Week after week during the ongoing strikes by actors and writers, FilmLA reports that it has “no scripted TV series” with permits to shoot on location in and around Los Angeles. By contrast, in a normal week at this time of year, there would be dozens of scripted TV projects filming on location in the region.
The absence of scripted TV shows is true once again this week, but FilmLA — the city and county film permit office — is offering a glimmer of hope to beleaguered film crews. It notes that four feature film projects currently have active permits to film on-location in the area and that two of those are listed on SAG-AFTRA’s list of “truly independent” films that have signed its interim agreements.
Those agreements allow producers to film during the strikes as long as they agree to abide by whatever terms and conditions SAG-AFTRA eventually reaches with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
FilmLA doesn’t provide the titles of projects that receive filming permits, but the fact that two feature films are shooting under interim agreements is proof that work hasn’t completely dried up for film casts and crewmembers in Los Angeles.
And that not only creates jobs for casts and crews but contributions to their unions’ pension and health plans, which have been losing untold millions of dollars in employer contributions during the strikes.
The WGA Pension Plan’s latest funding notice, dated March 30, notes that prior to the strikes, its funding level was in the so-called “Green Zone,” signifying that it’s in good financial health and is projected to remain so well into the future. For the year 2022, the funding level, as measured by assets divided by liabilities, stood at 88.2%. That was down a bit from 88.8% from 2021, but up from 86.2% in 2020.
Similarly, the $4 billion SAG-Producers Pension Plan is “currently healthy and it is projected to remain healthy in the future,” Plan officials said in 2020, despite a drop in employer contributions due to the Covid shutdown that year. And year in and year out, the DGA’s pension plan has enjoyed the highest funding level, coming in at 98% back in 2017.
But the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, which covers members of IATSE and other below-the-line workers, hasn’t been as well funded in recent years. In 2018, the funding level of the $3.8 billion plan stood at 66.8% – bringing it close to “critical” condition, which by federal law is anything below 65%. And that was a new low for the MPIPP, which had fallen from 80.8% in 2015, to 76.8% in 2016 and to 67.4% in 2017. The plan’s actuary, however, projected that it will be back to 80% funded by 2026 and 100% funded by 2032. But that was before the pandemic, and before the ongoing strikes.
How the ongoing strikes will impact the funding levels of Hollywood’s pension plans remains to be seen, but films and TV shows being shot under SAG-AFTRA’s interim agreements will help stem the flow of lost revenue.
Hundreds of films, and more than a dozen scripted TV shows, have signed SAG-AFTRA’s interim agreements, but a review by Deadline reveals that the vast majority of them are filming outside of Los Angeles, and several are shooting outside the country.
SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee told members on Sunday that “we fully encourage all of our SAG-AFTRA members” to work under the interim agreements, adding that “the more projects that get made with the interim agreement, the weaker the AMPTP becomes.”
And the stronger that the various guild and union pension plans become, as well.