Mortal Kombat

Source: Warner Bros

‘Mortal Kombat’

Two productions shooting in Australia, Peacock series Apples Never Fall for Peacock, and New Line and Warner Bros’ feature Mortal Kombat 2, are both on pause from this week due to US actors joining the ongoing Writers Guild of America’s strike, sources confirm.

Both projects were being filmed at Village Roadshow Studios in Queensland.

Apples is being produced by Heyday Television, part of Universal International Studios, with Matchbox Pictures providing on-the-ground assistance. Annette Bening and Alison Brie are among the key cast. Both the Australian and Queensland Governments provided financial incentives. The series was expected to inject A$79m into the economy and create 260 jobs.

It is unclear whether the Mortal Kombat sequel qualifies as an Australian or international production. The 2021 original film received Australian government funding intended for local production and Australian director Simon McQuoid is again on board.

The key factor is whether actors are under SAG-AFTRA or Australian contracts.

Local Australian sources have suggested that workarounds can and will be applied to the Global Rule One Agreement, in place to ensure SAG members don’t work on non-union productions and in Australia between SAG-AFTRA and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which represents Australian actors and crew.

Big independent Australian productions often employ several US actors on SAG contracts which mseans several high-profile Australian projects will have to rethink their upcoming publicity and promotion campaigns.

Local impact

There is also a ripple effect on the local industry. One producer told Screen he has been plunged into uncertainty because he has hired an Australian cast member on the now-delayed Apples Never Fall for a financed Australian feature but Apples is likely to take precedence.

“It’s safe to say that SAG-AFTRA joining the WGA on strike does make the issues more acute for screen workers all over the world, but frankly it should not have got to this point,” said Claire Pullen, executive director of Australian Writers’ Guild. “Both strikes show there is a broader problem with how creative workers in the industry are treated. The studios have cost themselves more in lost production than it would have cost to pay the writers’ claim in full; it’s time to pay creatives properly, agree to fair terms and get back to work.”

MEAA issued a statement Friday saying they were in solidarity with the US strike. “Their struggle is our struggle and a win in Hollywood will set the standard for improvements for screen performers around the world,” said chief executive Erin Madeley.

“A small number of productions currently underway in Australia may be impacted by the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes. MEAA representatives are in dialogue with the producers of those productions and will advise crew and performer members of their rights if work is interrupted by the strikes.”

Although neither Disney Studios Australia in Sydney nor Docklands Studios Melbourne (DSM) have been impacted so far as neither had productions underway, booked-in projects may falter up ahead.

“While our industry is reeling from the cancellation and shutdown of significant productions which employ hundreds of people nationwide, I’m confident that the demand for studio space will be strong in the near future,” said DSM chief executive Antony Tulloch.

DSM was badly hit last month when the plug was pulled on the hugely anticipated series Metropolis, being produced by Esmail Corp for Apple TV+. Rising costs and the writers’ strike were given as reasons.

“With the 30% location offset now a permanent advantage, Australia’s reputation as a premier production destination will only flourish,’ said Tulloch. “Remember, a backlog of projects is likely taking shape.”

Ironically, July 1 marked the day when Australia officially became more attractive as a location because the offset was increased to 30% and the discretionary incentive has been scrapped.