Actors strike: Hollywood halts production

Hollywood actors have gone on strike shutting down production for the majority of scripted movie and television shows. The walkout means that actors have now joined the writers from the movie and television world who went on strike in May.

Who is on strike?

You will have seen the words SAG-AFTRA in the end credits of most films and television shows. SAG-AFTRA is the actors’ union and stands for Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The union represents actors in the US who work in movies, television, and on the radio. In addition to the actors, around 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike since May.

What will be affected?

While the strike is on, actors can’t appear in any movies or television shows. This means that there won’t be any new projects being filmed until the strike is over.  In addition, actors won’t be promoting movies that have already been made. At the premiere of Oppenheimer in London, UK, last night, actors including Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt appeared on the red carpet. However, they then left before the movie screened as the strike came into effect.

What is it about?

SAG-AFTRA has been negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers about wages and working conditions. However, the negotiations broke down, which led to the strike being called. SAG-AFTRA wants actors to get a fairer share of the profits from successful shows on streaming services such as Netflix. In addition, the union wants assurances that AI and computer-generated images won’t be used instead of actors.

Residuals

Traditionally, actors get payments called “residuals” from repeats of movies and television shows they have acted in. However, this share of the profits is much more complicated to assess with streaming services. One of the proposals made by the studios related to the role of background artists, or extras. The studios wanted to be able to scan the actors and pay them a day’s worth of pay. However, the studios then wanted to be able to use that scanned image again and again without making any further payments to the actors.

What next?

This is the first time that both the actors and the writers in America have been on strike at the same time since 1960. Back then, SAG-AFTRA was headed up by the actor Ronald Reagan who later became the US president. At the moment, the studios and streaming companies seem determined not to give in to the unions’ demands. Television networks are therefore increasing the number of unscripted content and reality TV shows as these don’t use actors.

What we think

It’s easy to think of actors as all being highly-paid stars. However, the majority of the 160,000 actors who are on strike earn much less. These actors rely on repeat payments and residuals to pay their bills. The use of AI and the way streaming services pay has also impacted on the earnings of a lot of actors. Hopefully, the studios will recognize how much they rely on actors and writers and make some concessions to end the strikes. However, sadly it doesn’t look like that will happen any day soon.

Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

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