Though major Hollywood studios and streamers may not want to meet the demands of their employee unions months into the ongoing writer and actor strikes, Taylor Swift has no such qualms. The pop star reportedly met all of SAG-AFTRA’s demands to film and produce what will likely become the top-grossing tour film of all time.
In fact, Swift’s team worked around the major studios—represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, in the ongoing labor negotiations—altogether when it came to producing and releasing Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. The film was self-funded, with Swift reportedly spending $10 to $20 million to produce it and her parents working directly with AMC Theaters on distribution.
Even more important amid the ongoing strikes: She approached SAG-AFTRA—the pop star is a member—to reach an interim agreement to shoot and promote the film, according to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director and chief negotiator. Swift reportedly received permission for her doc, since it is not a dramatic film, and also adhered to the union’s interim agreement, which means meeting demands like higher salaries for crew members and more generous streaming residuals.
“She came to us and said she wanted to do this, but only if she could do it the right way under a union contract,” Crabtree-Ireland said during a talk at a Toronto Independent Film Festival last week. “And we said, that’s great. And so she fulfilled all the same criteria as anybody else and has an interim agreement for that production.”
SAG-AFTRA has granted a few interim agreements since the strike began in July. Under the agreements, members are allowed to promote their projects, as long as they don’t have ties to the AMPTP. The Eras Tour documentary was filmed by Taylor Swift Productions, the pop star’s in-house production company, at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium from Aug. 3 through 6. You won’t find Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour on the list of SAG-AFTRA’s approved interim agreements, however it is possibly there under an assumed name.
Swift doesn’t need a major studio or streamer Netflix or Disney to create a major pop culture moment. The pop star has so much caché—and capital—she can do it on her own.
Crabtree-Ireland went on to note this is not the first time Swift’s business ventures have benefitted the collective. He pointed to her 2018 deal with Universal Music Group, which stipulated that if Universal sells any of its Spotify shares, all artists signed on the label will receive some of the proceeds.
Though Swift’s film may not do Barbie numbers, she is set to break even more records when it opens next month. Already, it’s on track to make up to $100 million in its first weekend—and could open as high as $145 million, according to BoxOffice.com. That’s unprecedented for a concert film, and would put it in the top five theatrical openings this year.
The tour itself, which kicked off earlier this year and is currently scheduled to run through next November, is expected to gross well over $1 billion in ticket sales alone, nevermind all of the other economic activity it’s generating. It is expecting to become the top-grossing tour of all time.
Sidestepping the studios and working with SAG-AFTRA has garnered Swift support throughout the industry. She engendered more public goodwill earlier this year, when it was reported that she gave “life changing” bonuses valued at at least $55 million to many members of her crew, including caterers, dancers, and truck drivers.