The strike is over. So now what? As Hollywood and the television and film production community across the country rejoices, the question is now: when will everyone’s favorite shows begin filming?
Sources tell SCREEN that the Dick Wolf triumvirate of Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med could begin filming new episodes as soon as Monday, November 27th or very soon thereafter.
Of course, there are many updates and variables ahead, and the agreement between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP is still pending approval from the union’s National Board as well as its members (aka the actors). The timeline of that ratification will factor heavily into the return to set, as one would expect.
But the bottom line is Chicago production is ready to kick into high gear as soon as the green light is given, and expectations are that the long-awaited return to set will happen right after Thanksgiving weekend.
How The Strike Ended
After a grueling four months on strike, SAG-AFTRA has officially reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with studios, a move that is heralding the end of the 2023 actors’ strike.
“In a unanimous vote this afternoon, The SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Committee approved a tentative agreement with the AMPTP bringing an end to the 118 day strike,” the union said in a statement. “The strike officially ends at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, November 9.”
The development on Wednesday came not long before a deadline of 5 p.m. that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had set for the union to give their answer on whether they had a deal.
The tentative contract would boost minimum pay for members, increase residual payments for shows streamed online and bolster contributions to the union’s health and pension plans. It also establishes new rules for the use of artificial intelligence, a major source of concern for actors.
The Path to an Agreement
The Hollywood Reporter provides a concise timeline of the turbulent past month of negotiations: “When negotiations restarted on October 2 for the first time since SAG-AFTRA called its work stoppage in July, hopes were high in the industry that Hollywood’s largest union could come to terms with major companies quickly. Just like they had in the final days of the writers’ negotiations, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley attended the talks at the union’s national headquarters in Los Angeles. But the studio ended up walking out on Oct. 11 over SAG-AFTRA’s proposal to charge a fee per every streaming subscriber on major platforms in a move that the union’s chief negotiator called “mystifying” (Sarandos called the ask “a bridge too far“).”
“The sides reconvened on Oct. 24 after a nearly two-week break. This time, the studios came in with a more generous offer to increase actors’ wage floors and a slightly modified version of a success-based streaming bonus they had previously offered the WGA. The two sides exchanged proposals for much of the week in a tense situation that had the industry on edge. Even as a deal came into sight, progress was slow, especially when it came to putting the contract’s inaugural guardrails on AI: The union considers the rapidly advancing technology an absolutely existential issue for members and sought to close any potential loopholes that could lead to future issues. On Saturday the studios presented what the union characterized as the companies’ “last, best and final,” overarching offer (still, the two sides kept swapping offers after).”
AI at the Heart of the Strike
The Hollywood Reporter further chronicles the road to the tentative agreement: “When the union’s previous contract expired in mid-July and SAG-AFTRA went out on strike, many outstanding issues were left on the table. Setting terms for the use of A.I. was a major sticking point between union and studio negotiators, as was a proposal to provide casts with additional streaming compensation. Union negotiators sought to institute an unusually large minimum rate increase in the first year of the contract, a host of ground rules for self-taped virtual auditions and major increases to health and pension contributions “caps” that have not been changed since the 1980s. Meanwhile, as the entertainment business continues to experience a period of contraction, major companies looked to preserve some measure of flexibility and cost control.”
“SAG-AFTRA’s strike, coming as it did amid an ongoing writers’ strike in July, gave the union an unusual amount of leverage early on in its talks with the AMPTP. Almost immediately, most remaining unionized U.S. productions that were operating without writers shut down, including Deadpool 3 and Venom 3. An as the months of the work stoppage stretched on, a strategist at the Milken Institute has estimated that the strikes have cost the California economy alone at least $6 billion.”
“But pressure started to build as the strike neared and surpassed its 100-day mark. A-lister actors began talking to both their union and the studios in an attempt to improve progress in the negotiations. A number of actors also started drafting a letter expressing concerns about the union’s leadership but held back from publishing it, fearful of the missive’s potential impact on negotiations. Then, on Oct. 26, a separate letter was released signed by apparently thousands of actors, exhorting negotiators, ‘We have not come all this way to cave now.'”
On Friday, the deal will go to the union’s national board for approval. Then the deal will move to the SAG-AFTRA members. In the union’s upcoming ratification vote, the date of which has not yet been announced, members will decide whether the pact is acceptable to them. Both the union’s board and members are expected to approve the agreement, given the new deal’s addressing of AI concerns and the boost to overall monetary compensation.
Check back here at SCREEN for updates as the three One Chicago television series return to production. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.