The Hollywood union representing movie and television actors voted Thursday to join screenwriters in the first joint strike in decades.
Screenwriters have been on strike since May, the first strike in 15 years.
The move shuts down production across the entertainment industry after talks for a new contract with studios and streaming services broke down.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) wants streaming giants to agree to a fairer split of profits and better working conditions. It also wants a guarantee that artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-generated faces and voices will not be used to replace actors.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, executive director of SAG, said at a news conference that the union leadership voted for the work stoppage hours after their contract expired and talks broke off with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers representing employers including Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others.
“A strike is an instrument of last resort,” he said. Union leaders said at a news conference that they voted unanimously for a strike to begin at midnight.
Outside Netflix’s Hollywood offices, picketing screenwriters chanted “Pay Your Actors!” immediately after the strike was announced.
US correspondent @marthakelner reports live from Los Angeles following the news that Hollywood actors will be striking.
American stars will walk out to join writers on strike – demanding better pay and increased safeguarding around AI rightshttps://t.co/gzDHQK2bQC
📺 Sky 501 pic.twitter.com/e83xrHaLHo
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 13, 2023
It’s the first strike for actors from film and television shows since 1980. And it’s the first time two major Hollywood unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the actors’ guild president.
“Employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run,” former “The Nanny” star and SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said in an impassioned speech that drew applause from union leaders in the room.
“It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history.”
“The eyes of the world and, particularly, the eyes of labor are upon us,” Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, said. Leaders of the Hollywood union representing 160,000 television and movie actors, voted to strike on Thursday, joining screenwriters. https://t.co/601CRHlMCI pic.twitter.com/E0Iq6ELAQ1
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 13, 2023
The group representing the studios, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, slammed the decision.
It said, “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 union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry,” its statement added.
To address concerns about the use of AI, the AMPTP said it had agreed to a “groundbreaking proposal” that would protect the digital likeness of actors, and require their consent when digital replicas are used in performances, or alterations are made.
But Crabtree-Ireland said the offer was unacceptable.
“They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity,” he said. “If you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”
How the Hollywood actors’ strike affects filming
For films in production, the strike means a large portion of work will become impossible. Even in cases in which filming has already been completed, actors will be unavailable for re-shoots and other essential elements of the filmmaking process.
TV shows that are still being filmed will also largely have to stop as actors become unavailable, although in some cases side deals could be struck between performers and producers to allow work to continue.
Top Hollywood stars will not be able to attend events to promote new and upcoming releases. Events including the Emmys and Comic-Con may be rescheduled or scaled back.
International events, such as the Toronto and Venice film festivals, will still go on, although SAG actors will be unable to attend as they usually do each year.