Hollywood on Hold: The Impact of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild Strikes

Matt Damon, Susan Sarandon, Jason Sudeikis,Adam Scott and Martin Starr, are among the celebrities joining the picket line.

The SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild strikes are having a significant impact on Hollywood, causing delays and disruptions to productions.

The Hollywood landscape is undergoing seismic shifts as members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have called for strikes. The combined stand-off brings most of Hollywood’s productions to a halt, marking a historical moment in the entertainment industry.

 

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The Announcement of The Strike

Under the banner of SAG-AFTRA, the Hollywood actors have joined the already striking writers in a move that has led to the cessation of numerous films and TV show production. Fran Drescher, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, announced the strike at a press conference in Los Angeles. The strike officially started at midnight local time and saw actors out on the picket lines the following morning.

 

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The strike is a response to the changing business model driven by the rise of streaming services and the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), which has significantly impacted actors’ and writers’ earnings—live updates on the Actors Strike SAG chief Fran Drescher’s emotional message.

“They stand on the wrong side of history. We stand in unprecedented unity. At some point the jig is up, you can’t keep being marginalized and disrespected. If we don’t stand tall right now, we’ll all be in jeopardy” – Fran Drescher, SAG President.

 

 

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The Build-up to the Strike

The Hollywood writers have been on strike since May 2, pushing for better payment contracts when the less profitable streaming deals clash with the imminent threat of AI replacing writers’ jobs. Actors also demand better pay deals, especially from streaming services like Netflix.

The strike culminates a month of strained negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the major studios. An open letter, signed by over 1,000 SAG members, including big stars like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, was sent to the union’s leadership, expressing the membership’s readiness to strike if their demands for a new contract were unmet.

The strike’s commencement implies the immediate shutdown of any TV show or movie in production, including promotional appearances.

The Studios’ Response

In response to the strike, studios have shifted blame onto the actors for walking away from the negotiation table, claiming that they had offered “historic” pay increases and other benefits. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) released a statement expressing their concern about the financial hardships the strike would impose on thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

The White Responds to the Announcement

“The President believes all workers – including actors – deserve fair pay and benefits. The President supports workers’ right to strike and hopes the parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said Robyn Patterson, a White House spokesperson in a statement.

Historical Context of the Strike

This is the first time in over six decades that Hollywood actors and writers have simultaneously gone on strike. The last strike by the film and theatrical actors of SAG lasted 14 hours in 1986, while the writers staged a 100-day walkout in 2007 and 2008.

The Impact and Consequences of the Strike

The ongoing WGA strike has already led to many TV shows and movie production cancellations. But with an actors’ strike, very little can continue.

The strike also poses another significant financial challenge to movie theaters, which are already struggling due to the pandemic and the shift to home viewing14.

 

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Strike guide for movie fans: Impacts on the release of ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer.’

Celebrity Reactions to the Strike

Several high-profile actors have expressed their support for the strike. The Academy Award-winning actor Matt Damon addressed the strike during the Oppenheimer premiere in London. He emphasized that the strike concerns the working actors who depend on their income for their livelihoods.

Florence Pugh, Damon’s Oppenheimer co-star, described it as an “agitated day” but expressed pride in standing alongside her fellow actors. The Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe stated that the strikes are “vital” for the industry.

The Studios’ Strategy

Despite the strike, the studios and streamers have reportedly planned a long-term strategy to grind down the guild. The plan involves waiting until most writers run out of money after months on the picket lines without work, hoping that financially strapped writers will pressure the WGA leadership to restart talks.

Related: SAG-AFTRA’s preparation for the strike

The Future of Hollywood

The strikes represent a transformational moment in the entertainment industry. Both the WGA and SAG are calling for an increased number of writing staff, increased royalties for streaming TV shows and movies, and the regulated use of AI.

The industry-wide strike has the potential to reshape Hollywood’s future, with impacts that could extend far beyond the immediate shutdown of current productions.

Photo credit: danielsfotowelt / Pixabay

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