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Why are actors making movies during the strike? What to know about SAG-AFTRA waivers

By LINDSEY BAHR and ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writers

The actors and writers strikes have resulted in most Hollywood film and television productions being shut down, from the “Gladiator” sequel to the live action “Lilo & Stitch.” But some independent films and television productions are being granted waivers by the union that will allow them to continue, with Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists actors, amid the strike.

It’s a move that the union leadership says is an essential negotiating tactic, but that’s also proved divisive and confusing to many sweating it out on the picket lines while movie stars like Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey continue to work.

Here’s what to know about the “interim agreements” that are keeping some Hollywood productions filming.

WHAT FALLS UNDER THE INTERIM AGREEMENTS?

Actors are striking against studios and streaming services that bargain as the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The group’s ranks include the major film studios (Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.), television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon.

There are numerous independent production companies that aren’t affiliated with the AMPTP, and they are allowed to film with SAG-AFTRA actors during the strike. They must agree to terms that the union proposed during negotiations on July 12, which includes a new minimum wage rate that’s 11% higher than before, guarantees about revenue sharing and AI protections.

Those terms were rejected by the studios and streaming services, but SAG-AFTRA realized that some independent producers and smaller film studios (like Neon and A24) were willing to agree to the terms if it meant they could keep filming.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PRODUCTIONS ALLOWED TO CONTINUE?

As of Tuesday, over 120 productions have been approved 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,” the Matthew McConaughey thriller “The Rivals of the Amziah King” and David Lowery’s pop star movie “Mother Mary,” starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel.

The list is being constantly updated on SAG-AFTRA’s website, but even some productions that have been granted waivers are still pausing for optics and solidarity. Viola Davis decided to step away from her film “G20,” in which she plays the U.S. president at a G20 Summit overtaken by terrorists, despite it being granted a waiver.

“I love this movie but I do not feel that it would be appropriate for this production to move forward during the strike,” Davis said in a statement. “G20” though independently financed, was set to be distributed by Amazon Studios, which is an AMPTP member.

WHAT IS SAG-AFTRA’S STRATEGY?

According to the union’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, there are several benefits of the interim agreement to SAG-AFTRA members.

“It provides absolute empirical proof that the terms that we are seeking in the negotiation are reasonable,” he told The Associated Press this week. “There was a CEO of one of the companies who said that what we were asking for was unrealistic. And yet we have hundreds of independent producers who say we’ll be happy to produce under those terms.”

It also provides opportunities for crews and actors to work, relieving some of the financial pressures of the strike. And, he added, it might be getting the attention of studios.

“I’ve heard from studio sources that they are unhappy with us doing this,” he said. “That sort of confirms to me that the strategy is in the right place, because when the people you’re on strike against aren’t happy that you’re doing something, that probably means that it’s a tactic that’s having an impact.”

Emmy-winning “Abbott Elementary” actor Sheryl Lee Ralph agrees with the strategy.

“As the first vice president of the L.A. Local, I have to honestly say interim agreements are smart agreements. What that does is keep little conversations going with producers who are not the big major producers,” she told the AP Thursday. “So now the big folks can look and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if they can do it, why aren’t we doing it.’”

WHY IS IT CONTROVERSIAL?

To some members sweating it out on the picket lines and pinching pennies, it doesn’t feel like a united work stoppage when major celebrities like Hathaway and McConaughey get to still make movies.

Comedian Sarah Silverman was one who was especially irked about the loophole and posted her thoughts in an Instagram video. After meeting with SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland, she walked back her outrage and said both sides better understood the waivers could be a positive and a negative.

“I do understand that some members feel like it creates a confusing message or that it makes it not as clear of a line,” Crabtree-Ireland conceded. “(But) we’re all very clear on the fact that AMPTP companies are the companies we’re on strike against, and we’re not going to be engaging in production with them until they accept these very same terms or come to the table and make a fair deal with us.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF AN AMPTP COMPANY BUYS THE FILM FOR DISTRIBUTION?

Some of the productions from smaller studios, like A24 and Neon, have their own distribution arms that can get films out into the world. But others don’t. They often sell to AMPTP companies who ultimately put them into theaters or on their streaming services. “G20” is a prime example of this, having already had a deal in place with Amazon to distribute.

Crabtree-Ireland said it’s “a concern” but also a “reality we accept as a possibility” that one of these independent films will sell to, say, Netflix. He sees a possible upside if this happens though, as the interim agreement includes a streaming revenue share proposal.

“If an AMPTP-owned streaming company decides to acquire one of these projects that are created under the interim agreement, then they’ll be acquiring a project that has a revenue share attached to it,” he said. “We’ll be very pleased for them to start cooperating with that proposal.

WHAT ABOUT ACTORS PROMOTING COMPLETED PROJECTS?

SAG-AFTRA is reviewing applications that would allow talent to promote independent films at upcoming fall festivals like Venice, Telluride and Toronto, which are going forward with many high-profile world premieres regardless of actor availability.

Luc Besson’s “DogMan,” debuting at Venice, was recently granted an interim agreement allowing its stars, like Caleb Landry Jones, to help promote the film through red carpet appearances and interviews. Other independent films headed to Venice include Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” with Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” with Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz, Ava DuVernay’s “Origin,” Michel Franco’s “Memory,” with Jessica Chastain and Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” with Glen Powell, all of which could, theoretically be granted waivers too.

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Dalton reported from Los Angeles. Leslie Ambriz contributed from Los Angeles.

Article Topic Follows: ap-california-news

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