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May 10, 2023

Production on Apple TV+ series filming in Philly area halted amid writers strike

Workers picketed the 'Sinking Spring' set in Delaware County this week, as productions across Hollywood shut down

As the Writers Guild of America strike continues affecting major productions in Hollywood and New York City, productions filming locally have been feeling the impact as well.

Writers picketed the set of the Apple TV+ series "Sinking Spring" in Newtown Square, Delaware County on Tuesday, Deadline reported. The crime drama, directed by Ridley Scott and created by Peter Craig of "Top Gun: Maverick," has been seen filming in Philadelphia and the surrounding region in recent months.

"Join striking WGA members as we picket production of the Apple TV+ series 'Sinking Spring' on Tuesday, May 9, at 9:00am ET at the Newtown Square Meeting House," the WGA East wrote on Twitter on Monday night.

On Tuesday, workers were seen picketing near the set, reportedly shutting down production, according to NBC10. The group held up signs with messages of protest as well as one featuring a drawing of Flyers mascot Gritty.

"Sinking Spring" is based on the novel "Dope Thief" by Philadelphia native Dennis Tafoya. The story follows a group of delinquent grifters and friends from Philly who pose as DEA agents to rob petty drug dealers. They target a house in the countryside, and unwittingly become embroiled in the largest hidden narcotics network on the Eastern seaboard.

The "Sinking Spring" cast is led by Oscar-nominated "Causeway" star Brian Tyree Henry alongside Amir Arison, Marin Ireland and Kate Mulgrew. The cast also was supposed to include "Better Call Saul" breakout Michael Mando, but he was fired in February following a clash with a co-star and replaced by Wagner Moura of "Narcos."

Apple Studios film crews were scheduled for multi-day shoots in Upper Bucks County in February. In April, the studio contacted residents in sections of Grays Ferry, North Philly and Spruce Hill to notify them about filming for "Sinking Spring," NBC10 reported. Crews also could be seen filming along Market Street in Center City last month.

Movies and TV shows across the entertainment sphere are feeling the impacts of the first Hollywood writers strike in 15 years. 

All major late-night shows quickly went dark last week and began airing reruns instead. "Saturday Night Live," which was supposed to air an episode hosted by Pete Davidson with Lil Uzi Vert as the musical guest on May 6, also shut down, likely putting an early end to its 48th season.

About 11,500 film and television writers represented by the WGA ceased working last Tuesday after failing to reach a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that represents Hollywood studios and production companies.

This strike has been brewing for some time, with 98% of WGA members voting to authorize a strike last month.

Writers have grown frustrated with shrinking TV writer rooms and their pay not keeping pace with inflation. The onset of streaming has created more jobs for writers, but they say they are working under strained conditions and making less money than before. The use of artificial intelligence within entertainment writing has also been a point of contention.

Depending how long the strike lasts, the labor dispute could have a domino effect on upcoming TV and film productions. While live TV shows already have been upended, it could take longer for the strike's impact on scripted series and films to be felt. Should the strike continue through the summer, fall TV schedules could be demolished.

Many other TV writer rooms have already shut down, including the teams behind the hit shows "Stranger Things," "Cobra Kai," "Yellowjackets" and "Abbott Elementary," the ABC sitcom set in a Philadelphia public school. 

"Abbott Elementary" creator and star Quinta Brunson, who is a member of the WGA, took to Twitter to express her support for the cause.

"This strike also isn't about me, and I don't want to make it about me," Brunson wrote. "It's about all writers ... support the (WGA). No show or movie you love is written without… writers."

Brunson also joined her fellow writers on the picket line in L.A., where she could be seen holding a witty protest sign about A.I.'s inability to write "Abbott Elementary" character Tariq's fan-favorite raps.

The last writers strike began in 2007 and lasted 100 days, costing Los Angeles an estimated $2.1 billion in economic output. On Monday, President Joe Biden called for a "fair deal" for writers during a White House screening of the upcoming Disney+ series "American Born Chinese."

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