SWG strike

Spotlite Claims: The calm before a summer of discontent...

Posted on 27 June 2023

Spotlite Claims (a Woodgate & Clark company) Managing Director Marion Jones and Senior Adjuster Alex Nicoll share their thoughts on the US film and tv strikes poised to disrupt international productions from 1st July.

As we know, Film and television production relies heavily on the collaborative efforts of numerous creatives, and arguably two of the most important creatives in the process are the people that do the writing and the people that do the acting.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) are two very important US based unions that play a critical role in ensuring fair working conditions and compensation for their members. When disputes arise with Studios, streamers, networks and production companies, the consequences reverberate and affect not only the creative process but also the insurance industry. 

The WGA has been on strike since 2nd May 2023. The strike is the largest interruption to American television and film production since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the largest walkout the WGA has performed since the 2007–08 strike which lasted for around 100 days. 

The impact of the WGA strike is mainly being felt in the US (UK / EU writers are free to carry on unless they are or wish to be a member of the WGA), and now, almost 2 months on, scripted TV production in LA has virtually ground to a halt. It is feared that the production hiatus may go on in to the autumn. The studio, streamer and network response has so far been rather disengaged. Most likely due to the fact that some filming has been able to continue, including feature films pre-written and green lit before the strike, as well as reality and non-scripted television for the most part. 

However, the absence of an actor on set could be a different story altogether and would almost certainly have a greater impact on production, with global consequences. SAG-AFTRA members have authorised their leaders to call a strike if they are unable to negotiate a new contract with the major studios before the current contract expiry date of June 30 2023. If SAG actors walk out the majority of all major production will halt worldwide from 1st July causing significant delays and disruption to the usual busy summer and fall schedules and putting pressure on crews and demand for kit when filming does eventually ramp up again both in the US and internationally.

Networks are of course agile. Expect to see a raft of reality based entertainment rapidly scheduled, in an attempt to provide strike proof content. Similarly, non-SAG and WGA affiliated actors and writers could be drafted in to enable feature production to continue, more than likely at the lower indie level and most likely outside of the US. 

In these turbulent times Spotlite adjusters sat down with a number of studio, streamers and network representatives during a recent LA trip, to better understand and explore the potential longer term effects of current WGA and potential SAG strikes on the wider production and insurance landscape.

It seems likely that any SAG action might finally galvanize the studios etc to come to the table but there will be short term financial losses for the studios, streamers and production companies and the financial impacts will continue to be felt by the writers (and potentially soon the lower paid actors) as well as the production crew who could now face further financial uncertainty as more and more projects are put on hold. 

From an Insurance perspective, whilst strikes on the part of film and TV unions are generally excluded, it is increasingly likely that the strikes will have an impact on non-strike claims which insurers will need to unpick. In terms of risk, depending on the outcome of the combined WGA and SAG strikes, we are likely to see a sudden rush back into production as producers scramble to make up for lost time and provide fresh, non-reality content. This may ultimately put a further post-pandemic squeeze on the industry and lead to further equipment, studio space, staff and talent shortages, which in turn could lead to greater risk exposure.

As specialist Film & TV Loss Adjusters we are closely monitoring the outcome of negotiations, whilst ensuring we are ready to deal with the challenges of a rush to return to business as usual at the back end of this year. 

Interesting times. 

For more information, contact the Spotlite team at info@spotliteclaims.com