The SAG-AFTRA Strike Explained

Photo by Gilbert Flores for Variety

Last week, Hollywood actors joined their writers on the picket line as the WGA strike continues to rock major studio production hoping to turn up the heat on studio execs and negotiations. 

With the Screen Actors Guild joining the WGA Writers Strike, Hollywood production has come to a complete halt. Without writers writing shows and now actors striking solidarity what does that mean for Tinseltown? Further, what does it mean for audiences at home and in theaters?

There’s a lot at stake here for writers, actors, streamers, and studios, so we’re going to untangle everything you need to know, why it’s important, and when we can expect to see our favorite shows and hotly anticipated movies return to the small and big screens. 

Why are the Hollywood writers on strike?

Hoping to increase wages, specifically related to streaming service deals, as well as creating specific rules around AI-powered writing tools which could potentially be used to replace or supplement script writing, the writers walked off the job on May 2, 2013.  

In an effort to bolster the writers’ cause, the actors are now joining the strike as of July 14, 2023. 

What do actors want?

Not all actors are compensated equally. While Hollywood employs mega-stars like Ryan Gosling, Tom Cruise, and Margot Robbie, just to name a few, most working actors make a fraction of their co-stars’ mega salaries. 

The SAG members are asking for increased base compensation, improved health benefits plans, and reimbursement for self-taped auditions. They are also asking for regulated use of artificial intelligence and control of their image in movies and television shows.

Regarding streaming, actors are asking for performance-based compensation for streaming TV shows and movies based. Because streaming services do not currently share viewing metrics publicly, SAG is also asking for data pertaining to their content from a third party to determine appropriate payment.

Why won’t the studios negotiate?

It’s the position of studios that constant spending on new content to meet consumer demand hurts profits and has resulted in loss. That profit loss has brought about studio-wide layoffs throughout the industry. 

Therefore, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is not in any kind of rush to negotiate with writers and in fact, hopes that a prolonged strike will cause writers to need to negotiate with their terms in order to keep their jobs and paychecks. .

With both writers and actors on the picket line, how will the strike affect content? 

With the writers going on strikes, many TV shows and movies were forced to cancel production, but some were able to continue without writers. However, with actors joining the strike, nearly all production was stopped. This means both TV shows and movies will be forced to take an indefinite hiatus. 

What does that mean? Get ready to stream your favorites—again and again. No production means no new seasons. As for film, this could be trouble for theaters looking to recover from the pandemic and a shift in watching from home. If the strike drags into the fall, the holiday movie-going season could take a hit but could be bolstered by films already finished and ready for theaters. However, without actors available to promote and market films, it could be a smaller season than originally anticipated.  

Speaking of film promotion, what else will the strike cancel? 

A strike not only affects production, it also prevents actors from promoting their films. For example, Oppenheimer was set to have a New York City premiere this week and abruptly canceled it. 

Premieres, talk show appearances, and interviews that are not already in production are prohibited. Again, using Barbie and Oppenheimer as examples, any interview, actor appearance, or promotional content was completed before the strike.

In addition, Comic-Con events can go, but without actors, writers, and directors, they are of little value. If the strike lasts past the summer, both the Emmy Awards and the Oscars could be put on hold until negotiations are met. 

Are any TV shows or movies in production? 

Reality tv and projects shooting outside the U.S. without SAG actors and animation, but without voice actors, continue to remain in production. 

Finally, how long will the Hollywood strike last?

Time will tell. 

During Hollywood’s history, there have been several strikes, most notably the writer’s strike of 2007 that lasted 3.5 months. The actors went on strike in 1960 for six weeks, in 1980 for 3 months, and again in 1986 for 14 hours. 

Amidst so much uncertainty, one thing is certain – we’re all going to have to wait longer for many of our favorite tv shows and anticipated movie releases. However, in the meantime, at least most of them are currently available on streaming. Time to update your watchlists with everything you’ve missed in the past few years.