The Memo: House of the Dragon: Why the Hollywood Strikes haven’t shut down production on the HBO hit

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House of the Dragon: Why the Hollywood Strikes haven’t shut down production on the HBO hit

Tyler Rigby – 28 August 2023

On the 2nd of May, the Writers Guild of America voted to go on strike, putting down their pens, typewriters and quills until they reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Two and a half weeks later on the 14th of June, the Screen Actors Guild voted to strike alongside their scribing colleagues. The strikes are designed to target the biggest studios in Hollywood for better pay, conditions and clearer restrictions on AI technology. Since then, almost all major studio productions have been brought to a standstill. All but one.

Arguably HBO’s flagship franchise, the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon is well over halfway through filming its second season and shows no signs of slowing down. But how can one of the biggest and most recognisable shows on the planet continue to film amid a writers and actors strike? The crucial detail is that showrunner Ryan Condal serves as both head writer and executive producer on the show, and with the scripts being finished months before the WGA voted to strike, he is able to continue to steer the ship so long as no new scenes, material, or lines can be added by his writers’ room.

As for the actors, this is where things get slightly messier. The main cast of House of the Dragon hail from the British Isles, meaning an overwhelming majority are repped by the local labour union Equity (as opposed to the Stateside SAG-AFTRA). Even if they were SAG members, the UK’s labour laws dictate that the work must continue as long as it’s filmed on British shores. It’s worth noting that the HBO financial drama Industry is also filmed in the UK and continues production for the same reason.

What this means is that if the Equity actors wished to hold a sympathy strike, or if there were SAG members on the cast wishing to join their peers, then UK law prevents them from doing so. In fact, they would be liable for dismissal and legal action from HBO and Warner Bros. It means, in short, that rather than ‘crossing the picket line’, they are legally required to work. It’s worth keeping an eye out however - Equity will begin negotiations for their contracts within the next 12 months, so while season 2 of House of the Dragon continues to film, season 3 may yet prove more complicated.

To find out more on the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, check out our previous overview of what’s happening here.