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HomeColumnsEnd of Week Production NotesEnd of Week Production Notes 10/1/21: Dems Back IATSE in Letter to...

End of Week Production Notes 10/1/21: Dems Back IATSE in Letter to AMPTP, Disney and Scarlett Make Peace, and More News


Happy October and Happy IATSE Strike Authorization Vote Day!

It’s a new month with some new news, although most of us will have to wait until Monday to learn the results for the above vote, which is likely to have results by Monday, or at least that’s the plan. IATSE enters its last round of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) after the vote, which could lead to a strike that hits both the film and television industries.

The House Chamber (Photo: Sen. Ron Johnson)
The House Chamber (Photo: Sen. Ron Johnson)

On Thursday, 118 Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as independent Senator Bernie Sanders, signed a letter to AMPTP urging them to negotiate a fair contract with IATSE. It was signed by 31 senators and 87 representatives in Congress and sent directly to AMPTP President Carol Lombardini. “We are united in our belief in the importance of livable wages, sustainable benefits, and reasonable rest periods between shifts and during the workday,” the letter stated, and you can read the entirety of that letter below:

Dear Ms. Lombardini:

As the elected representatives of constituents who make a living working behind-the-scenes in motion picture and television production, we urge you to negotiate fair successor contracts with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). We support the principles of adequate sleep, meal breaks and living wages for all workers.

These workers have risked their health and safety for the last year, working through the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that the motion picture and television production industry emerged intact. Production has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, due in no small part to the essential role these workers play in the creative process. The entertainment you jointly produce is helping to heal our nation.

The current contract under negotiation covers approximately 60,000 motion picture and television production workers across the country. Failure to reach an agreement would threaten not only the livelihoods of these workers, but also their family members who rely upon work in your industry, sending shockwaves throughout the U.S. economy and the industry.

The key issues in this negotiation, as we’ve come to understand them, are about worker dignity and basic human necessities. We are united in our belief in the importance of livable wages, sustainable benefits, and reasonable rest periods between shifts and during the workday.

Reportedly, IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation for a nationwide strike authorization vote on October 1, 2021, because of the announcement that AMPTP does not intend to make a counteroffer. A strike would dramatically disrupt the industry, the economy, and the communities we represent. We are hopeful that both sides can negotiate in good faith and reach a consensus agreement, which necessitates both parties continuing to participate in ongoing negotiations.

We ask that the AMPTP negotiate collaboratively with these workers to reach a fair contract and address the basic human needs that will allow them to do their jobs safely and with dignity.

Members of Congress

The above letter was instituted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), as well as all of the Democrats in the Senate and a significant portion of the House but still less than half. The full list of Senators and Representatives signing the letter are

Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.),
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The letter is also signed by Democratic Reps. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), Cynthia Axne (Iowa), Nanette Diaz Barragan (Calif.), Karen Bass (Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.), Brendan Boyle (Pa.), Julia Brownley (Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), André Carson (Ind.), Troy Carter (La.), Judy Chu (Calif.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), J. Luis Correa (Calif.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Charlie Crist (Fla.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Madeleine Dean (Pa.), Val Demings (Fla.), Theodore Deutch (Fla.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Anna G. Eshoo (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Jesús García (Ill.), Jimmy Gomez (Calif.), Jahana Hayes (Conn.), Steven Horsford (Nev.), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (Ga.), Mondaire Jones (N.Y.), Robin L. Kelly (Ill.), Daniel Kildee (Mich.), Andy Kim (N.J.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.), Ann Kuster (N.H.), Conor Lamb (Pa.), John B. Larson (Conn.), Brenda L. Lawrence (Mich.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Susie Lee (Nev.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (N.M.), Andy Levin (Mich.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Stephen F. Lynch (Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), James P. McGovern (Mass.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Kweisi Mfume (Md.), Joseph D. Morelle (N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Joe Neguse (Colo.), Marie Newman (Ill.), Donald Norcross (N.J.), Eleanor Norton (D.C.), Scott H. Peters (Calif.), Charlie Pingree (Maine), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Katie Porter (Calif.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Kathleen M. Rice (N.Y.), Deborah K. Ross (N.C.), Bobby L. Rush (Ill.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (Pa.), Janice Schakowsky (Ill.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Bradley Scott Schneider (Ill.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Melanie Stansbury (N.M.), Haley M. Stevens (Mich.), Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.), Dina Titus (Nev.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Norma Torres (Calif.), David J. Trone (Md.), Juan Vargas (Calif.), Peter Welch (Vt.), Susan Wild (Pa.), and Frederica S. Wilson (Fla.)

Also, the Society of Camera Operators (SOC) offered their own support with a statement on Thursday, saying,

“The Society of Camera Operators Board of Governors stands in solidarity with all members of IATSE in their efforts for a fair contract and safe working conditions. We urge our members to vote for a strike authorization.

