At the time of writing this post, the weather in Los Angeles is going into its fourth week of dreariness. The atmosphere in the entertainment industry mirrors the gloominess, with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) already six weeks into their strike and members of the largest performers union in the world, the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), recently voting to authorize a strike should their negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) break down.
So what for the independent producer? Go forth into production and risk SAG calling a strike? Or push production and pin a random date in the calendar, hoping that, if the proverbial hits the fan, it will all be over by the chosen, yet random, date?
Whilst PLF's entertainment attorneys do not have a crystal ball, we are keeping abreast of all developments on behalf of our clients. We acknowledge that clients are weary, cautious, and confused in these uncertain times. Understandably so.
In sum, we advise caution to our union production clients. There is talk that if other unions (i.e., SAG) go on strike, the unions will consider waivers for productions on a case-by-case basis. However, waivers would only be considered once a strike is called, and there is no guarantee that once a strike is called, a waiver will be granted. In any case, films in production would need to hold, at least temporarily, whilst their waiver request is considered. And, even if a waiver is granted, what will a waiver-holding production do when picketers turn up to picket their SAG-authorized production? Moreover, what will a card-carrying SAG actor do if they are working on a production that has been granted a waiver when that actor is being called out online, in the press, or from the picket lines for working while their colleagues are not?
The WGA Strike in a Nutshell
Members of the WGA have been on strike since May 2, 2023, after the WGA's contract with the AMPTP expired. According to the WGA, the strike is “(D)riven in large part by the shift to streaming, writers are finding their work devalued in every part of the business. While company profits have remained high and spending on content has grown, writers are falling behind.”
The (Possible) SAG-AFTRA Strike in a Nutshell
On June 30, SAG-AFTRA's agreement with AMPTP will expire. On June 7, SAG and AMPTP entered into negotiations for a new agreement. And, SAG went into those negotiations not messing around, having balloted their membership for pre-authorization to call a strike should negotiations with the AMPTP break down (a whopping 97% of those who voted gave SAG their blessing to call a strike if need be). Tick, Tock, watch this space.
IndieWire wrote a great piece providing cautionary anecdotes that all producers should consider - "Indie Film Shutdown Looms as Insurers Grow Wary of SAG Strike Risk".