The SAG-AFTRA strike is in full swing paralyzing the industry worldwide, including Hungary. Brad Pitt canceled his work visit of Formula 1 for Apple in Mogyorod last week, he sent a crew to shoot his scenes in his stead. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also supposed to fly to Budapest this week to start filming the independent movie Breakout, but the production was halted for lack of SAG clearence and he had to cancel the trip.
In the meantime, more than 100 productions got greenlighted by SAG to start or continue filming, including movies starring Glenn Close (“The Summer Book”), Jenna Ortega (“Beetlejuice 2″) and Mark Wahlberg (“The Family Plan”). Viola Davis also got clearance on G20 for Amazon, but she decided to back out from the project in support of her non-working colleagues. This brings up a delicate question though: if the project is a go and she has a play-or-pay contract, does she have to comply with the terms and participate in the project or if she stays home, does she have to pay…?
Luckily, Hero Squared’s “Dust Bunny” is not affected by the strike because Entertainment One (in the process of being brought by Lionsgate) is a Canadian production company. So filming of Mads Mikkelsen soon to be joined by Sigourney Weaver is not disrupted at Astra in Hungary. Flying under the radar in Budapest is the filming of “The Jackal” for NBC starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne whose contract is signed under the British actors’ union Equity, thus he’s exempt from the SAG-AFTRA strike and can work.
What even more complicates things is that some of these greenlighted projects are being produced overseas, outside of the realm of SAG-AFTRA, and the American actors’ union is just not ready to get entangled in a foreign country’s legal regime and create messy lawsuits for itself. So SAG-AFTRA mostly greenlights these productions.
Actors and other industry players that got turned away by SAG-AFTRA are wondering about the contents of the 70 page greenlighting document. There are certain provisions that are small baby steps in the right direction, including an 11 percent basic wage increase, and some improvements in terms of the residuals that are success-based. But it’s unclear how producers will be forced to pay these success-based residuals to talent when it’s up to the platform not to them, and platforms, as we know them, are adamant that they will not consider the option of being transparent and paying accordingly.
A.I. provisions are even tougher because they are to be accepted with the talent and the union in tandem, and informed consent is the key phrase. Meaning, that consent of the union and the talent will be needed when a performer is “A.I.-d”, to prevent the other party from blackballing talent if he or she doesn’t want to agree to A.I. use of his or her performance and/or image. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the subject of A.I.
Nevertheless, these interim agreements showcase an early stage of initial attempts by the union blocked by staunch resistance from the studios. But at least, the first steps have been taken. And they will hopefully be followed by leaps once the industry realizes that this is a rude awakening not just for talent, but for everyone involved.