Lights, camera, strike! That’s right, actors have now joined writers at the picket line after SAG-AFTRA voted Thursday, July 13, to have the Actors Guild of America (AGA) join the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and put a halt to productions until demands are met. Now 160,000 entertainers join the 11,000 creators in a strike that will essentially shutter Hollywood – and leave you with nothing but reruns for entertainment.
Actors Walk Off Sets and Join the Picket Line
The strike became effective midnight, when actors walked off sets and stopped promotional work. This includes the cast of Oppenheimer, a production starring Robert Downey, Jr. SAG-AFTRA members left the London premiere on Thursday. The director, Christopher Nolan, told onlookers that the cast are “off to write their picket signs.” Fran Drescher (The Nanny), the president of the organization, said during a press conference:
“The eyes of the world and, particularly, the eyes of labor are upon us. What happens to us is important. What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor. When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors who make the machine run, we have a problem.”
So what do Tinseltown celebrities want? More pay, of course. They demand increased health and pension benefits, better restrictions and guidance on using artificial intelligence in television and film productions, and to get their fair share of residual payments from streaming services.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) represents Hollywood studios such as Netflix, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Bros. It bargains for the studios with the guilds, including SAG-AFTRA. After contract negotiations failed and the strike was approved, AMPTP issued a statement saying it “presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses.”
But Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, argued the proposed negotiation was not such a great deal:
“In that ground breaking AI proposal, they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation. So if you think that’s a ground breaking proposal I suggest you think again.”
SAG-AFTRA also claims that studio producers reportedly plan not to negotiate with writers for several months. As CNBC reported, “producers expect writers will run out of money and possibly lose their homes and be forced to come to the bargaining table.” The writers have been on strike since May 2, which has caused many shows to televise reruns. Some actors had joined their creators on the picket line to show support, but now they will be picketing for themselves. Scott Moore, a screenwriter whose credits include hits The Hangover and Bad Moms, was waiting outside for the SAG-AFTRA decision. He said, “People like pretty faces,” and “Actors will be better looking than writers, and we might get more attention.”
What Does the Strike Really Mean?
It is, essentially, lights out in Hollywood. While striking, actors will not be allowed to promote past projects through conventions, interviews, or panels. This includes any Emmy Award campaigning. The award ceremony is scheduled September 18 on Fox.
Actors are out of work until a deal is agreed upon. They cannot work on any film or TV shows, and they can’t even audition for future projects. So, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling can’t hit the press trail for Barbie, and celebrities won’t be strutting their stuff on magazine covers or making appearances on talk shows.
Enough about the actors, what about the audiences? It’s rerun city, baby. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the next episodes of Yellowstone or House of the Dragon. Movie date night may come to a halt, too, unless theaters plan to have nostalgic showings at – hopefully – reduced prices so you can still get out of the house and enjoy a bucket of buttery movie popcorn. Unless negotiations are agreed upon soon, it will be a while before you can see Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part 2 or the next Marvel movie hit theaters.
This strike comes at an inconvenient time for an industry that has suffered and is still trying to recover after the pandemic shut down production and delayed movies and television series releases. Disney CEO Bob Iger said the strike comes at “the worst time in the world” and:
“It will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business. And unfortunately there’s huge collateral damage to the industry, to people who are, you know, support services. I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame. It is really a shame.”
The last time actors took to the picket line was in 2000, when commercial actors walked out for six months. Theatrical and TV actors were last on strike for just 14 hours in 1986, and they also went on strike for three months in 1980.
Why is this such a big deal? The last time both actors and writers went on strike at the same time was in 1960. At that time, Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States and Ronald Reagan was president of SAG.
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