Hollywood will grind to a halt after leaders of a major actors’ union voted to join screenwriters in the first collective strike in more than six decades.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced Thursday morning that negotiations for higher wages from studios ended without an agreement.
By Thursday afternoon, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that union leadership had officially voted to stop work at midnight because their demands for higher wages and protection against artificial intelligence had not been met.
Under a strike rule, SAG-AFTRA members will not be able to film a movie or TV series, attend any press or film premieres or promote anything at this month’s San Diego Comic-Con.
The announcement marks the first strike for film and television show actors since the 1980s. It’s the first time two major Hollywood unions have gone on strike at the same time since Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1960.
The pending strike will affect Disney’s Avatar and Lion King sequels, as well as shows scheduled to return to television in the fall, such as The Simpsons.
SAG-AFTRA President Actress Fran Drescher and SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that the union would begin at midnight.
Oppenheimer’s cast walked out of the film’s UK premiere after the strike was announced
Members of the Writers Guild of America picket at Walt Disney Studios on July 13
Announcing the strike Thursday afternoon, actress Fran Drescher, who serves as president of SAG-AFTRA, said ‘We demand respect! You can’t live without us!’
‘What happens to us matters,’ said the Nanny star. ‘What is happening to us is happening in all sectors of labour.
‘When employers make Wall Street and greed prioritize them and they forget about the contributors who need to run the machine, we have a problem.’
‘The jig is up, we demand respect,’ he said.
Almost immediately, screenwriters outside Netflix’s Hollywood offices chanted ‘Pay Your Actors!’ He started chanting.
At the same time, Oppenheimer’s cast walked out of the film’s UK premiere in ‘solidarity’ with the actors’ union.
Jamie Lee Curtis also posted a photo on Instagram saying ‘Looks like it’s time to take off the mask and pick up the signs,’ while Jamie Lynn Spears posted: ‘Today will probably be the last day I’ll be able to post about anything. Upcoming projects until there is a resolution to the strike.
‘We just have to make up for it with the next Zoey project,’ she said, referring to the planned reboot of her Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101.
But Disney boss Bob Iger has previously argued that the actors are being ‘unreasonable’ with their demands.’
“They have a level of expectation that is not realistic,” he claimed on CNBC.
‘And they’re adding to the set of challenges this business is already facing.
‘That is, quite frankly, disruptive.’
Actors such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Mark Ruffalo have said they will support the strike, and on the pink carpet for the Barbie premiere on Thursday, Margot Robbie said she would ‘absolutely’ stand by the union.
Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday slammed actors threatening to go on strike, saying they were being ‘not realistic’ and ‘disruptive’ to the industry.
“There is a level of expectation [the writers and actors] It’s just not realistic,” said @RobertIger, CEO of $DIS on @sagaftra and the WGA strike. “They’re adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing and it’s very disruptive.” pic.twitter.com/ ySYvfQBYA5
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 13, 2023
The studios agreed to that provision
Minimum percentage increase in 35 years Maximum percentage increase 76% High budget SVOD Foreign residual increase Pension and health contribution Significant increase in CAPSAI proposal that protects digital likeness of performers, with requirement of performer’s consent for digital reproduction and use or digital alteration of lead roles in high budget SVOD programs ( Guest stars) A performance 58% increase in performers’ pay Limits on self-tape requests, including page, time and technical requirements. Virtual or in-person audition options include an 11% pay increase for background actors, stand-ins and photo doubles, an additional 17% increase for background actors requiring extensive self-styling, and an additional 62% increase for stand-ins. Ins are needed to deliver lines during a run-through and photo doubles are needed to memorize and deliver lines on camera. Fixed residuals for the first time for stunt coordinators on television and high-budget SVOD programs Short alternate duration for series regulars earning less than $65,000 per episode for half-hour series or less than $70,000 per episode for one-hour series Dancers will now receive on-camera rates for rehearsal days.
SAG-AFTRA was demanding higher wages to combat inflation and guarantee their future livelihoods.
