Hollywood Studios Halt Film And TV Production

The Frame
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All production shutdown in Hollywood so for the people who are supposed to be working including those with contracts. The question now is will they get paid agents? Managers and lawyers are trying to figure that out but as the global pandemic continues to take us into uncharted territory. Answers might be difficult brin. Sandberg is a senior writer at the Hollywood reporter and she's been looking into what the covert nineteen shutdown means for people who work in the entertainment Industry Bryn. Welcome back to the show. Hi John Thanks for having me so. Let's first talk about a legal term. It's called force majeure and as I understand it. It essentially relates to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent a contract from being enforced. How might it apply here? Well John that definitely applies here when we typically see force majeure events. It's it's in relation to Labor strikes. Which is what happened in the two thousand seven to two thousand eight writers strike or is related to a natural disaster like a wild fire or an earthquake but those are usually local so the fact that this is a a global pandemic. It means that it's triggering simultaneous industry-wide shutdowns that kind of force majeure event is sort of without precedent in Hollywood. So a couple of weeks ago. Was that something that companies were really thinking about that. It gave them the option of shutting down a production and not having to worry about being on the hook to pay people. Yeah I think these studios of course know that they have this power if you will In in an event like this and there was a period of time where You know I think people didn't know was it? Was it safe to be around people? Could we stay in production and so and then when it became increasingly clear that that wasn't going to be safe that's of course when when the studios started taking these steps to suspend and again they? A lot of them will reassess. I know Netflix. For example there shutdowns where they said for two weeks before though you know reconsider and so when that when that two week. Marquette's will we'll start to see what some of these two years are going to do with their major projects. How long they can keep them on. Hold and how we all move forward. Does that mean that for some companies. During that two week window they are continuing to pay their cast and crew. And then they'll reassess that decision right so this is this is the interesting question. And this is what of course many actors writers directors producers. You know they all want to know. Okay what about my pay? My still going to get paid during this time. And that's really a big question mark. I spoke with a lot of these. These wraps managers agents lawyers and it seems like in a force majeure event like this. The studio's really like I said they have a tremendous amount of latitude and they do not necessarily have to fulfil contracts but that being said it doesn't mean that That certain companies are not still paying people. So you know. Nbc suspended SNL for the next three shows but they've still committed to paying their employees for those three weeks as though they were working Netflix as well on NBC Universal. You know I heard where we're continuing to pay some of their crew that we're going to be working on those shows for these two weeks during the shutdown so once that period of time is up and these companies do reassess And should they hold these productions indefinitely then it becomes much less likely that they will continue pay people and hold people in their contracts. We're talking with Brin Sandberg a senior writer at the Hollywood reporter about pay during production shutdowns. One of the things that's critical. I think to a lot of people. In the business they are essentially freelancers. Their GIG WORKERS. They have sporadic work. And if they're laid off for a long period of time they might not qualify for unemployment or health insurance. Have there been conversations about how those people might be protected. Even on a federal level there have been calls for you know the government to step in and help given how unprecedented this you know. The situation is I do not know that there's been any resolution yet or any consensus about what is going to happen. I think we're in this murky period of time where we're waiting to see what does happen on top of all of this. There are labor negotiations and contracts. That were happening before. The Corona Virus Pandemic the alliance of Motion Picture and television producers was starting talks with the Writers Guild of America. How might collective bargaining be affected by all of this and might actually benefit one side on the bargaining table? That's a great question. This is a this is a subject that came up a lot when I was talking to these wraps because you know this has been their life for really the past year because the writers have fired their their agents. And then we're about to enter these contract negotiations with the studios. One lawyer told me that you know it now feels like all the time that we spent talking about the wgn in the in the potential strike issues was just rearranging deckchairs on the titanic. You know it's now put into this This whole other perspective and and really it's depending on who you talk to. You will hear different things about who might benefit from this. The most in terms of those those negotiations some managers lawyers and agents will say you know. The writers have less leverage now. Because what are they gonNA go on on strike about and then you have talked to writers you said? I think this helps us. Because any plans that studios had to rush development script production you know before the May deadline which is what they were doing to prepare themselves. If a writer strike were to happen you know those. Those plans have been shattered and now they need writers. You know working more than ever to to create content and so In terms of you know win the actual contract negotiations will happen now That's another big question mark because they were supposed to kick off those talks officially on March twenty third Which is Monday and it seems unlikely that that's going to to move forward on that date now.

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