Things are changing in a good way for Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart.” Co-creator and executive producer Brian Bird shared on social media that the series has received a rare exception to continue filming season 11 during the SAG-AFTRA Hollywood strike.
The Series Was Given an Interim Agreement with SAG-AFTRA
While many productions have had to shut down amid the Hollywood writers and actors strike, “When Calls the Heart” is an exception. Deadline reported that the series has been awarded an interim agreement by SAG-AFTRA.
Bird broke the good news on social media. He wrote on Facebook: “The story is now out #Hearties… it’s good news on two fronts: Season 11 of When Calls the Heart is approved by SAG to continue production in the same week as Season 10 Premieres! We are very grateful to all the folks at SAG/AFTRA for saying YES! to filming Season 11!”
So far, only 68 productions have received these waivers, including the faith-based series “The Chosen” and Apple’s “Tehran,” Deadline reported.
As Deadline clarified in a separate story, receiving a waiver means that SAG-AFTRA talent can continue filming for that particular production. This means that stars like Erin Krakow, who are U.S.-based talent, will be able to film for “When Calls the Heart.”
When “The Chosen” received its exemption, creator Dallas Jenkins posted about it on social media, revealing a little more about what goes on behind-the-scenes to obtain an exemption, Deadline reported.
Jenkins wrote, “We’ve submitted all the requested paperwork immediately. We fit all qualifications for an exemption. Every day that goes by without your response costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars while your actors are stuck in Utah. We’re the good guys. We’ve treated your actors well.”
Deadline reported that exemptions are given to independent producers who aren’t affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
SAG-AFTRA National Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline that while there’s a lot of complexity involved in who gets an exemption, the interim agreement tends to follow the terms of the last counter-offer that SAG-AFTRA gave to the AMPTP.
The First Day of Filming for Season 11 Coincided with the Beginning of the Actors’ Strike
Season 10 of “When Calls the Heart” was already completed and produced long before the actors strike began. The new season premieres on July 30 at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
But questions arose quickly about season 11, which is set to premiere sometime in 2024. In February, Hallmark announced that the series was being renewed for an eleventh season, even before season 10 aired, ET Online reported. But filming for season 11 begon on Monday, July 17, just as the actors strike was starting, Bird confirmed in a social media post.
The initial workaround was to let the Canadian production team and Canadian stars not affiliated with the SAG-AFTRA strike begin working, while waiting for U.S. actors like Erin Krakow (who plays the lead character Elizabeth) to join them later.
Bird wrote at the time: “Our intrepid and fearless Vancouver production team have prepared an extraordinary contingency plan that will honor the WGA and SAG/ACTRA strikes, while at the same time keeping the streets of Hope Valley very busy in the weeks and months ahead. On Monday, July 17, the production of Season 11 BEGINS with all of our fine Canadian writers and cast- and-crew-members back to work while we wait for a peaceful resolution of these labor talks.”
This left some concern that the series’ eleventh season might be delayed if the strike lasted a long time. But with an exemption granted, that’s no longer a concern.
On Twitter, Bird’s announcement was met with many notes of congratulations.
One fan wrote, “Oh so good!!”
Another fan wrote, “Thank you so much to share this great news with us.😀🙏🏼”
Another replied, “So happy to hear it! This show is such a happy place in such a dark world. We need it now more than ever. ❤️”
In a separate Facebook post, Bird wrote: “For ten seasons, our fictional town of Hope Valley has always been a place of second chances, where all citizens are treated with grace, fairness and respect. We pray for nothing but fairness and respect in the negotiations between the studios, networks, writers and actors. On all sides. Everybody can and should win.”