As Hollywood makes halting progress on its reopening, SAG-AFTRA’s Duncan Crabree-Ireland is expressing guarded optimism about production resuming fully — but without an exact date yet.
Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s longtime chief operating officer and general counsel, told Variety, “A substantial resumption of production is gradually occurring right now, and I expect it will take several months for that to be fully realized. However, there is the real possibility that future outbreaks or a worsening pandemic could disrupt that substantially.”
Crabtree-Irleand’s comments come with local production restarting. Film permit applications rose 40% in August over July as location production restarts in the Los Angeles area amid COVID-19 restrictions, the FilmLA permitting agency reported, and noted that only two of the 829 productions shot since June have resulted in positive tests for COVID-19.
In mid-June, SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s other major unions released extensive back-to-work guidelines for resuming production amid the pandemic, with a heavy emphasis on testing as they unveiled a 36-page report titled “The Safe Way Forward,” although final overall agreements with the studios have not yet been hammered out yet.
“Negotiating the finer points of the implementation of the protocols with industry stakeholders has taken longer than I anticipated, but having broad based buy-in is crucial, so it is time well spent in my view,” Crabtree-Ireland said.
SAG-AFTRA represents about 160,000 performers. Crabtree-Ireland’s been heavily involved in the union’s response to the pandemic and was interviewed this week.
When do you think production will fully resume?
A substantial resumption of production is gradually occurring right now, and I expect it will take several months for that to be fully realized. However, there is the real possibility that future outbreaks or a worsening pandemic could disrupt that substantially. It seems quite possible that a full return for the industry may not happen until a vaccine is widely accepted and available.
What have you been hearing from members?
Members want to know that sets they might have to return to work on are as safe as reasonably possible, and safe enough that they do not have to go to work in fear for their safety and even their lives. We have robust safety protocols for exactly this reason, and members want and expect that those safety protocols will be in full effect, and fully enforced, in their workplaces.
Are the members satisfied with how the process, such as the white paper, has gone so far?
Everyone would have liked the process to move more quickly, but these are some complicated issues that had to be dealt with correctly. I believe members have a great deal of confidence in and satisfaction with the Safe Way Forward protocols, and want to see them in place across the industry.
Do you have the sense that members are taking the health dangers seriously enough?
By and large, yes. The vast majority of the members I have spoken with are laser-focused on safety and are not only taking seriously, but are helping to educate others on how serious this issue is. No group of people is a monolith, so some of our members have varying views on these precautions, but there does seem to be a broad consensus.
What has been the most time-consuming aspect of dealing with the new rules?
Negotiating the finer points of the implementation of the protocols with industry stakeholders has taken longer than I anticipated, but having broad based buy in is crucial, so it is time well spent in my view.