SAG-AFTRA Union Joins The Actors Strike In An Unprecedented 2023 Event
For three months, writers have been on strike, demanding better working conditions from the various production studios. As of 13 July 2023, the actors, through the SAG-AFTRA union, declared they would join the strike by stopping their activities until the platforms sign a new contract with better benefits.
The conflict affects both big-screen productions and streaming platforms. Part of the conditions demanded by the unions are part of the profits that films and series receive in the long term. They also called for some regulations on the use of artificial intelligence.
Are 2023 Problems Between Studios and SAG Actors Union Something New?
This kind of problem is not new, but it is old, as, in 1960, a similar event took place. On this occasion, the actors’ union, led by a young Ronald Reagan, started a strike that lasted for months. In this strike, the artists demanded part of the profits the studios obtained in the long term.
The reason for the conflict was that the actors were only paid for their acting services, and that was it. The development companies were earning long-term income, which the artists did not consider fair.
The conflict between the two sides lasted more than 5 months, 21 weeks specifically, in which both sides reached a consensus. On this occasion, they defined the residual income or royalties as a percentage of the profits obtained by the company for the transmission of the film on different platforms.
We can note that the facts coincide both in the first strike in 1960 and after 63 years, in 2023, it happens again with a similar situation with SAG strike, although more dangerous for the actors. Because previously they were only fighting for their present, now they are fighting for their future, for the new technologies that exist.
What is the Current Fight Between the Workers and the Hollywood Studios?
Image: Commons Wikimedia-Author Jengod
The strike not only seeks to renew existing agreements between the actors and the studios, which expired on 13 July. They also want to attach new regulations, especially on the use of AI. These technologies can use the actors’ images, apply them to models, and make the characters they have previously played appear. This means they would not have to hire the artist for this; they can do it if the artist is dead.
As mentioned above, the strike started with the showrunners indicating they wanted financial improvements to develop the films’ plots. However, the studios are against any additional benefits to screenwriters; in fact, an executive from one of the major studios indicated to Deadline that this protest is a matter of time and that they should wait until the writers lose their homes due to lack of income.
Now the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, led by Fran Drescher, is up in arms after they failed to reach an agreement with the studios. This means no actor should work for any broadcast, whether on television or the big screen. It even contemplates the appearance of the actors promoting the films, Cinema-Con, among other events.
The only ones exempt from the strike would be actors involved in Broadway productions, as these would be on equity terms.
Another group to speak out was Actors’ Equity, led by Kate Shindle, who urged the entire actors’ guild to stand firm and not walk out. She said that no guild element should accept work from any studio. She also commented that companies want to trick artists into taking jobs and breaking the strike from within. For this reason, she pointed out that any doubts about a job should be consulted with either of the two unions.
Statements from Both Sides
Image via Thomas Hawk using flickr
Bob Iger, who serves as Disney’s chief executive, and Fran Drescher, 2023 the president of SAG-AFTRA, have now made statements about the strike. The former commented to Variety that workers are unrealistic in their demands and should be brought in line with the reality of the film world today. He added that the film industry is still not back to its former glory after its steep decline after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drescher responded by saying that Iger’s statements are a contradiction, considering that he charges 7 to 8-digit figures. These amounts he earns are very different from those received by entertainment workers, who only demand what is fair.
The SAG leader added that they are the victims in this 2023 strike, and not the studios, who claim poverty, but a single executive earns a millionaire’s salary. He said the workers are up against the greediest organisations in the art world and will continue to fight.
These statements came moments after the actors and writers placed banners and pickets in front of Paramount’s facilities. Iger said the protest was reprehensible and should not happen in the film and art industry.
The fight between Hollywood workers and the studios continues and will likely last longer than the 1960 altercations. If so, the studios may have the advantage of waiting longer because they have more money available. Actors and writers have a small cash flow, so they may give in sooner or later.
Featured Image Via Commons Wikimedia-Author Jengod
I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.