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Schuylkill County movie receives SAG-AFTRA OK during strike


A production is underway in Schuylkill County despite a performers’ union strike.

The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) declared a strike while bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on July 14. Performers are seeking an immediate 11% general wage increase and more compensation from streaming services profits, among other demands.

When the strike began, independent directors like Robert Morgalo said they sought a special exception from SAG-AFTRA. Morgalo is the owner of Tamaqua Film Studios and Outhouse Productions. He signed an interim agreement and heard back from the union on Monday.

“I think we are at least among the first productions to get the greenlight to actually go into production since they announced the strike on Friday,” Morgalo said, in an interview with WVIA’s Erika Funke for an upcoming episode of ArtScene.

The production of his film, “Dream Devil,” kicked off on Wednesday and is not considered in violation of SAG-AFTRA’s strike. The story is based on Cambodian writer Im Ung’s book of the same name. Ung is also involved in production, Morgalo said.

The director cast stars like Nicholas Turturro and Nestor Serrano for major roles in the Tamaqua-based movie.

SAG-AFTRA shared a running list of more than 40 productions across the country that signed interim agreements as of Tuesday. The union says it will update the list daily as the strike continues.

Morgalo said he’s honored to give opportunities to actors during a labor dispute without them crossing the picket line.

“We’re doing what the studios are unwilling to do,” Morgalo said. “And I’m hoping that other independent filmmakers do the same thing and continue to pick up the slack to help the working actors… make a living while the studios finally get it together.”

The performers' strike coincides with an ongoing strike of the Writers Guild of America.

AMPTP is the bargaining unit for major movie producers and streaming companies like Sony, Disney/ABC/Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount/CBS and Netflix.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.