Germany’s Studio Babelsberg is seeking to find a settlement with hundreds of film crew members following the shutdown earlier this month of Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix 4” and Sony Pictures’ “Uncharted” amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The production stop has left many independent film crew members without pay and more than 300 have formed a working group that is threatening legal action unless it reaches an agreement with the studio.
Lana Wachowski’s follow-up to her and Lilly Wachowski’s hit sci-fi trilogy, starring Keanu Reeves, and Ruben Fleischer’s “Uncharted,” featuring Tom Holland – known officially at Studio Babelsberg under their respective working titles, “Project Ice Cream” and “Girona” – had not yet begun actual filming before they were shut down, but both had been in preproduction, with “Uncharted” only days away from the start of principal photography.
In a statement to Variety, Studio Babelsberg CEO Charlie Woebcken said it was not possible to say “when, if or to what extent” work on the productions could be resumed due to the current situation. As a result, the studio was forced to terminate temporary employment agreements with independent crew members.
In an online press conference on Monday, representatives of the film crew working group, known as Wir sind Babelsberg (We Are Babelsberg), said they hoped to reach an agreement with the studio and appealed to Germany’s federal government for help. While the films’ financing structures make it unlikely that crew members will be eligible for assistance from a joint film industry rescue package unveiled on Friday by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) and backed by the Federal Film Board and regional funders, they could still find support from other federal aid measures.
The BKM aid package would, among other things, cover the costs of delayed or interrupted productions that have received federal and/or regional funding grants. Producers of “The Matrix 4” and “Uncharted” had only applied for Germany’s 25% tax rebate program, however, and they had not yet commenced shooting.
“The Matrix 4” and “Uncharted” were to receive €25 million ($27.55 million) and €21.15 million ($23.31 million), respectively, from the tax rebate program, part of the BKM’s German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) initiative.
While the rescue package will not cover wages for workers who have been terminated due to a production’s cancelation, other recently introduced federal assistance programs may offer help for people affected by the ongoing pandemic, a BKM spokesperson told Variety. These include a €50 billion ($55 billion) aid package aimed at self-employed workers and small businesses as well as facilitated access to social assistance.
“We are in constant discussions with the affected film crew members and our longstanding U.S. partners and are making every effort to find solutions,” Woebcken added.
“Like all companies in the film industry worldwide, Studio Babelsberg is also affected by the current crisis and the associated delays and cancellations,” the CEO said, appealing “to all involved to master this difficult situation constructively and not polemically.”
The We Are Babelsberg group said it likewise hoped to reach an out-of-court settlement with the studio this week.