As the WGA and SAG-AFTRA’s strikes march on, one genre production has had perhaps the dubious spotlight for carrying on regardless: HBO’s House of the Dragon. The Game of Thrones prequel’s second season has spent the past few months continuing production in Europe, even as writers have remained off-set and now as actors bring productions across the world to a halt in the name of fair contracts. But there’s a reason for it—the UK’s labor laws, so bad that even George R.R. Martin can’t help but mock them.
Recently on his Not a Blog blog, Martin offered an update on the current entertainment labor movement we find ourselves in, especially now that SAG-AFTRA’s strike has begun in earnest. In particular, of course, he commented on how House of the Dragon will be impacted, just as he did when the WGA strike first began.
“I am told the second season is half done. ALL of the scripts had been finished months before the WGA strike began. No writing has been done since, to the best of my knowledge,” Martin wrote, before explaining the next complicated facet of the show’s continued production: how it’s carrying on despite the actors’ strike. The simple answer is that, like Game of Thrones before it, House of the Dragon mostly plunders acting talent from Europe and the UK, rather than the USA. “HOT D is shot mostly in London (and a little bit in Wales, Spain, and various other locations), which is why filming has continued. The actors are members of the British union, Equity, not SAG-AFTRA, and though Equity strongly supports their American cousins (they have a big rally planned to show that support), British law forbids them from staging a sympathy strike. If they walk, they have no protection against being fired for breach of contract, or even sued.”
He’s right: just as is the case with writer’s guilds in the country, entertainment professionals in the UK can’t formally go on strike in solidarity with the WGA or SAG, because they’re part of different unions, and would face severe punishment if they attempted to do so. It sucks, but the UK also has a long history of having its unionized labor movements being undermined by increasingly draconian laws. “Honestly, I was shocked to hear that,” Martin continued in an aside. “One of the two major UK political parties, Labour, has its roots in the trade union movement. How in the world could they have allowed such anti-labor regulations to be enacted? Seems to me that Labour Party really needs to do a better job of protecting the right to strike.”
You said it, George, I just doubt Labour leader Kier Starmer’s going to listen to you, unfortunately. Instead he’s probably just going to ask about Winds of Winter, but thankfully Martin has an update on that. Will the Winds of Winter blow before the strikes are over? Probably not, but they stand a damn good chance of blowing well before the UK’s backwards labor laws get improved.
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