Hollywood actors have joined writers in a strike that will bring TV and movie production to a halt. The strike is a result of failed negotiations between SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
This is the first time that SAG-AFTRA has gone on strike since 1980, and it comes in solidarity with the Screenwriters Guild (SWG), which is already on strike since May, 2023. Together, these strikes mark the most widespread work stoppage in Hollywood since 1960, when actors, writers and directors all walked out at the same time.
(SAG-AFTRA) is the union that represents more than 160,000 actors, voice artists, singers, dancers, stunt performers and other media professionals. Whereas, the Screenwriters Guild (SWG) was formed in 1921 to represent film screenwriters. The SWG became two different organizations in 1954: Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). They have both joined forces against AMPTP, the group that represents the studios, networks and streaming services that hire them.
Hollywood Actors Strike Puts Pressure on Entertainment Giants
The main reason for breakdown in negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP is to compensate actors for their work on streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu and others. These platforms have become increasingly dominant in the entertainment landscape, especially during the pandemic, when many theaters were closed and people turned to online content for entertainment.
However, SAG-AFTRA has argued that the current contract, which was negotiated in 2017 before streaming became so prevalent, did not adequately reflect the value of actors’ work on these platforms. The union wants higher minimum wages, residuals (payments for repeated use of their work), pension and health contributions, and audition protections for actors working on streaming shows and movies.
The union also addressed the issue of artificial intelligence (AI), which refers to technologies that can create digital replicas or alterations of actors’ voices, likenesses and performances. The union fears that these technologies could be used to exploit actors’ work without their consent or compensation, or even replace them altogether. The union wants more regulations and safeguards to protect actors’ rights and interests in relation to AI.
Moreover, the actors’ guild pointed out the inadequate an unsustainable health care plan offered by the AMPTP. Allegedly, it did not cover enough of the medical costs and required actors to pay high premiums and deductibles. The union wants to improve the health care plan and make it more affordable and accessible for its members.
Finally, SAG-AFTRA criticized AMPTP for not doing enough to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry, especially for actors of color, women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. The union demanded to establish more initiatives and incentives to increase the representation and opportunities for these groups in front of and behind the camera.
AMPTP Defends its Position
The AMPTP claimed that it has made a “fair and generous” offer to SAG-AFTRA. The alliance insisted that their offer encompassed significant pay and residual increases, marking a historic milestone in remuneration. Moreover, they claimed to prioritize the well-being of the actors with higher caps on pension and health contributions.
The AMPTP also said their proposal introduced shorter series option periods that reduced the period of time that actors were contractually bound to a particular show. It is for granting greater flexibility and autonomy to performers in managing their careers.
Additionally, the AMPTP claimed to add a groundbreaking provision regarding artificial intelligence (AI) in their proposal. As per the alliance, the measure aimed to protect the actors’ digital likenesses and safeguard the rights and control of actors over their digital representations in an evolving technological landscape. It establishes a requirement for obtaining the performer’s consent for the creation and usage of digital replicas or any digital alterations of their performances.
The AMPTP criticize the strike, saying it was not in the best interest of anyone involved in the industry. It will lead to financial hardship for thousands of people who depend on it. The group claimed that it had been negotiating with SAG-AFTRA for weeks, but that the union chose to reject its offer and went on strike instead.
What is the Impact of this Strike?
The Hollywood Actors strike has affected hundreds of productions across the country, from big-budget movies to low-budget web series. Some actors have decided to honor the strike and stop working, while others have chosen to cross the picket line and continue working. The strike has also sparked solidarity from other unions and organizations in the industry, such as writers, directors, crew members, agents, and fans.
The strike is expected to last until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP. It could take weeks or months, depending on how much pressure each side can exert or withstand. Both parties have expressed their willingness to resume talks, but so far no progress has been made.
The strike is a historic moment for actors and Hollywood’s future, as it will determine how artists are compensated and treated in the digital age.
The Future of Hollywood Looks Bleak
The strike by SAG-AFTRA will effectively shut down all film and TV production that uses its members, even outside the US. The closure will also include any promotional work that actors do for their projects, such as attending red carpets or doing press interviews. This will have a huge impact on the entertainment industry, which is already struggling to recover from the pandemic and the writers’ strike.
An incident already occurred at the London premier of Oppenheimer, a highly anticipated biopic on the life of a controversial scientist whose work led to the creation of atomic bomb. The entire cast refused to come out on stage to stand in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA’s strike.
Besides the artists, the strike will also affect audiences, who will face delays or cancellations of their favorite shows and movies. Some productions that have already been completed may still be released on schedule, but others may be postponed or scrapped altogether. The strike will also limit the availability of new content on streaming platforms, which may lose subscribers or revenue as a result.
A federal mediator has been appointed to help facilitate talks between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP, but it is unclear whether this will make any difference. In the meantime, Hollywood is facing a dark and uncertain future, and so are the audience.