Strikes by actors and writers have halted most Hollywood film and television productions, from the “Gladiator” sequel to the “Lilo & Stitch” live-action film. However, some independent productions are still filming after reaching agreements with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) that will allow them to continue with unionized actors in middle of the strike.
It’s a move that union leaders say is an essential bargaining tactic, but one that has also proved divisive and confusing for many who are sweating in the sun protesting in the streets while movie stars like Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey continue to work.
This is what you should know about the “provisional agreements” that keep the filming of some Hollywood productions.
What are “interim agreements”?
The actors are on strike against the studios and streaming services they trade represented by the American Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The alliance includes the main movie studios (Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.), television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and streaming services.
There are numerous independent production companies that are not affiliated with the AMPTP and are allowed to film with SAG-AFTRA actors during the strike. They must agree to the terms the union last proposed during negotiations, which include a new minimum wage rate that is 11% higher than before, revenue-sharing guarantees and protections from artificial intelligence.
Those terms were rejected by studios and streaming services, but SAG-AFTRA realized that some independent producers and smaller movie studios (such as Neon and A24) were willing to agree to the terms if it meant they could continue. filming.
“The ‘provisional agreement’ provides empirical proof that the terms we have put on the table with the AMPTP are not only realistic, they are actually desirable and can be implemented by producers in this industry,” said the director. SAG-AFTRA executive and chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
What about the scriptwriters?
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has chosen not to grant similar agreements in its own strike. In an attempt to show solidarity and a strategy of synchronization, SAG-AFTRA changed its approach and said that provisional agreements would not be granted to productions under the WGA contract.
Movies and TV shows under the WGA contract include 15-20% of the productions that were awarded deals before the change, and will not be revoked, but no new ones will be awarded.
“The WGA has informed us that this amendment will help them execute their strike strategy, and we believe it does not undermine the usefulness and effectiveness of ours,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “It’s a win-win change.”
Productions that were allowed to continue
More than 200 productions have been approved so far, including a Rebel Wilson comedy “Bride Hard,” an untitled Guy Ritchie project, a film with Jenna Ortega and Paul Rudd called “Death of a Unicorn,” Matthew’s thriller McConaughey’s “The Rivals of the Amziah King” and David Lowery’s pop star film “Mother Mary,” starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel.
The list is constantly updated on the SAG-AFTRA website, but even some productions that have been granted exceptions are still on hiatus out of solidarity. Viola Davis decided to stay away from her from her film “G20,” in which she is the US president at a G20 summit attacked by terrorists, despite the fact that she was granted a waiver.
“I love this movie, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for this production to move forward during the strike,” Davis said in a statement. Although “G20” is independently funded, it was scheduled to be distributed by a platform, which is a member of AMPTP.
What is SAG-AFTRA’s strategy?
Crabtree-Ireland said there are several benefits of the interim agreement for SAG-AFTRA members.
“It provides absolute empirical proof that the terms we are seeking in the negotiation are reasonable,” he said in an interview. “We have hundreds of independent producers who say they would be happy to produce under those terms.”
It also provides job opportunities for production crews and actors, easing some of the financial pressures of the strike. And, he added, it could be drawing studio attention.
Emmy Award-winning “Abbott Elementary” actress Sheryl Lee Ralph agrees with the strategy.
“I have to honestly say that interim agreements are smart agreements. What they do is keep the conversation going with producers that are not the big producers,” he said. “So now the big guys can look and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if they can do it, why aren’t we doing it?’”
Why is it controversial?
For some union members struggling to protest in the streets and facing financial hardship, it doesn’t feel like a unified walkout when celebrities like Hathaway and McConaughey still get to make movies.
Comedian Sarah Silverman was especially upset by the exceptions and posted her thoughts in an Instagram video. After meeting with SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland, she retracted her outrage, saying both sides had a better understanding that exemptions could be positive and negative.
“I understand that some members feel that it creates a confusing message or doesn’t draw as clear a line,” Crabtree-Ireland admitted. But he added that “we are all very clear that the AMPTP companies are the ones we are on strike against.”
The AMPTP and film distribution
Some of the smaller studio productions, like A24 and Neon, have their own distribution arms that can take movies out into the world. But others don’t. They often sell them to AMPTP companies who ultimately put them in theaters or on their streaming services. “G20” is an example of this, since it already had an agreement with Amazon to be distributed.
Crabtree-Ireland said it is “a concern” but also a “reality that we accept as a possibility” that one of these independent films would be sold, for example, to a platform. However, he sees a potential upside if this happens, as the tentative deal includes a proposed streaming revenue share.
And he said any company that buys a film under a tentative deal at fall festivals like Venice, Telluride and Toronto — key sites where AMPTP studios could buy similar projects — will have to pay artists the royalties the deal requires. .
Promotion of completed projects
SAG-AFTRA is reviewing applications that would allow talent to promote independent films at fall festivals, where they will feature many high-profile world premieres, regardless of actor availability.
Set to debut in Venice, Luc Besson’s “DogMan” recently received a tentative deal allowing its stars, such as Caleb Landry Jones, to help promote the film through red carpet appearances and interviews.
Other independent films heading to Venice include Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” with Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari” with Adam Driver and Spanish Penélope Cruz, Ava DuVernay’s “Origin”, “Memory” by Mexican director Michel Franco, with Jessica Chastain and Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” with Glen Powell, all of whom, in theory, could be granted special status.