Hollywood Already Taking Precautions For SAG Strike
Just when you thought all the striking was over, the Screen Actors Guild could screw things up and give it their go, too. The SAG's contracts end on July 1st this year, and Hollywood is just as worried that they might mirror their writer brethren and strike before reaching an agreement with the AMPTP. Although there are still quite a few months to go until we need to seriously get worried about the SAG strike, Variety has put together an extensive article looking at the early implications and precautions Hollywood studios are already taking. The biggest update comes from Michael Bay on Transformers 2, in addition to details on Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins and Angels & Demons.
"The studios are sick of it, and the actors are tired of being out of work. At the same time, we're all prepared for a de facto strike. Everybody is designing their production schedules to anticipate an interruption."
While no one really knows for certain whether a SAG strike will take place, all of Hollywood is planning for it anyway, attempting to either finish filming prior to June 30th, or delay shooting until sometime after July or August. No one wants to see a repeat of the writers strike and they're already setting up safety nets and precautions in the case that the SAG does strike. Although most projects are trying to dodge the July time frame, as previously mentioned, there are still numerous big budget productions that the studios are desperate to keep on schedule so that they will have their big money-making "tent pole" movies for 2009. Transformers 2, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, and Angels & Demons are all among the movies that will likely shoot through July.
Michael Bay is the only filmmaker who is directly quoted in the Variety article, and he speaks at length about his concerns and the status of Transformers 2, which is aiming for a pre-arranged June 26th, 2009 release date.
"If there is a strike, we shut down, but shutting down isn't that big a deal," Bay said. "You make accommodations, you make a deal with vending houses on equipment and on the stages where you are shooting. You hope for the best, but you can't be incapacitated by the possibility that there will be a strike. We've got to get this town back to work. I can't imagine anyone wants another strike, we're all tired. Hopefully clearer heads will prevail."
A few weeks back, Bay had mentioned that he had "been writing Transformers 2" because his writers were unable to work on a script (due to that strike), but explained that what he was working on was more "like a template" or an outline that he could give to the writers to work with. Now that the strike is over, the project is still recovering, and Bay has whipped the three screenwriters, Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci (the latter two wrote the first Transformers), into action.
"They did a detailed outline before the writer's strike, and now they are in Michael Bay jail, holed up in a hotel and working feverishly," Bay said. "We're paying for a beautiful suite and they are getting a lot of work done. Hiring three writers was unusual, but it has been a godsend in getting us to where we need to be. Somehow you find a way to get it done."
Speaking for everyone, I hope hiring three writers wasn't a bad idea, because if anything, we all want Transformers 2 to be better than the first, and it's almost an unwritten rule that the more writers involved, the worse a script will be. However, Bay seems to be very dedicated to this sequel and is ready to get to work as soon as possible, whether the SAG strikes or not.
Transformers 2 isn't the only film at risk of being hindered by the impending strike. Both Angels & Demons, the Dan Brown adaptation being directed by Ron Howard, and Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, the fourth sequel being directed by McG, are scheduled to start shooting sometime around when the strike could take place. The producers of both films have implemented plans in the case of a strike that won't devastate the production and will keep financial losses to a minimum.
On Angels & Demons, Howard plans to shoot in Rome and Vatican City starting on June 5th for three weeks. All of the film's exterior scenes will be shot during that time; the remainder will be shot on Sony's soundstages in Los Angeles. If a strike takes place, Sony can hold the sets until the strike clears without losing too much money while also being able to stop and re-start production without issue.
As for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, McG and company have a similar plan. All exterior shots will be finished prior to June 30th and the remaining interior scenes will be setup at soundstages in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If there is a strike, the sets will remain intact at the soundstages and McG will be able to edit the footage that he has already shot as well as continue visual effects work. They have even taken precautions surrounding the crew hired for the film: in the event of a strike, the paychecks stop, but nobody will be force majeured and everyone will get a plane ticket home. When the strike ends, the crew will fly back within 48 hours and work will resume with minimal financial losses.
While none of this will really mean much in the end to the regular moviegoer, as they'll only just see the finished product in theaters in 2009, it's still an interesting story to hear. It just goes to show that Hollywood is just like anyone else - when something goes wrong, they learn from their mistakes and plan to prevent similar devastation in the future. All three of the previously mentioned projects are some of the biggest and most highly anticipated 2009 blockbusters, which makes this all the more interesting.
As we near the time when the SAG will consider a strike or not, we'll definitely keep everyone updated on the status of these projects. Despite the writers strike did have an incredible impact on the entertainment industry, a Screen Actors Guild strike would have a much wider and more publicized impact. For the sake of every working individual in Hollywood, I hope that the SAG can reach an agreement with the AMPTP before it's too late. I would hate to see more big blockbusters get delayed, or even canned, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that I already can't wait to see Transformers 2, Angels & Demons, and Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins in 2009.
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