While the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America’s ongoing labor strikes have brought production on most of Hollywood’s movies and shows to an indefinite stop, filming on the fourth season of The Chosen — Dallas Jenkins’ historical drama series about Jesus Christ — is reportedly continuing because it is not associated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Deadline — the entertainment industry trade that recently came under fire and subsequently apologized for aggressively misrepresenting an actor’s thoughts about the strike — reports that SAG-AFTRA has granted The Chosen an exemption allowing it to keep shooting its forthcoming fourth season due to its being a “truly independent” production.
On Thursday, before the SAG strike had technically begun, The Chosen’s official Twitter account posted a message from Jenkins expressing doubt over the show being granted an exemption “despite the requested work we did on our end” to avert a complete shutdown. In a subsequent Instagram post, Jenkins addressed SAG-AFTRA directly, insisting that The Chosen “fit all the qualifications for an exemption” and that the union’s lack of response at the time “costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars while your actors are struck in Utah.”
“We’re the good guys; we’ve treated your actors well,” Jenkins said. “Please take a few minutes to approve our application so your actors can get back to work getting paid for the last two weeks of a season they want to finish.”
At that point, the plan seemed to be that The Chosen’s cast would be dismissed from set while some filming that didn’t require their presence continued, but by Sunday afternoon, the show’s exemption had been approved, and full filming was set to resume the following day. Neither SAG-AFTRA nor The Chosen has put out statements addressing the show’s exemption as the vast majority of the union’s actors continue to strike. But it seems to be the first ongoing project to successfully secure a production pass due to its not being affiliated with the AMPTP — the trade association representing the studios who have not met striking workers’ demands.
Soon after the strike went into effect, SAG-AFTRA stated on its strike-focused frequently asked questions page that it planned to grant “Interim Agreements” to “independent producers” who aren’t a part of the AMPTP. Though SAG-AFTRA has said that it plans to post the terms of the agreement to its site, as of this piece’s publishing, it has yet to do so. But with The Chosen — a property that began as an independently produced short film before being adapted into a largely crowdfunded series for the faith-based entertainment outfit Angel Studios (the folks behind The Sound of Freedom) — it seems as if SAG-AFTRA deemed it removed enough from studios to warrant its winding back up.
For The Chosen’s first season, Jenkins and his team crowdfunded just over $10 million by offering backers equity in The Chosen Productions — the production company behind the series — and guaranteeing that investors, as partial owners of the franchise in perpetuity, would eventually share in some of its profits, if there were any.
The Chosen has always been available to watch for free via an official app, but in the time since those early days of indie bootstrapping, the series was also the centerpiece of a distribution deal with Lionsgate and has come to a number of streamers like Amazon, Netflix, and Peacock. Earlier this summer, The CW began also began airing The Chosen after gaining the distribution rights to its first three seasons. It’s unclear what will become of the show’s currently-shooting fourth season, but it’s going to be very interesting to see what other productions end up coming back online as SAG-AFTRA’s strike continues.
Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.