1/8 Hollywood in the Striket: A Comprehensive Guide to SAG-AFTRA’s ‘Interim Agreements’
The ongoing Hollywood strikes involving actors and writers have led to the suspension of a majority of Hollywood film and television projects. This includes highly anticipated works like the sequel to “Gladiator” and the live-action adaptation of “Lilo & Stitch.” However, amidst this situation, select independent film and TV productions have managed to continue their work by striking deals with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). These agreements have paved the way for these productions to employ union actors even during the strike.
This strategic move, as asserted by the union leadership, is considered a crucial tactic in their negotiation efforts. Nonetheless, it has sparked mixed opinions and confusion among those on the picket lines. Many find it puzzling to witness prominent figures such as Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey continuing to work while they persevere through the strike.
To provide clarity, let’s delve into the details of these arrangements known as “interim agreements” that are enabling specific Hollywood productions to remain in progress despite the ongoing strike.
2/8 What falls under the Hollywood Strikers agreement?
Amidst the ongoing strike by actors against studios and streaming platforms represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a notable lineup including major film studios such as Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros., as well as television networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, alongside streaming giants like Netflix, Apple TV+, and Amazon, negotiations are at the heart of the matter.
While this strike has resulted in the suspension of various projects, it’s worth noting that a range of independent production companies exist that stand apart from the AMPTP’s fold. These independent entities have been granted permission to proceed with filming, provided they adhere to terms initially presented by the union during negotiation discussions. These terms encompass crucial aspects, including an 11% increase in the minimum wage rate, assurances regarding revenue sharing, and safeguards pertaining to the use of artificial intelligence.
Despite the fact that these terms were turned down by the larger studios and streaming services affiliated with the AMPTP, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) recognized a willingness among certain independent producers and smaller film studios, such as Neon and A24, to embrace these conditions in order to sustain their filming endeavors.
SAG-AFTRA’s executive director and chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, emphasized the significance of these interim agreements, highlighting that they validate the practicality and attractiveness of the terms initially proposed by the union during negotiations with the AMPTP. These agreements stand as a testament to the feasibility and desirability of the proposed terms for producers within the industry.
3/8 What about the writers?
Unlike the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA), which has chosen not to extend similar agreements during their ongoing strike, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has made a noteworthy adjustment in their approach. In an effort to exhibit solidarity and harmonize strategies, SAG-AFTRA recently announced a change in direction. Accordingly, interim agreements will no longer be extended to productions that fall under the purview of the WGA contract.
This decision has implications for a portion of productions that initially received such agreements; approximately 15 to 20% of these projects were under the WGA contract. Importantly, the agreements already granted to these specific projects will remain intact; however, there will be no further extensions of such agreements for new productions.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, conveyed that this adjustment aligns with advice from the WGA and is designed to facilitate their strike strategy. He also emphasized that this modification does not compromise the effectiveness of SAG-AFTRA’s approach. In his words, it represents a mutually beneficial alteration that contributes positively to the situation.
4/8 Which productions have been granted permission to proceed?
Over 200 productions have received the green light to continue their operations under these arrangements. Among these are noteworthy titles like the Rebel Wilson comedy “Bride Hard,” an untitled project helmed by Guy Ritchie, the film “Death of a Unicorn,” starring Jenna Ortega and Paul Rudd, the gripping Matthew McConaughey thriller “The Rivals of the Amziah King,” and David Lowery’s captivating musical drama “Mother Mary,” featuring the talents of Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel.
SAG-AFTRA’s website serves as an evolving repository for the updated list of these permitted productions. Interestingly, while certain projects have been granted exemptions, some are still choosing to pause their activities for reasons tied to optics and demonstrating solidarity. A prime example is Viola Davis, who decided to step away from her role in the film “G20,” wherein she portrays the U.S. president navigating a G20 Summit disrupted by terrorists. Despite the waiver granted for “G20,” Davis expressed her view that it wouldn’t be fitting for the production to proceed amid the ongoing strike. Notably, “G20,” although independently funded, had plans for distribution through Amazon Studios, a member of the AMPTP.
5/8 What is the SAG-AFTRA’s strategy?
Crabtree-Ireland highlighted a multitude of advantages that the interim agreement brings to members of SAG-AFTRA. “It unequivocally demonstrates that the terms we are advocating for in negotiations are not only rational but also practical,” he shared during an interview with The Associated Press. He emphasized the support garnered from numerous independent producers who find these terms acceptable and are willing to operate under them.
Moreover, the interim agreement extends several advantages to both crews and actors. By enabling them to engage in work, it helps alleviate some of the financial strains linked to the ongoing strike. Additionally, it’s believed that this approach could be catching the attention of major studios.
Sheryl Lee Ralph, an Emmy-winning actor from “Abbott Elementary,” expressed her agreement with this strategy. She emphasized the intelligence behind the interim agreements, as they maintain ongoing dialogues with smaller-scale producers, not just the major players. Ralph noted that this dynamic could potentially encourage larger studios to consider the feasibility of adopting a similar approach, given the success seen at this level.
6/8 Why is it controversial?
For certain members standing resolutely on the picket lines while carefully managing their finances, the situation doesn’t present itself as a cohesive collective work stoppage when prominent figures like Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey continue to engage in filmmaking.
Comedian Sarah Silverman found herself particularly perturbed by this apparent loophole and took to Instagram to express her views on the matter. After discussions with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, she tempered her initial frustration. Silverman acknowledged that both sides recognized that the waivers could have both positive and negative implications.
Crabtree-Ireland admitted, “I do understand that some members feel like it creates a confusing message or that it makes it not as clear of a line.” However, he emphasized that the core focus remains unwavering: “we’re all very clear on the fact that AMPTP companies are the companies we’re on strike against.” This underscores the shared understanding that the strike targets the entities belonging to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
7/8 What if an AMPTP company buys a film for distribution?
Several productions hailing from smaller studios, such as A24 and Neon, possess their own distribution channels, facilitating their access to global audiences. However, not all of these projects have this advantage. Many of them often opt to sell their content to companies affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), who subsequently manage their release in theaters or on their respective streaming platforms. An apt illustration of this scenario is the film “G20,” which had previously secured a distribution deal with Amazon.
While acknowledging this situation as a “concern,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also acknowledges it as a “reality we accept as a possibility.” He recognizes the potential for these independent films to be acquired by platforms like Netflix, a development that could yield positive outcomes. This is due to the inclusion of a streaming revenue sharing proposition within the interim agreement.
Crabtree-Ireland also underscores that any company acquiring an interim-agreement film at prominent fall festivals like Venice, Telluride, and Toronto—a prime opportunity for AMPTP studios to secure projects—will be obligated to fulfill the residuals stipulated by the contract for the performers. This provision ensures that compensation is aligned with contractual obligations.
8/8 What about actors promoting completed projects?
SAG-AFTRA is currently in the process of assessing applications that aim to enable performers to promote independent films at the upcoming fall festivals. Despite potential limitations on actor availability, these festivals are moving forward with numerous high-profile world premieres.
An example of this is Luc Besson’s “DogMan,” set to debut at the Venice Film Festival. Recently, the film was granted an interim agreement that permits its cast, including Caleb Landry Jones, to actively participate in promoting the film through red carpet appearances and interviews. Similarly, several other independent films are slated for presentation at the Venice Festival. These include Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” featuring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” starring Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz, Ava DuVernay’s “Origin,” Michel Franco’s “Memory,” with Jessica Chastain, and Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” featuring Glen Powell. In theory, each of these films could potentially receive the special status that allows their cast members to engage in promotional activities during the festival.