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    WGA SAG-AFTRA Double Strike: Where It’s At, What’s Next, And Resources

    It was a record breaking box office weekend for AMC Entertainment and IMAX with the dueling releases of Oppenheimer and Barbie, but the SAG-AFTRA WGA double strike goes on without any significant movement towards resolution. 

    This is the first time since 1960 there’s been a double strike. Ronald Reagan led the Screen Actors Guild through the strike and Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman – president of talent agency MCA Inc. and later Universal Pictures – was helping to make deals and bring people back to work. 

    Today there’s no Reagan, although it was reported that Tom Cruise tried to play a part in negotiations before SAG-AFTRA went on strike, and there’s no Wasserman trying to bring both sides together. 

    Though there is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who yesterday made an "historic" seven figure donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Relief Fund. 

    What’s shutdown, rules, exemptions, and resources

    There’s a long list (paywall) of movies and TV shows which have shutdown, and a quick Google search of “productions shutdown” will return daily new results of productions halting. 

    While many on the production accounting side likely don’t have to worry (too much) about adhering to SAG-AFTRA or WGA rules, for those with side hustles or potentially an online influencer type of presence, it could be helpful to be aware of dos and don’ts. 

    This is especially true with SAG-AFTRA making moves to enlist more online content creators.

    So it’s beneficial to be aware that SAG-AFTRA can bar non-member social media influencers from guild admission if they promote for studios during the strike. This has also led to “.. a number of content creators to cancel their planned promotions with big films like Barbie, reject partnerships and decline invitations to red-carpet walks” according to Forbes.

    Variety put together a solid Q&A for what can and cannot be done, and SAG-AFTRA has an official list of what members are allowed to do during the strike, which you can find here, as well as a comprehensive FAQ for signatory Indie Producers here.

    For non-signatory Indie producers, you can apply here.

    Also, SAG-AFTRA is granting waivers for Indie Producers, and you can find the full and updating list of current productions which have signed interim agreements allowing them to resume filming, here

    One example of such a waiver was granted for the show The Chosen, because it was considered “a truly independent” production. 

    One area where it gets tricky is for Canadian Indie Producers who are hoping to get waivers to get US actors working in Canada under Global Rule One. 

    What’s still on?

    TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey says “TIFF is on,” and the IATSE and the Broadway League reached a tentative agreement on Pink Contract, keeping 1,500 union members from potentially striking.

    You can also go to movies without fear of crossing picket lines. So if you didn't see “Barbenheimer” over the weekend there's no need to skip seeing the films, as the unions say it's OK to go to the movies.

    Where things stand

    A stunt performer set himself on fire at a SAG strike rally on Monday in Georgia, which should give some indication of how things are going. And no, he wasn't hurt, a fire safety team was nearby. Of the stunt he said, "We're tired of being burned."

    Despite Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra recently commenting last week, “we want to go back to the table and resolve this issue quickly,” both sides remain at an impasse. The divisions run deep between SAG-AFTRA, WGA and the AMPTP. 

    At stake are major disputes over issues with AI (here’s why AI is such a hot button issue) and residuals with WGA SAG-AFTRA pushing for fair contracts around the above which better fit into the modern streaming and distributed market, and AMPTP countering that they offered $1 billion in increases, which SAG-AFTRA rejected. 

    When SAG joined the strike, AMPTP commented on July 13th that the, “Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands”

    According to Deadline, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito sent an email to staff which read, “We recognize how much you’ve all done on your specific projects and it’s disappointing when carefully laid plans have to shift, but constant change is the nature of the production business, and our teams are no stranger to unexpected challenges and rising to meet them,” D’Esposito and Feige wrote. “We deeply appreciate all your efforts to make the best of the situation, and we can all hope that a new agreement will be finalized soon so we can resume the great work we have in process.”

    Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has weighed in, but avoided taking sides. Bass said, "LA is at an historic inflection point “for our city as our entertainment industry experiences economic pressure and business uncertainty. A fair and equitable solution must be reached.” 

    On the opposite side of the spectrum are some politicians like Adam Schiff and AOC who have publicly shown support for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA by showing up on the picket lines.

    Over the weekend Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin shared his view on the strike saying, "I joined the WGA in 1986 and have been through several strikes with them," he went on. "We made gains in all of them, but some issues are more important than others... and this year's strike is the most important of my lifetime.

    Martin added he believes, “The strike will be long and bitter.”

    Impact, cost, and future

    The double strike impacts nearly every segment of the entertainment industry from writers to actors, to crew, production accountants, facilities, mid-sized PR firms, and more.

    It could even cost the economy billions of dollars.

    The impact on writers, actors, and many of those on the opposite side of the studios is that they’re facing serious financial hardships as a result of not being paid for months on end. 

    On the studio side, according to Variety one media CEO says the production shutdowns could be costing some studios as much as $600,000 per week to “hold on to soundstages packed with sets and costumes” for big-budget projects like “Gladiator 2” and “Deadpool 3.”

    The New York Times says (paywall) if these big budget projects continue to sit idle “until roughly through Labor Day, then there could be release delays in 2024 of six months.” As a result the 2024 box office could definitely be impacted.

    Studios are still coming off the effects of the pandemic, and the double strike is a potential big blow (paywall) domestically as well as globally.

    FilmLA says Los Angeles on-location filming during the strike has plunged to the lowest levels since the early days of Covid, and the Georgia movie industry is being hit hard (paywall) along with other states which have seen a spike in TV and film production in recent years.

    Comic-con couldn’t escape the strike, with even the luxury car service losing studio rides.

    And it could be noted that having politicians on the red carpet instead of stars, which as shown recently at the Barbie premiere, isn’t a very sustainable alternative to star power. 

    The impact is already being felt overseas with businesses that rely on Hollywood productions to operate, such as UK studio space facilities.

    When the double strike does eventually come to an end, the annual cost of SAG-AFTRA, DGA, WGA contracts when renewed could end up adding $450-$600 million a year in cost according to Moody’s estimates.

    As of the time of writing, there continues to be little sign of movement from either side with a SAG-AFTRA negotiator saying this week that the strike may go on until 2024

    Know somebody that needs help?

    For yourself, family, or friends who might be impacted and need support, here's some resources:

    Upskilling during downtime

    • LinkedIn Learning has a multitude of film production courses available for LinkedIn Premium members.
    • At GreenSlate, we offer a host of regular webinars on how to make the most out of using our software and helping you level up your skills. 
    • We’ve also put together some essential tips to help you land your next production accounting job. 
    Topics: Industry News

    Chris C. Anderson

    VP, Head of Content at GreenSlate

    July 26, 2023

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