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Movies still filming despite strike threat

On-location movie shoots are on the rise in Los Angeles, despite repeated warnings from Hollywood studios that the possibility of an actors strike had stalled moviemaking, a permitting group said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

On-location movie shoots are on the rise in Los Angeles, despite repeated warnings from Hollywood studios that the possibility of an actors strike had stalled moviemaking, a permitting group said Wednesday.

Several big movies set for release next year also were still rolling the cameras on Wednesday.

In the five-week period ended June 24, the number of film permits increased 12 percent from 94 to 105, according to the nonprofit agency FilmL.A. Inc., which gets government permits for film producers. And during the week ended Tuesday, FilmL.A. obtained 21 permits, up from 13 in the same period a year ago, spokesman Todd Lindgren said.

The brisk activity seemed to belie assertions by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that the industry had lapsed into a “de facto strike” because of uncertainty about the potential for a strike by the Screen Actors Guild.

“I wouldn’t say it is the de facto strike that the AMPTP has mentioned,” Lindgren said. “We are seeing the opposite.”

The contract between SAG and the studios expired Tuesday. Union leaders said they had not called for a strike authorization vote by members and would remain at the bargaining table.

The smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, meanwhile, awaited the results of a ratification vote by its 70,000 members on a contract for a handful of prime-time TV shows. The results are due July 8.

Studios vowed to keep Hollywood working.

‘Final’ offer worth more than $250 millionWith most labor groups having reached deals with the producers on their contracts, the industry alliance made what it said was its final offer to the Screen Actors Guild: a pact worth more than $250 million in additional compensation to guild members over three years.

SAG officials were studying the offer but previously said it did not appear to address some key issues for its 120,000 members.

The sides were scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the offer.

Alliance spokesman Jesse Hiestand said 24 major studio productions were shooting around the end of June a year ago — not including animated pictures.

As of Wednesday, 17 films being produced or distributed by the major studios — including “The Da Vinci Code” sequel “Angels & Demons” from Sony — were still shooting, according to daily list compiled by The Hollywood Reporter trade publication.

“Severe periods of labor uncertainty have a powerfully depressing impact on the amount of capital that people are willing to invest in major projects,” Hiestand said. “The longer the uncertainty continues, the more severe the economic impacts will be.”

The cast of “Angels & Demons,” led by Tom Hanks, has returned to Los Angeles after shooting for several weeks in Rome and was to resume production Wednesday.

The Hollywood Reporter counted six ongoing animated features in production, including “Toy Story 3” from Pixar, a unit of The Walt Disney Co.

Some studios, such as Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., are cautiously scheduling future film shoots.

“Many of our current projects are finished, and those that are not have scheduled hiatuses in the event of a strike,” said Warner Bros. spokesman Scott Rowe. “As much as possible, we are prepping for future productions.”

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, producer of next summer’s sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” said filmmakers factored in a hiatus around the end of June and turned their attention to visual effects so they could get by without actors if necessary.

Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, remained on track for a late July start.

‘Hedging their bets’Cary Tusan, a senior research editor at The Hollywood Reporter who leads the team that compiles the production list, said many movies now in production will wrap up soon.

He said studios have been reluctant to set start dates on upcoming films, but a number of productions were ready to start shooting if labor uncertainty clears.

“They do seem to be hedging their bets,” Tusan said. “It seems as if they are waiting to see what to do.”

The threat of an actors strike did not appear to deter television production, mainly because TV production is generally easier to shut down and ramp up than production for movies, which can take place in exotic locales or with more elaborate sets. The vast majority of prime-time TV work and all film projects are covered by SAG contracts.

Permits obtained by FilmL.A. for shooting TV dramas on location in Los Angeles more than tripled compared to a year ago, jumping to 119 in the five-week period ending June 24 from 37 last year, the agency said.

The increased activity came as producers struggled to make up work days lost to the 100-day writers strike ended in February.

Warner’s “Pushing Daisies,” broadcast on ABC, began shooting in June instead of the typical start in August, while “Chuck,” broadcast on NBC, began in May instead of July or August.

In New York, shooting began in June on the Warner Bros. shows “Fringe” and “Gossip Girl” and NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle,” according to the New York Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. The office did not provide a comparison of the number of film and TV shows in production between this year and last.