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Industry News

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This page is a running feed of newsworthy stories from around the Internet of interest to production executives. Have a hot tip? Send it our way at info@production.ink.


Dateline: July 11, 2024

We sent you a special bulletin last week announcing that IATSE and the AMPTP have struck a tentative deal on both the Basic Agreement and the Area Standards Agreement. If you missed it, we highlighted the wage increases (7%, 4%, and 3.5% over the next three years), additional overtime provisions for hourly and on-call workers, guidelines for AI as a tool for production, $700 million for pensions and health plans, more provisions for worker lodging and transportation to prevent accidents. While the deals are still pending ratification, this should be a strike free summer for IATSE.  

On the AI terms specifically, the agreement includes provisions to aid employees whose jobs are threatened by AI and protect those whose work is centered around the new technology. Employees are protected from inputting language into AI that would put their jobs in jeopardy. Workers are indemnified from legal liability if their employer consents to the use of AI in their work, except for in cases of “gross negligence.” And it’s worth noting that IATSE has established its right to request meetings to adapt the new agreement over time.

Freelance casting assistants are one step closer to becoming Teamsters. An election will be held through the National Labor Relations Board, which will likely allow freelance casting assistants to be represented by Teamsters Local 399 (Los Angeles) and Teamsters Local 817 (New York). The Teamsters are mustering to begin negotiations on a new casting agreement in August; the current one expires on September 30. 

A24’s new film “Sing Sing” pioneers a new model of production that Director Greg Kwedar calls “community-based filmmaking,” a method in which the people and places portrayed in a film are sourced directly from the communities depicted in it. The economic model of the film is also unique: the entirety of the cast was paid the same rate determined by SAG minimums, and everyone who worked on the film received the same equity in its earnings. This model aims to create an environment in which production can become more equitable both above and below the line. 

California’s reform of PAGA reduces employer liability. In many cases, with the revised law, employers will be able to curb legal action by taking measures to respond to violations early. Some of the key reforms include: measures to stop “fishing expeditions” by requiring plaintiffs to have been personally affected by code violations; new, lower, monetary caps for employers who take “all reasonable steps” to comply with the labor code; and a reduction of maximum penalties for brief violations. Now more than ever, PAGA incentivizes California employers to effectively monitor their wage practices to avoid serious legal liability. We have heard of PAGA being used by plaintiff law firms who work primarily with security personnel on productions (safety and security crew), so the best advice is to make sure everyone is paid on time. 

New Jersey... and Albuquerque: Netflix's updated Albuquerque studios has become a thriving center for production in New Mexico. The studio has invested around $900 million in the state’s production industry since 2019. Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos cites New Mexico’s beautiful landscapes, dedicated workforce, and strong community as key aspects of the project’s success. 

And coming full circle: In a tentative agreement, Skydance Media and Paramount Global are set to merge, with Skydance purchasing the holding company National Amusements. This deal has been approved by the Paramount board. While this doesn’t reduce the number of majors, the new owners have promised extensive cuts across the board, which will likely reduce the amount and dollars of purchases.

Dateline: June 25, 2024

Labor report: Teamsters and Hollywood Basic Crafts are at the bargaining table after IATSE failed to make progress, and it looks like expanding the California tax credit program is a key point. We’ve talked a lot about tax credits in the newsletter; you might want to check out our interview with a major studio exec on the topic….

Over 400 members, including many high profile ones, of the PGA, DGA, and SAG-AFTRA signed a letter to the AMPTP in support of the union negotiations. You’d hope so after 2023….  And if you’re a drone camera operator, you’re now covered as a part of IATSE Local 600.

At least IATSE isn’t the only union having trouble: The Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 51,000+ live theatre and stage managers, has stopped issuing contracts for development work as negotiations with the Broadway League have stalled. 

The writers at iHeart Podcast Network, who are members of the WGA, finally reached a contract with management to avoid a strike—after two years of negotiation.

Perspective shift on AI? According to a new UTA study of production and creative execs, 56% believe AI will positively impact their daily work. It’s a significant change from previous surveys that centered on fear for jobs—but it’s also a survey of execs.

The PGA’s initiative to get health coverage for qualified members is gaining more momentum. 20 more companies have signed on. 

TCL is starting a film and TV accelerator program focusing on using AI tools to improve their projects. It offers a grant of $25K+ to five entrants in its first class, along with AI-focused development and production support. 

