Michael Bay’s New Pandemic Epic Hits a Speed Bump Over Pandemic Protocols

One of the first movies set to film in L.A. since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis has been slapped with a Do Not Work order by the actor’s union

Michael Bay had ambitious plans to be among the first filmmakers to shoot a movie in L.A. during the coronavirus outbreak as the producer of the would-be pandemic epic Songbird, but SAG-AFTRA has ordered its members not to participate in the project, claiming that Bay and his collaborators have not agreed to conform to any COVID-19 safety protocols.

As Deadline reports, the union said in a statement that the production, “failed to complete the signatory process and is therefore not signed to any applicable SAG-AFTRA agreement.”

A rep for Bay’s production company, Invisible Narratives, countered that the Do Not Work order is just run-of-the-mill legal boilerplate that can easily be ironed over with the union, saying, “We are actively working to resolve this paperwork issue with the guild.”

A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson, however, contends that the filmmakers are being flippant regarding the safety of their performers, telling Deadline, “The producers have not been transparent about their safety protocols and that is something we obviously take very seriously. Also, as noted in the Do Not Work order, the producers have not yet become signatory to our agreement. We have no further comment.”

It now seems that filmmakers were a bit too optimistic—and vague—in their predictions that Songbird would take flight without a hitch. In a May story about the production, a Deadline writer reported, “None of the participants would say exactly how they plan to shoot a movie at a time when the guilds are still compiling their own safety protocols so that production can resume. I’m told that the filmmakers behind Songbird have screened their plans by the guilds, and they are good to go.”

In its order to union members, SAG-AFTRA claimed that, “On A Lark Productions, LLC, the producer of the picture entitled Songbird, has failed to complete the signatory process and is therefore not signed to any applicable SAG-AFTRA agreement. As such, SAG-AFTRA members are hereby instructed to withhold any acting services or perform any covered work for this production until further notice from the union. Please note, accepting employment or rendering services on Songbird may be considered a violation of Global Rule One. Violating this order may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the SAG-AFTRA Constitution.”

As Rule One states, “No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.”

RELATED: Cinematographers Guild Releases COVID-19 Protocols for Returning to Work

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