Together we can create positive change for all members across the Film and Television industry.”

That was signed by the SOC’s Board of Governors,

George Billinger, SOC, President
Mitch Dubin, SOC, First Vice President
Matthew Moriarty, SOC, Second Vice President
Daniel Turrett, SOC, Secretary
Bill McClelland, SOC, Treasurer
Dan Gold, SOC, Sergeant-at-Arms

David Emmerichs, SOC
Michael Frediani, SOC
Geoff Haley, SOC
Sharra Romany, SOC
David Sammons, SOC
Nikk Hearn-Sutton, SOC
John “Buzz” Moyer, SOC
Dave Thompson, SOC
Gretchen Warthen, SOC

And let’s face it, those amazing men and women who are carrying the cameras and operating them are some real heroes on the set who are probably as much or more in need of the rest after a long, rigorous day as anyone.

Furthermore, the New Mexico Federation of Labor and New Mexico Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth released statements of support to IATSE that you can read at the corresponding links. New Mexico has long been a state supporting production with the tax incentives, infrastructure, and crew that has been there most notably for Vince Gilligan‘s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, but also many other shows as well. I remember traveling there for divergent productions as Marvel’s The Avengers and Frank Miller‘s The Spirit.

Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow (photo: Disney/Marvel Studios)

In a surprising turn, Scarlett Johansson and Walt Disney Pictures have made peace after the former sued the latter after the decision to release her Marvel Studios movie, Black Widow, on Disney+ Premier Access on the same day the first Marvel movie in two years hit theaters. It’s surprising mainly because there seemed to be so much acrimony between the two parties in statements that came out after Johansson’s lawsuit was reported.  Just days after the very first court hearing on the matter in which the case was pushed back to March 2022, Johansson and Disney seem to have come to an accord, and it was likely a pricey one for the Mouse House.

Johansson released a statement on Thursday, saying, “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

Disney Studios Content Chairman Alan Bergman responded in kind, “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”

Deadline has reported from its anonymous sources that the deal might cost Disney somewhere in the $40 million range, but that it won’t be paid in a single lump sum, and it hopefully will smooth things over between the parties so Johansson can continue to consider Disney projects. Future appearances as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow seem unlikely, but she also just gave birth to her first child with SNL‘s Colin Jost, a son named Cosmo, so it may be a few months before she returns to work.

It looks like Sean Penn is also backing down and back to work after walking away from Gaslit, the ICP-produced Watergate limited series, co-starring Julia Roberts. Back in July, Penn decided that he could not in good conscience continue to work on a set with unvaccinated cast and/or crew with the work he’s done via his CORE organization for COVID testing and vaccinations. It was more of a concern due to the spike in cases in Los Angeles due to the Delta variant, but the production continued to film sans Penn, until he was able to reach a compromise with producer NBCUniversal (who just imposed mandatory vaccines for anyone working in “Zone A”). Penn will only work with crew that’s been fully vaccinated. An on-site clinic has been made available on the set to provide free COVID vaccinations to anyone working on the series.

Tommy Kirk
Tommy Kirk in Old Yeller (Photo: Disney)

Sadly, we need to report two significant deaths today, beginning with child star Tommy Kirk, who starred in Disney classics like Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog and Son of Flubber, all in the ’50s and ’60s, who has died at the age of 79 at his home in Las Vegas. His death was announced by his fellow child actor and activist and Kirk’s friend, Paul Petersen, via Facebook: “My friend of many decades, Tommy Kirk, was found dead last night. Tommy was intensely private. He lived alone in Las Vegas, close to his friend … and Ol Yeller co-star, Bev Washburn … and it was she who called me this morning. Tommy was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood-family. We in A Minor Consideration are Tommy’s family. Without apology. We will take care of this.”

Kirk began working in television in 1955 and quickly jumped to movies with prominent roles in some of the beloved family films from Disney. He continued to work, although somewhat sporadically, until roughly twenty years ago.

Also, Young and the Restless and The Guiding Light star Michael Tylo died at the age of 73, his death shared via an announcement by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where Tylo was a film professor.

Nancy Uscher, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, released the statement: “Michael Tylo was a beautiful and caring human being — he was so special. He was an exemplary friend, colleague, teacher, and artist. He had such a distinguished and rich career, but he was humble about his accomplishments. He loved his family dearly and lived a joyous life, but he left us way too soon. We will miss him greatly, but feel deep gratitude about all that Michael contributed to the College of Fine Arts, UNLV, and the world.”