Dateline: June 12, 2024

Labor negotiations have stalled. IATSE didn’t meet their first or second set of deadlines for the Basic Agreement, and didn’t meet their first deadline for the Area Standards Agreement. The Teamsters start their negotiations this week and IATSE will have to work around them, so IA has will return to the table on June 24. That leaves just over a month to get a deal done before the July 31 expiration. Onlookers are nervousOur prediction? Get ready for a strike authorization vote, even if Teamsters boss Lindsay Dougherty says it’s unlikely.

In a likely response to souring morale, IATSE targeted the Daytime Emmys, which are traditionally produced by a non-union crew, for disruption. They planned to picket the awards to condemn use of non-union labor, and the WGA advised its members not to attend rather than cross picket lines. But crisis was averted when the IATSE and the Awards Committee reached a deal to give union benefits to the non-union folks working on the show.

Sony’s CEO said the quiet part out loud and explained their approach to AI. We take “efficiency” to mean “cut costs,” and we assume that also means “fewer jobs.” He said it also depends on what the new labor deal terms are. 

Likely in response to the ScarJo/OpenAI controversy, New York passed a law requiring actors’ consent and representation before a company can license rights to replicate their voice. It’s meant to prevent unauthorized copies or copies.

More and better virtual production this year? That seems to be the story, with virtual stages improving in quality, saving location- and staffing-based costs, and maybe being a safety valve in case of another strike. 

The decline in studio spend, especially for film, is being felt across the pond, too: UK film spend fell by almost half in the first part of this year.

And, our obligatory note that Paramount and Skydance are in talks to merge. They've since broken off negotiations, if you believe that's permanent. There are also bids on the table from billionaire and entertainment exec Edgar Bronfman Jr., and an investor group led by producer Steven Paul.

Dateline: May 29, 2024

Loan-Out Scare: If you use a Loan-Out Corporation for tax and/or liability purposes, you may have had a scare this week. Payroll company Cast & Crew sent a warning to its users that California was auditing it and that loan out corps might not be allowed. The unions and guilds then sent warnings their members. The California Employment Development Department has since made it clear they will not make that policy


AI slashing hours? AI, even its integration into popular programs, is cutting down time commitments in post production by almost half, according to some industry insiders. Optimists say that is freeing up the humans for creative work and amplifying their skills; pessimists are glad IATSE is focusing on it in negotiations. 

Speaking of, here’s the latest on the labor front: Basic Agreement negotiations, despite a May 16 IATSE deadline, will extend into June. AI is a sticking point. They’ll start on the Area Standards Agreement anyway this week. Nobody has a strike authorization yet, but we’d guess a vote comes soon.  

By now, you’ve seen the ScarJo/OpenAi controversy, in which OpenAI’s new assistant’s voice sounds suspiciously like the actress…after the actress declined to provide her voice. We wrote last month about A24 and a Netflix documentary facing backlash for blatantly using AI, and we thought then that it would be just the beginning. We also highlighted that the new SAG-AFTRA deal with studios requires actors’ permission to use their likeness in productions. There isn’t a deal with OpenAI, though, so legal action would need a different basis.

You have another option for reporting misconduct on set: MyConnext, an online reporting tool created by the Hollywood Commission, which just launched.

Dateline: May 14, 2024

SAG-AFTRA’s new Low Budget Digital Waiver will take effect on June 27, 2024. Talent session and overtime fees are no longer negotiable and talent must be paid no less than minimum scale under the 2022 Commercials Contract, among other changes.

Should we all move to Jersey? Another massive studio is going in, this time in Bayonne’s Bergen Point neighborhood. 1888 Studios will be a $1+ billion facility spanning over 55 acres on an old oil refinery’s land. It’s another win for Gov. Phil Murphy, who is pushing hard to make the state (and it’s 30-35% tax credit) an industry hotbed. 

Career building: IATSE Local 871 (writer’s assistants, accountants, and production coordinators) will soon receive an invite to join ProdPro, which is launching a platform to help production workers find work. 871’s 3,500+ members will be invited to free accounts. 

General negotiations have begun between IATSE, Teamsters, and Hollywood Basic Crafts vs the AMPTP. The current deal expires July 31; all the locals have resolved their local-specific issues. The shortfall in health and pension plans, which the IATSE is trying to pump nearly $700 million into, looks to be a key issue. You can read our predictions for the deal here, and our prediction for a strike here.

