Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray in a scene from Lionsgate's 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.'

‘Songbirds & Snakes’ Gets SAG-AFTRA Interim Agreement, Proving Studios Could Settle the Strike if They Wanted To

Snow lands on top.

While the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike is preventing many actors from promoting the big-budget studio projects they’re involved in, Lionsgate’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, based Suzanne Collins’ 2020 Hunger Games prequel, won’t have that problem.

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As reported by Variety, SAG-AFTRA granted The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes an interim agreement, which will allow stars Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth along with the rest of the cast to promote the film in the lead-up to its November 17 release.

This is a pretty close call! The agreement was just granted this week, and while it’s unclear why the agreement was granted so close to the release date, it will surely benefit everyone involved to give Songbirds and Snakes its best chance at the box office in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the U.S.

According to Variety:

To get an interim agreement, producers must operate independently from companies belonging to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and agree to terms proposed by the guild in its negotiations. Since Lionsgate, which is backing “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” is not part of the AMPTP, its theatrical releases are eligible.

Once the interim agreement was announced, Zegler took to Instagram to thank Lionsgate for working with SAG-AFTRA in a way that the AMPTP member studios have yet to do:

In addition to being grateful for getting to share behind-the-scenes images from what she calls “hands-down one of the best experiences of my life thus far,” she makes the important point that, “Lionsgate’s efforts are proof that studios, big and small, can meet us in a place of fairness for their films and the people who work so hard to make them.”

There are currently over 100 films, including Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla from A24, that have signed interim agreements with SAG-AFTRA. These are smaller companies with less money who are nonetheless willing and able, at least on a project-by-project basis, to give union screen actors what they need to make a sustainable and dignified living.

The fact that billionaire-owned tech companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple are dragging out the SAG-AFTRA strike and sticking to the same playbook, calling the union’s demands “unreasonable” the way they did with the Writers Guild of America, is ludicrous. That legacy studios like Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros. continue to chase these tech companies, despite their expertise in creating film and television, allowing those tech companies to dictate the terms of the industry that they built is even more ludicrous.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was always a bit of a gamble. Yes, it’s a film in a popular film franchise based on an extremely popular IP, but it’s been eight years since the last Hunger Games film, and this is the first film that won’t involve Jennifer Lawrence. However, the novel sold 500,000 copies in its first week and “was the top selling book in any category for the first half of 2020,” according to Scholastic. With the cast now able to promote the film coupled with a release close to a holiday weekend, box office success is a strong possibility.

As was the case during the WGA strike, individual companies can continue to make deals directly with SAG-AFTRA separate from the AMPTP. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will likely be the most successful film to date that has worked with SAG-AFTRA to arrive at an interim agreement. If that happens, it will make the AMPTP companies dragging out this strike look all the more pathetic.

(featured image: Lionsgate)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.