So... Hollywood may or may not be on strike by late June 2008. In anticipation of it actually happening, studios are rushing (or axing) a whole lot of films, and this could affect what we'll see on the big screen over the next two or three years. I won't get into the "politics" of the potential strike, or even the public reaction (think of the sports strikes over the last two decades). Instead I'll look at the recent past and what may be in store for us at the local gigaplex.
The potential strike is coming from three major unions: the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the Director's Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). It could come from any one of these guilds, or all of them, and right now June 30, 2008 seems to be the deadline for contracts with the guilds and the studios.
The guilds have contracts with studios to use union crews and cast to work on films, and for the most part, things are quiet. Contracts are re-upped, royalties are made, and everyone's happy. In the 1980s, the WGA weren't happy, so they went on strike. I remember, as a young kid, that David Letterman went on the air amongst the reruns, since no new shows could be written by WGA members, and I remember no one laughing because Letterman didn't have a team of writers to make him funny.
Fast-forward to 2000/2001... the WGA and SAG are ready to negotiate and threats of a big ol' strike are on the table. Hollywood quickly greenlit a bunch of films and television shows (reality TV isn't affected by it, though currently one of the deals the WGA wants is for reality TV writers to be covered by the union), and though a contract was reached and a strike was staved off, Hollywood production came to a grinding halt, more or less, for about two years.
What the studios did was use budgets from the next two years to finance a ton of films, rushing many into production with scripts that could've used a little more time in the oven. People stayed busy, and if a film wasn't done by the potential cut-off date, it wouldn't be finished. If the film was delayed before production, it was killed.
And then the long post-production period began, and movies spent time being cut and having FX done. Release dates were staggered and most people who weren't in post-production and marketing were effectively out of jobs. I believe it was late 2003/early 2004 when we saw studio production get back up to full-steam capacity. Keep in mind though, other films went into production after the cut-off date when the studios and guilds came to an agreement, but production was down.
I've detailed these events from recent history because this is what is happening right now, regardless of whether a strike happens or not. Although I believe a strike won't happen and that the studios and guilds will come to an agreement, I guarantee that we'll still be seeing some half-baked movies coming out over the next couple of years, likely starting fall 2008. In this case history truly will give an indication of what will play out.
Here's a sample of films being rushed into production (or having their start dates moved up):
1. JLA: though Brandon Routh (Superman) and Christian Bale (Batman) won't be onboard, this script and start date came out of nowhere and strong rumors indicate that director George Miller (the Mad Max movies) will be using the motion-capture (mo-cap) techniques to bring the film to life. I think this might be cool and I wouldn't be surprised to see Routh and Bale's likenesses used. Beowulf and James Cameron's upcoming Avatar are using these techniques.
2. The Fast and the Furious 4: Um, why? Vin Diesel, once the hottest star in Hollywood, may be onboard.
3. Wolverine: The start date was pushed up to November 2008.
4. Punisher 2: This may have more to do with the Lionsgate property license to produce a sequel expiring more than the strike. Then again, Tom Jane did drop out, citing script and production problems.
5. Thor: Director Michael Vaughn was announced to helm the film back in August 2007 when his Stardust film opened (too bad it tanked soon after). Rumors that they're looking for a teenaged Thor still haven't been confirmed or denied, but other reports state that the film is being rushed into production early next year to beat the potential strikes.
6. G.I. Joe: I hear this is going into production quickly, due to the strikes. I also hear the script is very weak, and American fans are outraged that Joe won't be a "real American hero," and instead will be an internationally-based group. What?!
6. Shadow of the Bat (Batman Begins 3): This is mostly rumor, but a few sites were saying the third Batman film may come out as early as the end of 2009. If true, my speculation is they may have been shooting The Dark Knight along with the third one at the same time, a la the second and third Back to the Future, Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean films.
That's just a small sample. Here is a short list of the "casualties," so-named because they were killed or delayed due to scheduling issues from the potential strike:
1. Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Red State: Kevin Smith's next comedy and horror films, respectively. On his MySpace blog, Smith talks about how Zack lost Rosario Dawson due to the potential strikes (the script needed another re-write--good, not rushing into production, though the delay caused her to jump ship to another film and by the time she comes back, it'll be too late to start a film and have it done by June 30); Red State is in the same boat, though I also hear it's a dark, depressing script. Zack may get made, but will it happen before June 30? If the strikes don't happen, will studios have the money to get it made in the next year?
2. Pompeii: I reported here that director Roman Polanski left due to scheduling conflicts. The movie was bumped back to next summer, so it was allegedly canned due to the potential strikes.
3. Transformers 2: Michael Bay has said on his blog that Paramount hasn't discussed much about the sequel in the past few weeks, and he may have to take a year off before starting again, because of the strikes.
There are more, but those are the four films that I can at least confirm are being affected by the union contract negotiations. We'll keep you up-to-date on the happenings of the potential strikes, but remember: Whether they happen or not, movie production will slow or stop over the next couple of years, and many films will be affected by being rushed into production or scrapped completely, all because of the potential for a strike. The cut-off date for all this is June 30, 2008, but to get a film into production and wrapped by that date, it needs to start anywhere between now and March 2008 or so.
If you want more info and background on what's happening with all this right now you can visit the following sites:
The Movie Blog's explanation of why there may be a strike