Alarm is mounting about the impact on production in the UK and Northern Ireland of the ongoing Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike and the threat of industrial action by US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA.
The sector has been rocked by the halt in production at Amazon Studios’ Blade Runner 2099 series which was prepping at Belfast Harbour Studios. It is unlikely to resume production until 2024.
UK suppliers and service companies have told Screen that they are already being affected by the strikes and facing a quiet summer.
“There has been a noticeable change already in the number of larger projects that are coming on stream,” said Graham Beswick, CEO of Mad Dog 2020 Casting which provides extras for many major movies and TV dramas. “We have had a number of second ADs [assistant directors] who work with our clients saying they are out of work and they are not being booked for future projects.”
Screen understands productions that are underway are continuing. Marvel/Disney’s Deadpool3 is filming at Pinewood while Netflix is shooting The Sandman 2011001010 at Shepperton. Amazon has greenlit the second season Lord Of The Rings : The Rings Of Power, while Andor is still filming its second season at Pinewood Studies despite not having a showrunner present, Screen understands. The disappointment in Northern Ireland over the delay of the Blade Runner has been somewhat mitigated by the fact that Universal Pictures’ live-action adaptation of How to Train Your Dragon
continues to go ahead. A Belfast-based production executive confirmed that the strike had not affected the film. A Studiocanal representative denied that the third Paddington film, Paddington in Peru,, is being delayed. “No delay on Paddington at all,” they said of the film, which is expected to start shooting in July.Slowdown
Nonetheless, there are now clear signs a post-pandemic global production boom is slowing. A Pinewood source acknowledged that there has been a “softening” of high-end TV projects.In the fall, we will only have tentpoles. This hasn’t happened in a long time. The UK studios are financially protected because US majors have established roots in the country. The Walt Disney Company leased all stages at Pinewood for a period of 10 years. Netflix has an arrangement similar to this at Shepperton. Warner Bros Discovery also has a long-term residence at Leavesden. But this does not help cast and crew facing gaps in their once-busy diaries.
may have these long-term leases, that doesn’t help the economy of the United Kingdom because people aren’t working. One senior UK studio executive said that this is where the pinch was felt. If you have a downturn in production, you have to worry that people aren’t working. If you have a downturn in production, you have to worry that people aren’t working.”
Some see the strike as accelerating trends in global production that were happening anyway.[at Pinewood]”The marketplace has just re-calibrated to some degree,” suggests veteran indie UK producer and location manager Crispin Buxton, whose credits include The
The Souvenir Part II.[the US studios and streamers] “The almost bottomless pits of production funds available to the likes of Netflix are having a little bit of a review…it’s unquestionably not as busy as it was a year ago.”
In theory, space may now open up for UK indie and European productions if Disney and the streamers are willing to sub-let their stages.
“There are inquiries from mid-range European project,” noted a UK studio executive.It’s also becoming easier for producers to put together crews. At the height of the production boom, experienced talent often simply wasn’t available or affordable for independent producers.“We hope for a swift and equitable resolution for all parties,” said Adrian Wootton CEO of Film London and the British Film Commission, of the ongoing industrial action and how it is now causing turbulence in the UK.“Buyers are looking for original new voices”: French sellers reflect on Cannes 2023