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What the actors’ strike means for Broadway shows

Screen Actors Guild announced industrial action to coincide with writers’ strike

Louis Chilton
Monday 17 July 2023 08:49 BST
Hollywood in historic shutdown as actors union joins writers strike

The film and TV industry was rocked last week by the news that the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is going on strike.

The strike comes amid an ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, with issues of pay, streaming residuals, and regulation around the use of AI (artificial intelligence) proving key factors in both instances.

As of midnight on Friday (14 July), the actors’ union began the industrial action, with picket lines beginning later that morning. The union comprises screen actors, as well as broadcast journalists, announcers, presenters, and stunt performers.

While the total membership comprises more than 160,000 people, only the 65,000 performers in TV and film productions are currently participating in the strike.

This means that Broadway performers are currently working as usual, and the theatre industry will not be affected.

At a press conference announcing the strike, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said:“The eyes of the world and, particularly, the eyes of labour are upon us. What happens to us is important. What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labour. When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors who make the machine run, we have a problem.”

She continued: “We are being victimised by a very greedy enterprise. At some point, you have to say ‘No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’”

Drescher, known for starring in the 1990s sitcom The Nanny, went on to address some of the key issues in the negotiations, including the changes wrought on the industry by streaming services.

Drescher announces the strike at a press conferencce (AFP via Getty Images)

“The entire business model has been changed by streaming and AI If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in jeopardy,” she said. “You cannot change the business model as much as it has been changed and not expect the contract to change too.”

Addressing studio bosses, she added: “Wake up and smell the coffee! We demand respect! You cannot exist without us!”

In response, the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which represents the studios, claimed it had offered a deal with “historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members”.

“A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life,” the organisation added. “The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has been striking since May.

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