For the first time in 63 years, the Screen Actors Guild and the were on strike at the same time. Writers began their strikes on 2nd May 2023 and the actors officially began their strike on the 14th of July 2023. The writers have since won a contract, but unfortunately SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) are still on strike.
The SAG-AFTRA strike centres on key issues related to fair compensation, AI, Self-tapes, safer working conditions, and residuals for streaming content. It reflects the need for industry standards to evolve with the changing entertainment landscape, especially with the dominance of streaming platforms; and actors are pushing for equitable pay structures tailored to modern content consumption.
The issue of residuals for content streamed on platforms like Netflix remains a major point of contention, as streaming services often do not provide the same financial benefits to actors and performers as traditional media. This strike represents a historic moment in Hollywood and underscores the impact of new technology on the industry’s creatives.
The impact of the strikes has led to an industry standstill. Late-night shows had already halted production, with most series either already completed or not yet filmed. Soap operas, talk shows, and reality TV, governed by distinct contracts, remain unscathed at present. Streaming platforms may withstand a more extended strike better due to their potential content reserves. The movie industry bears a more conspicuous brunt, evident in the postponement of numerous major releases. Independent films, disconnected from major studios or streaming platforms, might continue production, although they are the outliers. A prolonged strike could significantly affect the industry in the forthcoming year, leading to a reshuffling of release schedules and a decline in scripted series. The impact of the Hollywood strikes have since extended further than just the U.S.
In the UK, it should be a thriving time for production, but the ongoing actors’ strike, coupled with a cost of living crisis, is putting tremendous pressure on both scripted and unscripted projects. While the end of the Writers Guild strike has softened the blow by un-pausing much of the halted production, British actors have expressed concern about the lack of guidance from the local actors’ union, Equity. Equity, headquartered in London and boasting 47,000 members encompassing actors, singers, dancers, designers, directors, stage managers, and voice artists, has witnessed a boost in influence as British talent gains prominence in Hollywood. Max Rumney, Deputy CEO and Director of Business Affairs for the UK producers’ organization, Pact, emphasizes that while U.S. studio films or TV shows filming in the UK will face significant challenges, local British broadcasters and independent films should be able to continue, given their minimal use of SAG-AFTRA actors. The complexities arise when an actor is a member of both Equity and SAG-AFTRA.
The length of the strike remains uncertain, with historical strikes lasting from weeks to several months. While the strike’s immediate impact is noticeable across the globe, the long-term implications for industry standards, compensation, and creative work in the evolving media landscape are even more significant. It serves as a pivotal moment in Hollywood’s history, reflecting the need for updated contracts and standards in the face of changing technology and viewing habits.