Dateline: April 30, 2024

IATSE Local 705, the costumers, reached an agreement with AMPTP on their guild issues, and so did Locals 44 (propmakers and set decorators) and 884 (studios' teachers union). That means all locals have reached agreement on their specific issues. The momentum could be an encouraging sign as the IATSE, Teamsters, and Hollywood Basic Crafts alliance headed into Basic Agreement negotiations last week. 

More labor momentum: Sesame Street’s writers (members of the WGA) reached agreement with the show. No cookie shortage for us. And SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with the major music labels. Why it’s relevant for the below-the-line labor negotiations: Included in the agreement are AI provisions that the terms “artist,” “singer,” and “royalty artist” can only apply to humans.

Diversifying post production: Producers Jennifer Sofio Hall and Bedonna Smith launched Industry Standard, a talent accelerator for early- and mid-career professionals from historically excluded background in post-production. It’s an extension of their work at MakeMake Residencies, and will create nine-month residencies in post at participating companies to help residents build their skills, resumes, and networks. It’s supported by the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity. 

East coast bias? LA production was down almost 10% in Q1. Where is it going? The Dirty Jerz is part of the answer. New studio facilities have popped up or are in progress in West Orange, Jersey City, Newark, and of course Monmouth’s new upcoming Netflix compound.

And on the theme of AI in production: A24 is in hot water for using AI generated images in its Civil War posters—and they look great. Meanwhile, the Netflix documentary What Jennifer Did is in hotter water for AI generated content in the piece. These feel like just the beginning of many similar headlines—or maybe we all just come to accept this as the new normal? 

Dateline: April 17, 2024

AFM and AMPTP reach deal: The American Federation of Musicians has also been negotiating a deal with the producers, and they just landed it. Details are forthcoming but you might notice their key terms are close the the same we predicted for below the line in our last edition:

  • New residuals on content made for streaming
  • Better healthcare contributions for content made for streaming
  • A performance bonus for content on popular shows
  • Protections against generative AI and compensation when performances are used in conjunction with AI

Related:  SAG-AFTRA has come to terms on its animation agreement.

Job losses: To lend some data to the crunch you’re hearing about and feeling: The industry lost 2600 jobs last month, even though the overall economy gained over 300,000. A quick reminder that the industry lost an estimated 45,000 jobs due to last year’s strikes. We can’t do that again. 

Less is…less?: As more info comes out from Dan Lin’s new role as head of film at Netflix, it’s looking like we can expect an overall smaller output, more midsize films and a smattering of big budget productions. No more blank checks, and likely fewer movie jobs coming out of Netflix accordingly. And they’ve reorganized from teams assigned by budget size to genre-based: Ori Marmur leads fantasy, sci-fi, and action films; Kira Goldberg has drama, thrillers, and family films; Niija Kuykendall has faith, YA, and holiday; Jason Young has comedies and rom-coms.

SAG-AFTRA is pushing an AI bill in California that would require actors’ consent when studios use their“digital replicas”—an improvement and clarification on the language in their 2023 deal with studios.

Dateline: April 2, 2024

Hollywood Contraction: You know jobs are scarce and productions are down, but to quantify it: overall industry employment is down 26% since August 2022. Work rates are showing limited signs of recovery since the the WGA and SAG-AFTRA stoppage; let's hope we can avoid another one for jobs' sake.

Hollywood Contraction Hits Entertainment Executive Jobs: It's hitting execs, too. By some estimates, 20%+ of executives in media and entertainment are unemployed. Scripted series production fell 12% to 516, and may drop to 400 in the next few years, so there is limited space for numbers to return.

Cinematographers Guild and Artists Guild reach agreements: IATSE Locals 600 and 800 both reached tentative deals with the AMPTP on their guild-specific issues. So did Local 729, the set painters and sign writers, and Local 695, which is the production sound, video assist, video engineering, and studio projection technicians. The locals are negotiating two at a time for their particulars; next up is the Motion Picture Editors Guild. Negotiations are ongoing for the big issues we talk about above, but maybe there is reason for optimism.

Neon is expanding. The studio darling is bringing on Jon Read and Allison Rose Carter to do more of their own productions, and partnering with Ken Kao's Waypoint Entertainment to make them happen. Remember that Read and Rose Carter produced Everything Everywhere All at Once, which used RunwayML extensively and with success. Don't be surprised to see more. Our list of other AI production tools you'll see and use is www.production.ink/ai/.