Screen file

Alarm is mounting about the impact on production in the UK and Northern Ireland of the ongoing Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike and the threat of industrial action by US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA.

The sector has been rocked by the halt in production at Amazon Studios’ Blade Runner 2099 series which was prepping at Belfast Harbour Studios. It is unlikely to resume production until 2024.

UK suppliers and service companies have told Screen that they are already being affected by the strikes and facing a quiet summer.

“There has been a noticeable change already in the number of larger projects that are coming on stream,” said Graham Beswick, CEO of Mad Dog 2020 Casting which provides extras for many major movies and TV dramas. “We have had a number of second ADs [assistant directors] who work with our clients saying they are out of work and they are not being booked for future projects.”

Screen understands productions that are underway are continuing. Marvel/Disney’s Deadpool 3 is shooting at Pinewood, while Netflix is filming The Sandman 2 at Shepperton. Amazon’s second season of The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has been greenlit, while cameras are still rolling on the second season of Andor at Pinewood Studies, albeit without a showrunner on set, Screen understands. 

In Northern Ireland, the disappointment over the delay to the Blade Runner series has been mitigated to an extent by the fact that Universal Pictures’ live-action version of How To Train Your Dragon is still going ahead. “It is not affected by the strike,” a Belfast-based production executive confirmed. 

A Studiocanal spokesperson firmly denied the third Paddington movie, Paddington In Peru, is being put back. “No delay on Paddington at all,” they said of the film, which is expected to start shooting in July.


Nonetheless, there are now clear signs a post-pandemic global production boom is slowing. A source at Pinewood acknowledged there has “been a softening of high-end television” projects.

“In the autumn, we [at Pinewood] will only have tentpoles in. We haven’t had that for quite a while. It has always been a mixture,” they said.

UK studios are protected to a degree financially because US majors and streamers have put down roots in the country. The Walt Disney Company has leased every stage at Pinewood for 10 years, Netflix has a similar arrangement at Shepperton, and Warner Bros Discovery has made a long-term home at Leavesden. 

But this does not help cast and crew facing gaps in their once-busy diaries.

“While [the US studios and streamers] may have these long-term leases, that doesn’t help the economy of the United Kingdom because people aren’t working. That is where the pinch is being felt,” said one senior UK studio executive. “Our concern is the crew. If you have a downturn in production, you have to worry that people aren’t working.”

Some see the strike as accelerating trends in global production that were happening anyway.

“The marketplace has just re-calibrated to some degree,” suggests veteran indie UK producer and location manager Crispin Buxton, whose credits include The Souvenir and The Souvenir Part II. “The almost bottomless pits of production funds available to the likes of Netflix are having a little bit of a review…it’s unquestionably not as busy as it was a year ago.”

In theory, space may now open up for UK indie and European productions if Disney and the streamers are willing to sub-let their stages. 

“There are inquiries coming in from mid-range European projects,” one UK studio executive noted.

It is also becoming easier to put crews together. At the height of the production boom, experienced talent often simply wasn’t available or affordable for independent producers.

“We hope for a swift and equitable resolution for all parties,” said Adrian Wootton CEO of Film London and the British Film Commission, of the ongoing industrial action and how it is now causing turbulence in the UK.