In some better news, Costume Designer Sandy Powell will be receiving the first-ever Variety Creative Impact in Costume Design Award, which will be presented by Variety‘s Senior Artisan Editor Jazz Tanckay at the 24th Annual SCAD Savanah Film Festival, which takes place from Oct. 24 to 30

Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Paramount)

We start today’s movie production coverage with word that Warner Bros‘ Wonka prequel, directed and co-written by Paul King (Paddington), has begun filming in the UK with star Timothée Chalamet joined by a cast that includes an Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee in Olivia Colman and Sally Hawkins, as well as Blackadder and Mr. Bean star Rowan AtkinsonKeegan-Michael KeyMatt Lucas, and Jim Carter, as well as Mathew Baynton, Tom Davis, Simon FarnabyRich Fulcher, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Paterson JosephCalah Lane, Colin O’BrienNatasha RothwellRakhee Thakrar, and Ellie White.

More importantly, we got our first taste for King’s talented collaborators on the film, which will include Oscar-nominated DoP Seamus McGarvey (Atonement), Oscar-nominated Production Designer Nathan Crowley (Tenet), Editor Mark Everson (who edited King’s Paddington films), and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (also from the Paddington films). Neil Hannon of UK band, The Divine Comedy, is writing some original songs for the film. Warners has set a release for the movie on March 17, 2023.

Also, Amazon Studios has rolled on Dave Franco‘s new rom-com, Somebody I Used to Know, starring Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, and Kiersey Clemons. The cast has been joined by Julie Hagerty, Haley Joel Osment, Amy Sedaris, Danny Pudi, Zoe Chao, Evan Jonigkeit, Olga Merediz, Ayden Mayeri, and Kelvin Yu for the Temple Hill Entertainment and Black Bear Pictures production.

After finishing his Spider-Man trilogy with the upcoming, Spider-Man: No Way Home for Sony Pictures and Marvel, Director Jon Watts has lined up his next high-profile project, and Apple Studios has jumped on the untitled thriller that will be written and directed by Watts, which will star no less than George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The two actor friends have worked together extensively over the years, most notably in the three “Ocean” movies directed by Steven Soderbergh. Watts will produce the film with Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures and Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, and Apple is guaranteeing the film a “robust theatrical release” as part of the deal with both Clooney and Pitt taking pay cuts to make this so. Apple had a lot of competition for the package which hit the market last week with between seven and ten bidders, according to Deadline.  The thriller “follows two lone-wolf fixers assigned to the same job.”

Fifth Season
The Fifth Season (Orbit)

Michael B. Jordan and Elizabeth Raposo have brought their label Outlier Society to the table, signing onto the Sony/TriStar Pictures adaptation of N.K. Jemisin‘s The Broken Earth novels, which Tristar bought last summer in a seven-figure deal in hopes of turning it into a new fantasy-action franchise. Jemisin, who received Hugo Awards for all three installments of the series — The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and the Stone Sky — the first time a novelist won this award three years in a row for three books in a trilogy, will be adapting the novels for the screen herself. The Fifth Season sets up the continent of the Stillness on a harsh, futuristic Earth, which experiences seasonal apocalyptic events that shakes up the population of the continent during these “seasons.” The story deals with “orogenes,” who are able to draw magical power from Earth’s reservoirs.

The planned Whoopi Goldberg threequel, Sister Act 3, seems to be happening. It’s a sequel that will be released almost 30 years after the previous installment Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit — in a move similar to Eddie Murphy‘s recent sequel, Coming 2 America, and it just found a director in Tim Federle and a screenwriter in Madhuri Shekar. Of course, Ms. Goldberg will be back to reprise her role

Spanish filmmaker Alice Waddington, who directed the fantasy film, Paradise Hills, a few years ago, has been hired to direct Dark Horse Entertainment‘s adaptation of its own graphic novel, Dept. H, which will be part of its first look deal with Netflix. T.S. Nowlin from The Maze Runner series will be writing the adaptation with DHE’s Mike Richardson, Keith Goldberg, and Paul Schwake producing. The comic, first published in 2016 and written and illustrated by Matt Kindt and colored by Sharlene Kindt, involves a renowned scientist being mysteriously killed in a deep-sea research station, so his estranged daughter goes six miles below the surface to investigate in a race against time.

That dreamy Regé-Jean Page from Bridgerton seems to be sticking with Netflix for a while, as he’s starring in Emmy winner Noah (FargoHawley‘s heist film for the streamer, who is teaming with the Russo Brothers‘ AGBO (Extraction) once again for an untitled thriller of which very little is known. Hawley is both writing and directing, as well as producing through his 26 Keys, while Page will executive produce along with Angela Russo-Otstot. Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame) will produce along with AGBO’s Mike Larocca, the latter releasing the statement, “AGBO was originally founded to allow us to collaborate with artists we greatly respect and admire. We are very happy to continue to fulfill that pledge by supporting this new film from Noah Hawley and Regé-Jean Page.”

