Extraction 2, the latest film from director Sam Hargrave, was completed long before Hollywood writers went on strike at midnight today. But if you think the strike only affects film and TV projects without finished scripts, think again.
We spoke to Hargrave about Extraction 2 just nine hours after the strike began, and asked him to walk us through how the terms of the strike would affect a big-budget film like Extraction 2, in which Chris Hemsworth returns as troubled mercenary Tyler Rake. The sequel to 2020’s Extraction arrives on Netflix on June 16 and was written by Joe Russo, who is also a producer on the film.
Hargrave, who supports the striking writers, explained that films on the scale of the Extraction franchise require rewrites throughout shooting to accommodate the changes that inevitably take place throughout a production.
“It probably would have shut us down, or at least frozen us,” Hargrave said. “It would have been a very different movie, let me put it that way. Because there was a strong script going in, and yet when we get there, Chris is going to have ideas. Different actors have a way that is going to adjust their expression of the scene.
“Or you’ll have shot something, and your scene will come up, and you’re like, ‘Man, we already covered that material. Do we need this scene?’ Or, you know, because we lost that scene earlier, we skipped it, now we’re getting to a place like, ‘Wow, we need something here to bridge this gap. We changed something before and now we have to bridge the gap.’
Why Extraction 2 — and Most Movies — Need Some On-Set Rewrites
It’s up to writers to come up with a quick way to bridge gaps so the story runs smoothly.
“And so we were constantly adding and changing and rewriting and so we had writers on set. So it would have been very difficult to finish this film had we been in the middle of a writers’ strike,” Hargrave explained.
He ended with a statement of support for the writers.
“Hopefully all of this can get settled soon so that everybody can get back to work and taking care of their families and loved ones, because it’s important. I stand with the writers. …. It’s a changing landscape with all of the streamers and whatnot, and you have to adapt and find a way through, and I think that’s what the strike is about — finding a way through for them.”
The union representing the writers, the Writers Guild of America, says the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios, is trying to turn writers into gig-economy workers. The writers want higher pay, more revenue from streaming services, and more reliable employment.
The strike, the first in 15 years, calls for the 11,500 film and television writers represented by the WGA to stop writing until a new contract is in place. Filmgoers won’t see an immediate impact, since many movies being released this year have already been shot. But the strike has already had an immediate effect on TV: Late-night shows, which have the fastest turnaround on the air, have ceased production.
More on Why Film Sets Need Writers
Films going into production or in production may be dead in the water, as Hargrave’s example illustrates. A recent Twitter thread about the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace provides another case study into what writers do on sets, even when a film has a finished script:
The thread, by writer Ben Crew, cited interviews with star Daniel Craig, who said that the strike rules meant only he and director Mark Forster were allowed to change scenes.
“On Quantum, we were f—ed,” Craig said. “We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, ‘Never again,’ but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes – and a writer I am not.’”
Craig added: “The rules were that you couldn’t employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together,” he said. “We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just.”
We’ll post our full interview with Sam Hargrave about Extraction 2 — spoiler alert, I loved it — closer to the film’s release. In the meantime, please enjoy this trailer.
Extraction 2, directed by Sam Hargrave, arrives on Netflix June 16.
Main image: Sam Hargrave.