Actors Join Writers on Strike — Bringing Hollywood to a Screeching Halt
Writers on strike in May. Photo Credit: Marlena Miller

The Screen Actors Guild joined the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines Thursday as the two unions fight for better contracts from the major Hollywood studios amid fears of artificial intelligence and the changes ways people consume entertainment. This marks the first time since 1960 that actors and screenwriters have been on strike at the same time.

The strike will be effective as of midnight tonight, and picketing will begin on Friday morning, SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon, blaming the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios in negotiations. 

“Because the AMPTP remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on key issues essential to protecting the livelihoods of working actors and performers, SAG-AFTRA’s national board unanimously voted to issue a strike order against the studios and streamers,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher gave an impassioned speech about the decision to go on the picket line, noting that she was “shocked” that they could not reach a fair deal with the AMPTP.

“I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly, how far apart we are on so many things, how they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history,” Drescher said.

Producers Respond to the Strike

In a press release sent Thursday, the AMPTP wrote:

“Member companies entered the negotiations with SAG-AFTRA with the goal of forging a new, mutually beneficial contract. The AMPTP presented a deal that offered 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 Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

The decision for the acting work stoppage comes as a result of SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP failing to reach an agreement by the time their current contract expired Wednesday.

According to SAG-AFTRA, its negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend a strike to its national board late last night. Following a meeting this morning, the national board formally called for a strike, effectively and immediately stopping all scripted movies and television productions currently in motion from companies represented by the AMPTP.

The issues on the table for both the writers and the actors include getting better wages and ensuring safeguards around the use of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry.

Also Read: Writers Strike Dos and Don’ts for Pre-WGA Writers, Explained by the WGA 

The last time a double strike happened, the year was 1960 and Ronald Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild. At the time, actors were fighting to receive residual payments for movies that aired on television.

Long before he became president of the United States, Reagan successfully negotiated for the studios to adopt the residual payment system that is still in place today. According to The Atlantic, it was the first time an industry-wide strike had ever taken place in Hollywood, and it was largely successful.

Since that time, more strikes have taken place as a negotiating tactic for Hollywood unions. The last time the actors went on a major strike on their own was for three months in 1980, and the last time the writers went on their own strike was 15 years ago.

The strike’s effects were felt immediately at the London premiere of Oppenheimer, where actors including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, and Cillian Murphy left the London premiere of the Christopher Nolan epic prior to the screening in recognition of the strike.

Main Image: Writers on strike in May. Photo Credit: Marlena Miller