Netflix is investing a great deal of money and time in the crafting of original series, but it turns out that the streaming service may need to tweak how it handles filming some of those originals. The method of producing an entire season of episodes at once has meant that actors are required to be on set for a fixed amount of time, and any delays in production can mean contract complications. Netflix is currently in a sticky situation thanks to the filming schedule for the stars of Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down, and the issue could get pretty ugly before it's resolved.
The Screen Actors Guild is currently demanding arbitration against Sony Pictures Television, which produced The Get Down for Netflix. According to SAG, the actors were held on set longer than their union contracts should have required of them. When actors sign contracts, there are usually stipulations for a fixed time period in which a producer has the option to extend their services if filming is not yet complete. THR reports that SAG argues Sony kept the cast of The Get Down longer than should have been permitted under their contracts.
The Get Down has been something of a mess for Netflix for a while now. The series went through a number of stalls, rewrites, and delays for more than two years before the first episode made its streaming premiere. The original budget of $7.5 million-per-episode for the first 12 installments reportedly skyrocketed to a whopping total of $120 million, and Netflix wasn't even able to release the full first season at once as planned. The first half of Season 1 became available on Netflix in August 2016; the second half doesn't debut until April 7, 2017. Neither Netflix nor Sony Pictures Television have commented on the demand for arbitration, so we can't confirm at this point if or how much the delays affected how long the actors were held on set, but we can bet that they didn't help.
All things considered, the Get Down mess is a bit of a surprise. The entire project had the potential to be a huge winner for Netflix. The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann created the series as a mythic saga of how hip-hop, punk, and disco were born in 1970s New York City. The show landed some winning actors in key roles, the trailer was promising, and the entire project was unlike anything else available streaming online. If everything had gone according to plan, The Get Down could have been a smash success for Netflix.
Of course, we can't exactly say that The Get Down was a flop. We haven't even seen the entire first season, and the first batch of episodes at least made it clear that Baz Luhrmann and Co. put that $120 million to good use. We'll have to wait and see what happens next following SAG's demand for arbitration. If the case goes badly for Netflix and Sony, Netflix may need to re-evaluate how it produces and releases its original series.