SAG Strike: Everything to know so far

SAG Strike
Dual union walkouts fuel tensions in Hollywood (Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Hollywood faces an industry-wide shutdown with the 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) going on strike on Friday, July 14 at 12:01 am PT. For the first time in 63 years, the board voted unanimously to order the strike, which was authorized with 98 percent of the voters voting in favor. The SAG strike comes into effect with the ongoing WGA strike that has been in effect since May 2, 2023.

Actors have expressed dissatisfaction about their low pay and the fact that inflation has reduced the value of their contracts.

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The unions, namely AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which represents film studios and production houses, and SAG-AFTRA, failed to reach an agreement to formulate a new contract, with the previous agreement expiring on June 30, 2023.

Keeping in mind the demands of the actors and writers, over 300 SAG members, including A-listers like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Rami Malek, and Amy Poehler, wrote a signed letter to the guild announcing their intention and referring to the present time as,

"An unprecedented inflection point in the industry."

Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are likely to reflect enormous economic consequences, which have already got the public relations departments of streaming giants like Netflix and Disney running into panic mode as actors withdraw from press conferences and promotional events.


SAG strike - What are the demands?

The demands laid down by SAG-AFTRA are similar to those of the WGA: better pay and protection rights in an industry that is facing radical changes in terms of technology and inflation. As actors and screenwriters join the picket lines in New York and Los Angeles, they put forth their concerns:

  • increased residual payments (a type of royalty) from streaming services
  • the issue with mini rooms and the associated ambiguity on production sets
  • use of AI to replicate actors to reduce costs

According to their website, SAG-AFTRA represents actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and other media professionals, the majority of whom have joined hands with the 20,000 writers of the Writers Guild of America.

A mass resignation of participation from productions of AMPTP members like Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros., NBC Universal, Amazon, and Paramount seems to continue indefinitely. The two unions were in talks with AMPTP with an extension until July 12, 2023, for contract negotiations, after which they announced the strike.

In light of the SAG strike, the cast of Oppenheimer walked out of the London premiere of their movie in solidarity with the strike to 'go and write their picket signs'. Simultaneously, while speaking to Sky News, Barbie star Margot Robbie expressed her solidarity, saying that she is very much in support of all unions.

Highlighting the shift to digital streaming, Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon told the BBC,

"AI will affect everybody. There's definitely always been the feeling that if it isn't solved now, how do we ever solve it in the future?"

She continued,

"If you don't have the foresight to put something in place for the future, then you're screwed. It's clear that nothing is going to change from the top down, it's going to be up to us at the bottom."

The Impact of a double strike on Hollywood

Hollywood has already stalled multiple big-budget projects such as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 2, Deadpool 3, Stranger Things Season 5, Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 2, Venom 3, and The Sandman Season 2. However, shows like The House of Dragon Season 2 and Industry Season 3 will remain in production owing to the UK cast being part of the sister union, Equity, which is legally not allowed to go on strike.

The double strike may result in a desolate annual San Diego Comic-Con scheduled for July 20–23, 2023, as Disney's Marvel Studios, Universal Pictures, and Netflix have pulled out of it along with all other talent.

Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA and Fran Fine in The Nanny (1993–1999) said in a press conference speech,

"The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI. This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don't stand tall right now, we are going to be in trouble."

Drescher continued,

"We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business, who cares more about wall street than you and your family."

Actors will be unable to take part in the usual awards campaign that is supposed to follow the 2023 Emmy nominations announcement. The last time Hollywood faced a double strike was in the 1960s.

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Edited by Babylona Bora