problem with the union, and they were always extremely helpful in securing SAG talent for my films.
Here are the details: SAG and AFTRA’s contracts with the studios and producers (AMPTP, Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) expire June 30, 2008 (yes, you read that right – 4 days from today), and there has been zero progress. The issues at hand are contract negotiations including key issues new media and DVD royalties.
There is another big issue which has kept the two unions from sitting back down with the AMPTP: fighting between the two. AFTRA has a potential deal they want to solidify by July, but SAG isn’t happy with their terms, and so there is a major battle happening between leadership and members, and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of progress in the past few weeks.
Unlike the WGA strike, which mostly affected a lot of new productions without scripts from moving forward but allowing existing projects with scripts to continue shooting, an actors’ strike will absolutely paralyze the industry. No one can work, and a high number of movies and TV shows feature union actors, so everything will be shut down. Not to mention that actors won’t do interviews to promote upcoming movies, which will hurt the box office and affect next month’s huge San Diego Comic-Con.
So how does this affect current projects, or those in the immediate future? ComingSoon.net posted an article a few weeks ago detailing what’s happening with movies. Many films had to start by February or March so they could be wrapped before the potential strike, otherwise they’d have to wait until after a resolution is made – and many big budget movies have already been shelved. Other films, like The Da Vinci Code‘s prequel, Angels and Demons, has forged ahead despite the risk of a strike. The movie was already delayed by the WGA strike, so the producers were determined to get the film into production.
I think it’s a bit risky to try and forge ahead with a production, even if there is a planned break if a strike occurs, much like what the fourth Terminator and second Transformers are planning. In fact, Transformers 2‘s crew will focus on visual effects and some second unit work (except stunts, since stuntmen are covered by SAG) if the strike happens.
I mentioned indie movies, but let’s talk about what SAG has done to protect the films and producers. SAG has offered waivers to around 300 indie producers, so if a strike does happen, they can continue shooting and get their films done.
What about TV? As we all know with the WGA strike, scripted shows went off the air by December, while mid-season premieres had only a handful of episodes air before they ran out. 24 didn’t even premiere this year, and won’t until January 2009! The good news for that show is that they had a significant number of episodes shot last year, and when resumed production in the spring, so the show will go on and air all 24 episodes, according to reports.
Many other shows have episodes already in the can (shot), and if a strike occurs, they will probably air some in the fall, then air new episodes in the spring, once a potential actors’ strike ends. Other TV networks have planned on possibly moving fall premieres to the spring, if the strike occurs.
One last thing that both the WGA strike and the potential actors’ strike has affected: very few new deals are being made right now, because studios and producers are nervous. This will slow down future movie and TV projects from moving forward, regardless of an actors’ strike.
My opinion is simple: I hope an extension with enough time will be set so SAG and AFTRA can come together, then work with the AMPTP to strike a deal that everyone is happy with. Keep the entertainment industry rolling! The WGA strike cost Hollywood an estimated $2 billion and nearly 30,000 film and TV industry-related jobs, so let’s all hope a new strike can be averted. I’ll keep you up-to-date on all matters of this potential strike.