On July 13th, the SAG AFTRA union officially announced a strike, meaning 65,000 Hollywood actors have stopped working to join the picket line. As the news floods with headlines about union president Fran Drescher’s impassioned speech and actors like Jennifer Garner and Susan Sarandon vocalizing their support, actors have not only stopped working on productions, they’ve also halted promotional appearances like premiers, festivals, and award shows.
In the age of streaming, the public has been spoiled with a plethora of platforms and an endless roster of titles to consume, which has drastically changed the way that actors are paid for their work. Big names like Mandy Moore have pointed out how streaming services have cut down residual checks, which are the royalties that actors are paid when their shows and movies are rerun on television or put on a streaming platform. Moore stated the largest residual check she received from a streaming service platform for her highly rated and watched show This Is Us was 86 cents. Since Moore is a well-known actor and was a leading role in the show, you can only imagine how much smaller actors are receiving from projects.
While negotiating a new contract, the union decided to strike after studios failed to promise higher pay and the necessary regulation for future use of artificial intelligence in creative production. Both concerns are increasingly important as actors face lower pay and the threat of AI-created content grows. About 87% of actors in the union make less than $26,000 a year, meaning they don’t meet the threshold necessary to receive health insurance.
The studios’ initial alarming proposal hinted at the role of AI in upcoming projects, which would seriously harm actors. “They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and the company should be able to own that scan, that likeness, for the rest of eternity, on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator.
Notably, the actor’s strike started just months after the Writers Guild of America strike, which is arguing for similar rights. It is the first time in over 60 years that both actors and writers are striking simultaneously. The dual strikes will certainly impact the release of television shows and films in the following years. Projects like Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, and Yellowjackets were already delayed due to the writer’s strike, and now major pictures like Gladiator and Deadpool 3 have stopped in conjunction with the actor’s strike. The following years will likely seem sparse when it comes to entertainment, as the delays in writing and production will subsequently lead to delays in releasing.
As there is no indication that negotiation is close to being met, the strike is likely to continue for several weeks, potentially months, until a fair agreement is reached.