Stage 4 at Prague Studios. Photo: Instagram / Prague Studios

Prague Studios lays off 1,700 people due to ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike

The ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have seen effects far beyond Hollywood, and film industry professionals in Prague have also felt the impact. Prague Studios, where the third season of Foundation had been filming, has had to lay off about 1,700 people this summer due to production stoppages caused by the actors’ strike, studio head Tomáš Krejčí reveals in a new interview with iROZHLAS.cz.

While work on local productions continued through the WGA strike in May, the SAG-AFTRA strike resulted in an immediate shutdown of most major productions worldwide three weeks ago.

Two of the three big shoots in Prague this summer, the second season of AMC’s Interview with the Vampire and the third season of Apple TV+’s Foundation, came to an immediate halt after the strike was announced.

Production has continued on the third season of Amazon Studios’ The Wheel of Time, meanwhile, despite stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney both being SAG members.

“We’re standing here completely deserted today because about three weeks ago, when the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike, we had to stop all production immediately,” Krejčí tells Martin Hrnciř from the set of Foundation at Prague Studios.

“We employed a number of excellent actors and actresses who are represented by this union in Los Angeles. And because the trade union did not reach an agreement with the producers’ alliance, a strike was announced with immediate effect, which was also carried over here to the Czech Republic. The actors who are represented by the association were not allowed to film at all from one day to the next.”

“All activity worldwide was frozen overnight, and as a result, we as producers cannot shoot. It’s an unfortunate chain reaction. The effects were very unpleasant. Especially to all the members of our film crew, which before the strike numbered about 1,700 people. That means I had to lay off 1,700 amazing co-workers.”

Local industry professionals working on Interview with the Vampire have also been impacted. That production was slated to run through the end of August, while Foundation still had about three months of shooting left when filming stopped.

As Krejčí notes, however, local crew members who have lost their jobs won’t have an easy time finding replacement work right now. Most major productions worldwide are on hold during the strikes, and additional projects that had planned to film in Prague this year will likely be impacted as well.

“Many years have passed since the last collective agreement between actors, screenwriters and producers was signed. Unfortunately, during that time, the whole business has changed in a fundamental way,” adds the Prague Studios head.

Those fundamental ways the industry have changed include the newfound prevalence of streaming services and the rise of AI technology.

Actors and writers don’t receive the same kind of residuals from streaming movies and series that they once took from home video, and equivalent agreements are difficult to reach due to the lack of transparent data. New and rapidly evolving technology, meanwhile, poses a direct threat to both professions.

“The parties that tried to reach an agreement are so far apart on those issues that no progress has been made. On the contrary, during the negotiations there were a number of additional and even emotional conflicts. Those parties are still in the trenches today,” Krejčí adds.

How long will the strikes go on? The longest analogous previous strikes were a 1988 WGA strike that went on for five months (the current strike has lasted three) and a 1980 SAG-AFTRA strike lasted more than three months. Given how far the sides seem to be apart, even optimistic estimates forecast the current strikes to challenge those runs.

Lead photo: stage 4 at Prague Studios. Photo: Instagram / Prague Studios

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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