In addition to a salary while they’re actively working, actors earn money called ‘residuals’ every time a film or show they star in airs on a network or cable – which is especially helpful when the actors are in between projects.
But streamers like Netflix and Disney+ don’t disclose viewing figures for their shows and offer the same flat rate for everything on their platforms, regardless of popularity.
Further muddying the waters is AI’s problem.
The union wanted ‘a breakthrough AI proposal that preserves the digital likeness of actors.’ Actors are concerned that their digital images may be used without their permission or appropriate compensation.
In a statement after the strike was announced, the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Producers said it was disappointed by the breakdown in negotiations.
“It’s the union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it rejected proposals for our historic pay and residual raises, significantly higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shorter series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. said in a statement.
It said it had agreed to the minimum maximum percentage increase in 35 years, a ‘significant increase’ in pension and health contribution caps and an 11 per cent increase in a year for background actors, stand-ins and photo doubles and an additional 17. A percentage increase for background actors is required for extensive self-styling.
Those required to deliver lines during a run-through and photo doubles who must memorize and deliver lines on camera would receive an additional 62 percent raise under the proposal.
But Drescher said the two sides remained “far apart” on a lot of things, citing overpayments to top executives that the studios called “poverty pleas.”
Meryl Streep is set to strike after failed negotiations between the union and studios. He is pictured at the ‘The Laundromat’ premiere on September 9, 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival, Canada. Jennifer Lawrence is also ready to strike. He is pictured on the set of a Longines watch ad on June 29, 2023 in New York City.
Mark Ruffalo (left at the premiere of ‘Lakota Nation vs. United States’ in New York City) is also ready to strike, as is Quinta Brunson (right at the 60th Annual ICG Publicist Awards).
Even before negotiations began on June 7, the 65,000 actors who cast ballots overwhelmingly voted for union leaders to send them on strike, as the Writers Guild of America did when their contract expired more than two months ago.
When the initial deadline approached in late June, more than 1,000 union members, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Bob Odenkirk, added their names to a letter to leaders indicating their willingness to strike.
It added that instead of continuing negotiations, ‘SAG-AFTRA has taken us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship of thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihood.’
The union said in a statement that any Emmy campaign by the actors would cease immediately and that the strike could threaten the annual awards show, with its leaders considering a delay to November or even next year.
Upcoming releases will now be canceled due to promotional events and red-carpet premieres of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.
The strike will also halt production on Mufasa: The Lion King and Avatar sequels.
And for TV shows, production has stopped for Chicago Med, Fire and PD, Young Sheldon and The Simpsons.
The last time actors went on strike in 1980, the entertainment industry lost an estimated $100 million — which would equate to about $370 million today.
‘There’s a lot at stake here,’ Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer, told Business Insider. ‘I don’t think filmed entertainment has seen such a rapid change in such a short period of time since the end of World War II.’
He added that a collective strike ‘could go towards the end of the year.’
On the other hand, it is likely that two guilds’ contracts will be negotiated simultaneously.
Having both high-profile actors on the picket line with writers will generate good PR for the strikers, which will encourage entertainment companies to come to the table, explained Paul Hardert, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
‘I think the SAG going on strike accelerated things,’ he said. ‘I think you’ll see pressure from outside powers — whether it’s the governor of California, the president of the United States — will push it forward.’
But, he admits, ‘I could be completely wrong.’
Several actors have already been seen picketing in support of the Writers Guild. Seth Meyers is pictured on the picket line in May
Actress Jail Fonda was seen here supporting the Writers Guild strike last month
SAG-AFTRA represents more than 160,000 screen actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, hosts and stunt performers.
But the walkout only affects the union’s 65,000 actors in television and film productions.
Meanwhile, 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike since their own negotiations collapsed and their contract expired on May 2.
He showed no signs of resolving the standoff, and no talks were even planned.
The strike led to the immediate shutdown of late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live, and several scripted shows, including Stranger Things on Netflix, Hacks on Max, and Family Guy on Fox, either closed their writers’ rooms or paused their production.
Many others are sure to follow them now that the performers are drawn too.