The dual strikes in Hollywood have been dragging on for months with no sign of an end any time soon. Unfortunately, a lot of workers who are not a part of the unions are directly impacted by the continuation of the strikes even though they have no say in the negotiations. This includes costume designers, carpenters, caterers, and janitors – all of whom subsequently lost their jobs when the entire industry shut down. Even though famous actors – like Meryl Streep and George Clooney – have donated millions to financial assistance programs for the actors union (SAG-AFTRA), these other workers are not eligible for the assistance.
Therefore, they are left to find alternate ways to support themselves and their families. However, it does not have to be this way. As one headline put it: “Taylor Swift just crushed the movie studios’ excuses for prolonging the strikes.”
Swift’s decision to independently produce her concert film and distribute it directly with A challenges the very notion that big-time studios are necessary for big-time success. Within three hours of the announcement, Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour: The Film shattered AMC records for single-day ticket sales with $26 million in presales, greatly surpassing the one previously held by Spider-Man: No Way Home ($16.9 million). By the end of the day, it was estimated that the three big theaters – AMC, Regal and Cinemark – had brought in over $37 million in presales, projecting a box office opening weekend of at least $100 million.
Even before opening day, Swift has already earned back the estimated $10-$20 million that she spent making the film.
The power of collective thinking
Many were quick to ask how Swift was even able to film and promote this project at all while the strikes were happening. Swift, along with a slew of other productions, was granted clearance by SAG-AFTRA under an interim agreement to move forward because the production met the same standards that the unions were seeking from studios in their negotiations. Recently, at the Toronto Film Festival the National Executive Director of SAG-AFTRA noted in a live podcast that Swift went directly to the union leadership to ensure the release would follow union rules. The director also praised Swift for using her power and success to help smaller artists, pointing to her 2018 deal with Universal Music Group as a shining example of what collective thinking in a union looks like.
Participating in or promoting independent productions that have interim agreements, like Swift’s, are being actively encouraged by SAG-AFTRA because they believe increasing the competitive pressure on major studios shows that their terms are ‘clearly reasonable and viable’ and will be an effective bargaining tool in their negotiations. After all, if independent and small-budget productions are able to agree to the union’s demands, so can ‘billion- and trillion-dollar companies.’
The clear success Swift’s film is projected to have next month makes it clear that there is a way to ‘do the right thing’ while still raking in profits that benefit the entire crew who work together to make movies successful. Just as Swift was able to give generous bonuses to the truckers who moved her tour set from city to city while still being projected to become a billionaire, movie studio executives could do the same if they wanted to.