The thicket of Hollywood picket lines could soon see an influx of famous faces as the actors’ union seems increasingly likely to join writers in a mass work stoppage. It would be the first time since 1960 that Tinseltown’s actors and writers went on strike at the same time.
Leaders of SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which includes film studios, TV channels and streamers, failed to agree on a new contract. The current one was due to expire on June 30, after which the deadline was extended to July 12 at 11:59 p.m. PT. “The parties will continue to negotiate under a mutually agreed media blackout,” the groups said in a statement obtained by Yahoo. “Neither organization will comment to the media about the negotiations during the extension.”
A federal mediator was dispatched on Wednesday in an effort to find mutually acceptable terms as the midnight deadline approaches.
As recent as June 24, former The babysitter star Fran Drescher, who is now the president of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, told members that union representatives conducted “extremely productive negotiations laser-focused on all the critical issues you said are most important to you And we’re standing strong and we’re going to make a groundbreaking deal.” Later that week, she sounded less hopeful Good morning America, acknowledging that there was no progress in some areas. (Drescher came under fire from her co-workers last weekend when she flew to Italy for a Dolce & Gabbana fashion event with the Kardashians while Hollywood was talking.)
In perhaps one of the most sobering signs that a strike was very likely, SAG-AFTRA leaders held a conference call Monday with Hollywood’s top publicity agencies, reportedly to brace them for a work stoppage. “It would be a miracle at this point” to come to a deal on Wednesday night, a producer said Variety.
Per Variety, there were “major differences” on a number of points, including the use of artificial intelligence. Negotiations between the parties began on May 31.
Here’s a breakdown of why this happened and what it means for entertainment fans:
What do the actors want they don’t get from the studios and networks?
The actors want better overall salaries and job protections, including the regulation of AI and more streaming residuals, as many of their performances are now delivered to consumers.
On June 27, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Quinta Brunson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rami Malek, Elliot Page and hundreds of other members sent an internal letter to Drescher and union leaders demanding that they push for a “seismic realignment” of working conditions . including minimum wage rates, exclusivity clauses, residuals when their work is streamed or used to train AI, as well as regulation of the practice of self-recorded auditions.
“We want you to know that we would rather strike than compromise on these fundamentals, and we believe that to settle for a less drastic deal will undermine the future of our union and our craft, and SAG-AFTRA will enter the next negotiation with drastically reduced leverage,” they wrote.
Days before the letter was sent, members had overwhelmingly voted to strike — a whopping 98 percent of the 65,000 members who voted — if a deal was not reached by the deadline. The idea of a strike exploded in popularity after the star-studded statement, and by Wednesday more than 1,000 members, including Pedro Pascal, Charlize Theron and Drescher himself, had signed up.
Meanwhile, the studios try to stay profitable. For example, officials at Netflix announced this month that the company would lay off 300 employees due to slower revenue growth.
What does this have to do with the writers’ strike?
It’s odd, though the writers, who went on strike on May 2 after contract talks between their union, the Writers Guild of America and AMPTP fell through, are asking for some of the same things actors do. Above all, they are looking for a higher salary, especially given the changes in how people consume content and how that content is created. A big problem for them is that streaming has led to a shift in the industry. Traditional residuals — a writer’s fee when you watch their show — are drying up. Shows also now go into production in shorter spurts, which means some writers struggle to scrape together a steady income. The writers also wanted assurances that shows would hire a set number of writers for a set amount of time, rather than what are known as “mini-rooms” for writers, and that their jobs would be protected from AI takeover.
So it’s not directly related, but it illustrates the state of the entertainment industry, which, like the rest of the world, is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Gone are the days of a televised TV series that airs once a week for over 20 weeks, now replaced by a streaming show with maybe eight episodes all dropping at once, which naturally affects the cast and crew.
And this has real-world implications for the people who write those breathtaking episodes and movies. Take actress Rebecca Metz (TVs Shameless And Better things), who told Agence France-Presse on June 28 that in recent years she’s seen her residuals shrink to a “small fraction” of what they used to be because streamers often pay fixed rates to artists, rather than rates based on the popularity of a program. So someone who plays a minor character on a show you’ve never heard of makes the same amount of money off these leftovers as someone on, say, a hit like Hulu’s Only kills in the building.
“When we don’t work for a while, all of a sudden we start to worry about our eligibility for our health insurance,” Metz told the news outlet.
Okay, so what does the actors’ strike mean for my favorite TV shows and upcoming movies?
It’s definitely not good. If there’s one good thing, it’s that since writers were already on strike, many productions were shut down anyway. Those include Saturday Night Livewhich ended its season early, and scripted shows like Stranger things, Hacks And Cobra Kaias well as movies, such as Marvel’s Sheet, so that there will not be too drastic changes in the near future. However, there are shows and movies that have been written for the writers went on strike who now cannot film without actors.
In the short term, many shows have already been filmed and are on the bus, but audiences would still see changes, such as a potential delay to the Emmy Awards, which are currently scheduled for Sept. 18. awards fete are without the casts of Abbot Elementary School And The bear?) The annual fan show Comic-Con International, which was scheduled for July 20-23 in San Diego, could be a bust.
A strike would also mean that actors would stop promoting their projects through these kinds of performances, which would also leave the entertainment news industry and talk shows at a loss.
Also, an actor’s strike is likely to affect our choices of movies and TV shows for years to come as productions are halted and planned projects pile up.
How long is this gonna take?
While no one knows for sure, we can get a sense of the handful of previous actors who have gone on strike. The most recent were in 1980, when a work stoppage lasted about four months because performers sought compensation for “Pay TV, videodisc and videocassettes”, and in 2000. Los Angeles Times reported then that actors wanted higher payments for commercials, to no longer be paid a flat fee for making advertisements that were broadcast on cable. They wanted to be paid in residuals, just like shows. “The actors also want to address the fledgling issue of how they will be paid when ads run on the internet,” the newspaper said.
The double strike makes the situation particularly dire for pop culture disciples.
An earlier version of this story was published on June 30, 2023.
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