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  • Kaylynn Kattiyaman

That's a Wrap?: Actors Join Writer's in the Strike Against Major Studios

By: Kaylynn Kattiyaman

It seems that the entertainment industry has been placed on standby, and the delays are about to get an extension. On July 13th, the national board of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) authorized its union members to go on strike after efforts to negotiate new contracts with major streaming companies fell out.

SAG-AFTRA is a union organization who represents actors, journalists, radio personalities, music artists, voice actors, and other media professionals world-wide. From the high-profile, A-list actors in Hollywood to the struggling actors working multiple jobs before they hit their big break, SAG-AFTRA has protected and served a diverse composition of individuals within the entertainment industry.

In June 2023, SAG-AFTRA entered into a negotiations agreement with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). One key issue that arose during negotiations included issuing residuals based on viewership data. The union challenged the growing streaming revolution, claiming how several actors have been shortchanged of their share of the success of such streaming shows. AMPTP companies argued that streaming platforms were not yet profitable. Additionally, parties also disagreed over the use of self-taped auditions, increased wages to offset inflation, and boosting contributions to the union’s health and pension plan.

Another large issue that arose involved the use of AI for computer generated voices and faces in the technologically advancing entertainment industry. The spread of technology has created growing tensions and anxieties among performers and SAG-AFTRA members. Specifically, how their image and likeness could be not just used, but exploited without compensation. Clear regulations surrounding the growing use of AI were proposed, but there still exists unresolved conflict that have led to the current actors strike.

The work stoppage applies to all 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members. In participating in the strike, SAG-AFTRA members must stop performing all acting duties, including promoting and marketing projects. The union represents anyone working with companies who hold an AMPTP contract. This includes, but is not limited to, Netflix Walt Disney Co., and Warner Bros. Discovery. This strike also affects actors who are working on overseas productions. SAG-AFTRA’s “Global One Rule” requires actors to work under the union’s agreements even if they are not stationed in the US.

However, the strike does not apply to all actors as a whole. Those unaffected by the strike include broadcasters, low-budget production films, and commercial and soap opera contracts. Further, those who work independently from the AMPTP contracts may be exempt if the companies follow the union’s terms.

Regardless, many SAG-AFTRA members, including Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Lawrence, Rami Malek, and Christopher Nolan, have joined in protest alongside the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA). This walkout has shut down all scripted film and TV productions, including “Deadpool 3”, “Stranger Things,” and “TMNT: Mutant Mayhem”.

This historic event marks SAG-AFTRA's first strike against film and TV productions since 1980 and also the first time since 1960 that both organizations would strike at the same time. It is uncertain how long the strike will last, nor the effect it will have on lost profits. However, one thing is for certain, is that the effects of the strike have already begun.

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