Production crew face 'chaotic' times as UK rallies in solidarity with SAG

Despite UK cast and crew being plunged into chaos, support for the strike continues

By Gabriella Geisinger 26 Jul 2023

Production crew face 'chaotic' times as UK rallies in solidarity with SAG
UK actors at Equity rally; Cr: Screen International

The SAG-AFTRA strikes may seem like a US-actor problem, but the effects are far-reaching.

Since SAG-AFTRA joined the Writers Guild of America in strike action, many UK productions have felt the impacts, despite the key issues centring around how US streamers and studios treat US actors. 

Big Hollywood productions in the UK have shut down, while some independent productions have been given license to continue. Paul Fleming, the leader of UK actors union Equity, told Deadline: "we are not going to have the UK used as a backdoor to undermine SAG-AFTRA’s dispute."

Actors, performers, writers, and many more involved in the UK entertainment industry rallied in London's Leicester Square in solidarity with the SAG strikes.

Still, the halt of production, and even those that have restarted, has meant that below the line workers are being directly impacted. 

Speaking to our sister site Screen International, Lucy Price, founder of an agency that represents UK heads of department and crew called Loop Talent, said: "It’s been slightly chaotic. When the strike was announced we had an indie feature shelved indefinitely, then we heard a few days later that it was back on.

"By this time some of our HODs [heads of department] had already confirmed alternative projects. There is a lot of unrest at the moment."

Some have claimed that the silver lining of the strike is crew and talent being freed up from working on the streaming and studio projects. However, that positive impact is solely in the short-term.

Price raised concerns over the eventual sudden surge in highly experienced and now-available crew from big studio shoots could have for others with less experience. "It’s a much more competitive industry, and our line producers and production managers are having their pick of high-profile HODs [heads of department] and crew that would typically be working on the bigger US projects," she said.

In addition, self-employed crew members are not usually covered by a production’s insurance for loss of earnings in the event of a strike, nor are they entitled to the same lay-off provisions that employees would be.

Given the global nature of the industry, the upheaval and lack of clarity is not only upsetting, but has direct financial, legal, and career-spanning consequences. 

The Film and TV Charity told Screen it has noticed more people applying for stop-gap grants in recent weeks. In response, it has increased promotion of the financial support it has available, its wellbeing services that include with budgeting advice, counselling and a 24-7 support line.

The charity is also urging people in the industry who are able to contribute, to do so and help struggling colleagues who face difficult times within the the UK independent screen sectors. 

UK producers’ organisation Pact has issued guidance which members can find here.

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