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How the SAG-AFTRA Strike Affects You (and How to Support the Actors)
July 19, 2023

How the SAG-AFTRA Strike Affects You (and How to Support the Actors)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Here’s how the Hollywood shutdown affects those of us who love TV and movies.

After three weeks of negotiations, SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, went on strike last week. For the 150,000 or so people that SAG represents, the effect is immediate: SAG members are forbidden from appearing on-camera, doing behind-the-scenes work, or doing promotion for projects covered by their contract. This effectively shuts down production of American movies, TV shows, and some online content across the world. But the strike will affect everyone who consumes entertainment, both immediately and in the longer term. Here’s how the SAG strike is likely to affect audiences.

Red carpets and promotions are canceled

If you live for red carpet photos of glamorous celebrities arriving at movie premieres, you’re out of luck until the strike ends. The entire cast of Oppenheimer walked out of a premier in U.K when the strike was called on Thursday night, and no performers are likely to show up for other premieres as long as the strike continues.

SAG members can’t show up for awards shows, film festivals, TV talk shows, radio interviews, podcasts, personal appearances, or even post on social media if the goal is the promotion of contracted work. Actors can appear for non-promotional interviews—to talk about their personal lives and explain the horrible contract the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) is trying to foist on them.

How the strike will affect upcoming movies and TV shows

Most films scheduled for release this summer will open as planned, but things get murkier as you look further out.

It’s impossible to predict if the movie or show you’re waiting for will be delayed—and if so, for how long—but a prolonged strike will almost definitely upend studio release schedules. Production on big ticket projects like Deadpool 3, the sequel to Gladiator, and Ghostbusters 4 stopped when the strike was called, and there haven’t been many other productions shooting since May when the writers walked. So it seems extremely likely that many release dates will be pushed back and projects canceled, especially as we move past 2023.

Broadcast journalists, talk show hosts, soap opera stars, and some reality stars are members of SAG-AFTRA, but work under different contracts than actors, so most of their work is likely to remain unaffected (unless it depends on promotional appearances of movie stars).

What will be on television and streaming then?

Fall’s broadcast TV schedule is already packed with reality content and international shows. The longer the strike continues, the more of that kind of content will be broadcast.

Streaming services are likely to run out of new scripted content this fall, too. If you like unknown series from foreign markets, you’re in luck: streaming services are mining that vein deeply. If you don’t care for moody Norwegian police procedurals, it’s probably going to be a while before American entertainment gets back on track.

How the strike will affect Comic-Con

San Diego’s Comi-Con is scheduled for July 20 through July 23. It’s been a promotional vehicle for movies and television for a long time, but this year, if there isn’t a quick resolution to the SAG strike, there will be no actors appearing on any panels for properties under SAG contracts at the convention. The writers and showrunners won’t be there either, which leaves only the directors. The Director’s Guild signed their contract, so they are free to promote as much as they want.

Will the Emmys be delayed?

The 75th anniversary Emmy Awards show is scheduled for September 18, but it’s an open question as to whether it will happen on that date. If the strike goes on, it seems unlikely—what kind of Emmy Awards has no actors?

According to Deadline, a decision on the Emmys is expected by the end of the month, but all signs point to a delay. If the strike continues for even longer, it could affect the Oscars and other awards shows, too.

If you go to the movies, are you crossing the picket line?

If you’re wondering whether attending Barbie on July 21 is the equivalent to crossing SAG’s picket line, it isn’t. At least not yet. SAG-AFTRA has not called for a fan boycott of movies, television, or streaming. Neither has the Writers’ Guild. But that could change.

What fans can do to support the entertainment strike

The WGA and SAG both urge supporters of the strike to make their voices heard on social media and have provided media kits to help. Here’s SAG’s social media toolkit, and here’s WGA’s. You can also sign the WGA’s letter of support and pledge solidarity with the Actors Guild so you can be contacted with opportunities to help out. You could also donate to the Entertainment Community fund, that helps out the below-the-line entertainment workers who are also out of work.

What is the SAG strike about again?

In broad strokes, the points of contention between SAG-AFTRA and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers involve wages, residuals, and artificial intelligence. According to SAG, the rise of streaming services has driven down the income that actors once expected from re-runs, and the shorter seasons of streaming shows means there is less total work available for them.

‘This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough. We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories,’ SAG president Fran Drescher said in a speech.

The Screen Actors Guild would also like guarantees that artificial intelligence will not be used to replace actors. According to SAG chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the Hollywood studios proposed that ‘background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.’ That proposal didn’t go well.


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