Lightning round time!

John Benjamin Hickey has joined New Line’s Salem’s Lot adaptation of the Stephen King novel, while Anna Chlumsky from Veep has joined John Logan‘s untitled LGBTQ+ horror flick for BlumhouseChase Liefeld has joined the Disney+ feature Chan Can Dunk.

All Rise
The cast of All Rise (Photo: CBS)

It’s always nice when we can start our television news with the announcement that a presumably beloved series is being resurrected, and it seems like All Rise has been resurrected by Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN for a third season with most of the cast, including Simone Missick, returning. OWN closed a deal for a 20-episode third season that’s set to air in 2022 after the show was canceled by CBS this past May. Streaming rights for the new season will be shared by HBO Max and Hulu, with the returning cast including Wilson Bethel, Jessica Camacho, J. Alex Brinson, Ruthie Ann Miles, Lindsay Mendez, and Lindsey Gort, all of whom are making new deals and presumably getting raises, as well. Marg Helgenberger will not be returning, because in July, she was cast in the NBC drama pilot, Getaway, with Matt Long, which also prevented him from returning for the Netflix continuation of his series, Manifest.

Former Doctor Who David Tennant will star in the ITV drama Litvinenko from Lupin creator George Kay, playing Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian Federal Security Services and KGB officer who was poisoned to death. The show is being produced in conjunction with Nordic Entertainment Group. The four-part series is about the Scotland Yard officers who worked for a decade to prove who was responsible for the poisoning, while also telling the story of Litvinenko’s widow Marina (played by Margarita Levieva from The Deuce), who fought to persuade the British Government to publicly name her husband’s killers and acknowledge the role of the Russian State in his murder. Individuals involved in the investigation are among the producers, including former Scotland Yard officers, Clive Timmons and Brent Hyatt, as well as Ben Emmerson QC and Litvinenko’s family. Mark Bonnar and Neil Maskell (Small Axe) will play Timmons and Hyatt, respectively.

Lily-Rose Depp is joining pop star The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye as the female lead for his HBO drama series, The Idol, which was co-created by Tesfaye and Euphoria‘s Emmy-winning creator, Sam Levinson, along with Tesfaye’s producing partner, Reza Fahim. It follows a female pop singer who starts a romance with an enigmatic L.A. club owner who is the leader of a secret cult — presumably, those are Depp and Tesfaye’s roles.  Joseph Epstein is the writer and showrunner with Levinson, Tesfaye, Fahim, Epstein, Ashley Levinson, Kevin Turen, Nick Hall, and Aaron L. Gilbert from Bron Studios as exec. producers. Mary Laws (Succession, Preacher) is also writing and EPing, while The Weeknd’s manager Wassim “SAL” Slaiby and creative director La Mar C. Taylor will also co-executive produce.

Six actors have been cast for the FX pilot, Kindred, based on Octavia E. Butler‘s bestselling novel, which stars newcomer Mallori Johnson. The six new actors cast are  Micah Stock, Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Austin Smith (Russian Doll), Gayle Rankin (GLOW), Antoinette Crowe-Legacy (Godfather of Harlem), and David Alexander Kaplan. The project is from Watchmen writer Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Courtney Lee-Mitchell, Darren Aronofsky and his Protozoa Pictures, Joe Weisberg, and Joel Fields.

Meanwhile, the FX limited series, Shōgun, based on James Clavell‘s bestselling novel — which was previously adapted into an Emmy-winning 1970 mini-series in 1980 — has cast up with Anna Sawai joining Hiroyuki Sanada and Cosmo Jarvis as the film’s three leads. Production on the first two episodes is underway in Vancouver with Reprisal Director Jonathan van Tulleken directing the first two episodes, and the cast being filled up with a who’s who of Japanese cinema and television. That amazing ensemble cast includes Tadanobu Asano, Fumi Nikaido, Tokuma Nishioka, Takehiro Hira, Ako, Shinnosuke Abe, Yasunari Takeshima, Hiroto Kanai, Toshi Toda, Hiro Kanagawa, Nestor Carbonell, Yuki Kura, Tommy Bastow, Moeka Hoshi, Yoriko Doguchi, and Yuka Kouri  — which makes you wonder why they didn’t just shoot the series in Japan rather than making all those actors fly across the Pacific Ocean during a pandemic.

Believe it or not, Below the Line‘s Production Listings cover television, too, so if you’re looking for your next job, you should subscribe while the price is at an all-time low.

There were a few trailers in the last couple days but nothing significant and the above is more than enough to digest, so we’ll say our goodbyes and wish everyone a good weekend… and more importantly, a great vote!! Go, IATSE!

In solidarity,

Below the Line


Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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