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Apples Never Fall among Australian productions halted by SAG-AFTRA strike

Production on NBCUniversal’s series Apples Never Fall has been paused in Australia because of the SAG-AFTRA strike action.

Alison Brie (photo: Gage Skidmore via CC)

The big-budget US series started filming in Queensland in March and is supporting an estimated 260 cast and crew. It features US actors Annette Bening, Alison Brie and Jake Lacy in lead roles, in addition to Australian star Sam Neill.

Based on the novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty, the series was being produced by Heyday Television and Matchbox Pictures, both part of Universal Studio Group, having been commissioned by NBCUniversal’s streamer Peacock.

Production has also been paused on film Mortal Kombat 2, which is also being filmed in Queensland.

Both productions have been supported by Screen Queensland’s Production Attraction Strategy, with Apples Never Fall slated to bring in A$79m (US$54m) to the local economy.

Screen Queensland would not comment on specific productions that may be impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strike, but a spokesperson said they “hoped the negotiations in the US resolve the matter quickly.”

“Queensland’s screen industry remains very active, with our local post-production houses working on a host of Australian and international projects and local producers developing a range of projects for the domestic and global markets,” they continued.

The spokesperson added that the Brisbane-based agency had been fielding enquiries from producers locally, nationally and internationally about projects to commence filming in the second half of this year and well into 2024.

“We are looking forward to a raft of Queensland-made films and series coming to screens, as well as the completion of the A$12.6m Screen Queensland Studios, Cairns, development, which will welcome productions and tenants from early next year,” they told C21.

Australian screen performers and crew union the Australian Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) said it stands in full solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA industrial action.

MEAA chief Erin Madeley said the issues over which SAG-AFTRA members are striking, including fair compensation from streaming services and constraints around the use of AI, are universal for actors around the world.

“Performers see their jobs as especially vulnerable to new technology, with generative AI able to replicate facial expressions, body movement and voice with alarming accuracy. We don’t want robots telling our stories in place of humans.”

The Australian union urged its members to publicly show their support for their performer and writer colleagues in the US. “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.”

Offering advice to members, the MEAA said that “for Australian actors and crew engaged on offshore screen productions with imported US performers/SAG-AFTRA members in lead roles and engaged on SAG contracts, this production may be affected and you may be stood down without pay.”

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) also advised that the strike action may apply to some scripted TV and feature films produced in Australia. “SPA anticipates that a limited number of scripted ‘offshore’ (i.e. non-Australian) productions will be affected by the strike, with cast and crew stood down while the strike continues,” the trade body said.

“However, local scripted productions, produced and controlled by Australian production companies, engaging Australian and imported SAG members, will remain unaffected by the strike order provided they engage all cast under Australian industry contracts in accordance with the Global Rule One Agreement between SAG-AFTRA and the MEAA.”

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