AS OF 5PM THIS EVENING (AEST), Hollywood could effectively grind to a halt. After failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) acting unions are set to join the already-striking 11,000 film and television writers on the picket lines. If an agreement isn’t worked out in the coming hours, this will mark the industry’s first tandem strike since 1960 and effectively shut down Hollywood.
At a press conference on Thursday, SAG president Fran Drescher said the decision comes “with great sadness … But we had no choice.”
“We are the victims here. We are being victimised by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them.
“At some point, you have to say, no, we’re not going to take this any more,” she added. “There was nothing there, it was insulting.”
So what will the actor’s strike mean for your favourite films and television shows — and their stars? Ahead, a breakdown of everything you need to know.
Why are actors striking?
Members of the Writers Guild of America have been striking for 10 weeks, having walked out hoping to secure better pay, residuals and new terms that would protect them from losing work to Artificial Intelligence-powered writing tools.
The actors’ concerns are similar. Financially, SAG members are seeking increased base compensation, improved benefits and payment for self-taped auditions. They’re also pushing for increased transparency from streaming services. Currently, performance metrics of films and television shows uploaded to platforms like Netflix are not available to the public. SAG is calling for a regulatory third party monitoring system that will ensure actors are awarded residual payments in line with the performance of their projects.
The other major concern is AI. Similarly to the concerns of writers, there are fears AI could take jobs with studios opting to use digitally-created ‘performers’ in place of real actors.
What does the actor’s strike mean for film and television?
The impacts of the strike could be dire for Hollywood. Essentially, the actors (who are members of the union, at least) will stop acting.
The majority of film and television sets will be shut down indefinitely, which will push back the release dates for forthcoming projects. Actors who are not part of SAF-AFTRA could continue to act, and projects in production outside of the US may not be impacted.
ThinkTank projects the joint strike between the Writer’s Guild and SAG-AFTRA could have a financial impact of at least AU $5.8 billion.
Additionally, actors will also be prohibited from promoting past projects. This means no press junkets, panels, conventions, or awards show campaigning. It is currently unclear what this means for the Emmys, the nominations for which were announced earlier this week. This will also mean no interviews, photoshoots or magazine covers that haven’t already taken place.
Members of the union are already taking the strike seriously. During the London premiere of Oppenheimer on Thursday, actors including Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh and Rami Malek left the scene upon news of the strike.
The film’s director Christopher Nolan told the crowd, “I have to to acknowledge the work of our incredible cast … You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet. Unfortunately, they are off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of their union.”
The film is set to hit theatres next week, on the same day as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. The movie’s highly-publicised press run will end early, with star Margot Robbie telling Sky News at its London premiere, “I’m very much in support of all of the unions and I’m a part of SAG so I would absolutely stand by that.”
When will the actor’s strike end?
The length of the strike is indefinite. Writers have been on strike since May 2, with no resolution at the time of writing.
The most recent actor’s strike was in 1986, which only lasted 14 hours, whereas a 1980 strike lasted three months.
The strike will continue a compromise is reached between the striking side and AMPTP.