It is a double whammy of sorts of Hollywood—two months after over 11,000 screenwriters went on strike demanding better working conditions, actors, too have announced their decision to join the picket line. Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG)-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the union that represents 160,000 television and movie actors, announced the decision on Thursday after negotiations with studios collapsed.
The double strike by both the unions simultaneously, the first in over 60 years, is expected to bring the multi-billion dollar American movie and television business to a grinding halt. Picketing will begin on Friday morning outside the California headquarters of streaming giant Netflix, before moving on to Paramount, Warner Bros and Disney.
What are actors demanding
At the centre of the crisis are concerns over streaming platform deals and the role of artificial intelligence in content generation. The SAG wants studios and streaming giants like Netflix, to agree to a fair split of profits, and also guarantee that AI-generated faces and voices will not be used to replace actors. As streaming platforms reshape entertainment content consumption patterns, actors also claimed that their wages and residuals have not kept up with inflation. The actors are demanding transparency and want to be compensated for streaming TV shows and movies based on the performance of the titles. Sreaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Max do not share metrics with the public, or even the creators of their films and TV shows. SAG is pushing for analytics from a third party to help determine payment, USA Today stated in a report.
On the other hand, studio executives maintain that spending on new content to meet consumer demand has hit profits leading to layoffs of thousands of employees.
The actors’ union’s deal with AMPTP, which represents production studios and streaming platforms was set to expire on June 30, and was extended to July 12. More than 300 actors, including the likes of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, had signed a letter in June authorising SAG union leaders to call for a strike if no deal was reached by the July 12 deadline.
In response to the strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers issued a statement saying the actors’ union “has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more”.
How will it affect the industry
The industry was already feeling the pinch of the screenwriters’ strike with many productions of many popular shows including The Last of Us and The Mandalorian, already delayed. Series such as Duster, The Penguin, Daredevil: Born Again, Billions, Robert De Niro’s Zero Day, The Old Man and Severance have shut down, while writing for shows such as Abbott Elementary, Yellowjackets, Stranger Things and Cobra Kai has been halted, Deadline reported. Future projects like Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Disney’s Blade remake have also stalled, as scripts are not being completed, Guardian reported. Even actors join the strike, projects with finished scripts, too, cannot go forward. This affects titles like House of the Dragon, Andor, Industry, Kate Winslet’s HBO drama The Palace and more. The second season of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has reportedly completed shooting.
Actors joining the strike also means they cannot participate in any promotional activities. Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, was the first to feel the heat after the union declared the strike. The A-list cast including Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Ramy Malek left the film’s London screening midway in solidarity with the strike called by a Hollywood’s actors union left the film’s London screening midway in solidarity with the strike called by a Hollywood’s actors union.
Shoots of anticipated films like Gladiator 2 and Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two are likely to be hit. Upcoming award shows like the Emmys and events like the Comic-Con will also be impacted.