Big Hollywood films shooting despite strike threat
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The de facto strike in Hollywood may be slowly coming to an end, with several big-ticket studio projects starting production despite the stalemate in the Screen Actors Guild's contract talks.
Director Roland Emmerich began filming his latest disaster picture "2012" in Vancouver this week. The Sony project, which will feature heavy special effects, comes with a contingency plan in case of an actors walkout or strike.
On Wednesday, Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger told investors, "We have decided to move forward with a number of our productions and address any issues later as they arise." Disney's "Persia," which has begun filming, also has some wiggle room since the studio has shifted the film's planned release date by a year to May 2010.
A Universal executive said the studio has the Judd Apatow project "Funny People" and "Lost for Words" scheduled to shoot in September.
The studios, fearful of industrial action, had wound down production ahead of the June 30 expiration of SAG's contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). On that date, the AMPTP presented its final offer to SAG, and some impatient members are now demanding that SAG put that offer up for ratification.
But there is a growing sense that the stalemate will extend through September, when the guild's leadership will be up for re-election. The election is likely to become a referendum on the bargaining committee's efforts to achieve a contract.
"Everyone is working under the assumption that nothing will happen until there is an election and the results are known," said a source close to the AMPTP. "I think SAG thought, 'Let's drag this into July and August; let's force the studios to make a mistake. Maybe they'll impose, maybe they'll lock us out, and that will galvanize the members and then we'll get a strike vote.' That didn't happen."
While it's possible there are behind-the-scenes outreach efforts under way, there has been virtually no formal contact between SAG and the studios for nearly two weeks. The AMPTP has not received any phone calls, e-mails or other forms of communication from SAG. But as one Los Angeles SAG board member put it, "It's a two-way street. The AMPTP knows where to find us."
Even if current SAG leadership wins the election by a comfortable margin, officials would likely not be able to muster the 75% vote necessary to authorize a strike barring any inflammatory actions -- such as a lockout -- by the studios.
And despite last week's show of unity by SAG's board, which unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the guild's determination to bring all new-media work under its jurisdiction, there are clear signs that many within the union would like to see the contract offer brought to a vote.
Several Emmy nominees recently used that platform to urge a vote on the offer, and several New York board members say off the record that their patience is wearing thin.