Canadian Writers Stand Behind WGA Strike as Local Production Suffers
Location scouting and filming on service productions were already cooling down in Canada over the past few weeks in anticipation of the WGA strike on May 1. And while those projects with completed scripts are trudging forward, one “substantial” unnamed series being shot in Toronto has already shut down, according to the city.
It’s just the start of what could be a big financial loss for the Ontario industry, where Ontario Creates reveals 419 productions in 2022 — including TV series like “The Boys” and films like “Women Talking” — contributed a record-breaking $3.15 billion to the economy.
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In B.C., where many service productions have wrapped for the season and writers’ rooms would typically begin assembling over the next few weeks, people are preparing for unforeseen delays. A prolonged strike will inevitably not only affect those who have been steadily employed for years, but also the provincial economy, which drew $3.6 billion from the film industry last year, according to Creative B.C.
Still, Canadian creatives are standing in solidarity with their American counterparts. The Writers Guild of Canada has established a firm set of rules for its members, stating writers cannot accept any struck work under WGA jurisdiction. While writers can continue working under the Independent Production Agreement with the Canadian Media and Producers Alliance, strike rules prevent any dual WGC and WGA members living in the United States from crossing the line.
Many members feel the WGA is striking for issues that are also relevant to them and the way the industry is run in Canada, so there is strong support.
“There are a lot of us who are members of both guilds and we see a lot of similarities,” dual member and showrunner Anthony Q. Farrell told Variety last month. “We’re always going to fight for the rights of writers everywhere, and to get to a place where we can make a living wage and do what we love doing while making a living doing it. That’s the hope and goal for everybody.”
For now, production on domestic projects is carrying on as is. Some expect American broadcasters to potentially look north for English Canadian originals to help round out schedules if the strike continues. During the last strike in 2007, series like “Flashpoint” and “The Listener” helped anchor the respective schedules at CBS and NBC, for example.
Last week, The CW announced the acquisition of Bell Media’s “Sullivan’s Crossing,” however it’s worth nothing new network head Brad Schwartz (a transplanted Canadian) has been transparent about wanting to work with Canadians to build the new The CW schedule with acquisitions and co-productions.
In the coming weeks, American buyers may also inject cash into Canadian series looking to complete their financing puzzles, getting in on those projects at the ground level.
The industry is also watching what streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Paramount+ will do in the country over the coming weeks and months. Although each company has set up shop in Canada in anticipation of the passing of Bill C-11 (the online streaming act, which passed in April), few have commissioned any originals.
Netflix only greenlit its first scripted series in March (an untitled, Indigenous comedy to film in Nunavut in partnership with CBC and APTN), while Paramount and Disney have yet to make any announcements. Prime Video has been the busiest with “The Lake” and the resurrection of “Kids in the Hall,” as well as the upcoming Margo Martindale series “The Sticky,” which is based on a famous Quebec maple syrup heist.
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