Hollywood Actors’ Union Announces Strike

Hollywood’s actors announced Thursday they will go on strike, joining writers in the first industry-wide shutdown in 63 years after last-ditch talks failed, with nearly all film and television production set to grind to a halt.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which represents 160,000 performers including A-list stars, said negotiations had ended without a deal on their demands over dwindling pay and the threat posed by artificial intelligence.

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“SAG-AFTRA’s national board unanimously voted to issue a strike order against the studios and streamers,” said the union’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

The strike will begin at midnight Thursday (0700 GMT Friday), meaning actors will join writers on picket lines from Friday morning in the first Hollywood “double strike” since 1960.

Writers have already spent 11 weeks on the picket line, after their similar demands for better pay and protections against the future use of AI in television and films were not met.

Popular series set to return to television this year now face lengthy delays. And, if strikes continue, major films could be postponed too.

A strike immediately prevents actors from promoting some of the year’s biggest releases, at the peak of the movie industry’s summer blockbuster season.

Director Christopher Nolan told the London premiere of his new film “Oppenheimer” that his cast had walked out of the glitzy event in solidarity with the strike, Variety reported.

– A-list stars –
SAG-AFTRA represents everyone from A-list stars such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Glenn Close to day players who do small roles on television series.

The vast majority of members had already voted to pre-approve industrial action if a deal was not reached.

“Compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem. Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions,” a SAG-AFTRA statement said after the talks fell through.

Executives have “refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios,” it continued.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said it was “deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations.”

“This is the union’s choice, not ours,” said a statement.

Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday told CNBC the actors’ and writers’ expectations were “not realistic,” calling the decision to strike “very disturbing.”

But Phil Lord — the writer, director and producer behind hits such as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “The Lego Movie” — was among those in Hollywood pouring scorn on the studios’ version of events.

“AMPTP has played hardball instead of helping to solve entirely solvable problems that endanger writers and actors on the lower ends of the pay scale,” he tweeted.

The last time the actors’ union went on strike, in 1980, it lasted more than three months.

– Picket lines –
While the writers’ strike has already dramatically reduced the number of movies and shows in production, an actors’ walkout shutters almost everything.

Some reality TV, animation and talk shows could continue.

In New York on Thursday, actors joined writers on the picket lines.

“I feel sad and it is painful and it’s necessary,” said actress and SAG-AFTRA member Jennifer Van Dyck.

“They are making so much money, and they say that we are not approaching this issue fairly…. no one wants to go on strike, but there’s just no way we can proceed.”

Actors and writers are demanding higher pay to counteract inflation, and guarantees for their future livelihoods.

In addition to salaries when they are actively working, actors earn payments called “residuals” every time a film or show they starred in is aired on network or cable — helpful when performers are between projects.

But streamers like Netflix and Disney+ do not disclose viewing figures for their shows, and offer the same flat rate for everything on their platforms, regardless of its popularity.

Muddying the waters further is the issue of AI. Both actors and writers want guarantees to regulate its use, but studios have refused to budge.

Source: AFP

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