I week ago, Deadline reported that that Netflix had started paying cast members on shows affected by the Coronavirus pandemic-imposed industrywide production shutdown, which is being treated as force majeure or unforeseeable circumstances. I have learned that HBO has become the second major studio to do that as the others are still pondering their options.
I hear the sticking point for studios has been series that had been scheduled to go into production but start of filming was pushed because of the ongoing health crisis. I hear studios’ labor executives have been arguing that the delayed production start is de facto a hiatus and actors should not be paid, some also invoking the time limit they have on series regulars payed over $20,000 an episode. I hear that SAG-AFTRA does not agree with the hiatus argument and the union has been actively involved in the situation, seeking remedies for the union’s members and threatening to file grievances if the issue is not resolved.
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What Netflix did for actors on series, which were put on hold before they were set to go into production, is pay their minimum guarantees. That’s episodic fees for the minimum number of episodes each regular cast member is guaranteed on a show each season per their contract (it varies).
After speaking to various sources, the general consensus is that we may not see another studio match Netflix’s terms as many appear reluctant to pay actors anything now. After some back-and-forth with SAG-AFTRA, I hear HBO agreed to a payment schedule that includes giving actors 25% of their pay now, 25% when production on their show was supposed to start and the remaining 50% when filming actually commences. The network declined comment.
Like Netflix, HBO parent WarnerMedia recently announced that it is committing more than $100 million for crews of productions shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.
HBO has a number of series that had a production start date, including Euphoria, Succession, Barry and Showtime.
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