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100 Days of the Actors Strike: What Now?
'We are motivated, we are exhausted, we are riled up,' says one strike captain
One hundred days. Saturday marks a milestone no one wanted to hit, with SAG-AFTRA still on strike after talks with the studios stopped abruptly last week. You can tell we’re deep into this thing when George Clooney is helpfully making suggestions and the union is issuing somewhat ill-received Halloween costume guidelines.
On the picket line outside Warner Bros. studio on Friday, a few dozen actors and their allies were still marching up and down close to noon, when the last shift of the week was ending.
“We are motivated, we are exhausted, we are riled up,” said SAG-AFTRA strike captain Cheyenne Perez.
“Having the writers win has brought in some new energy and breath into what we're doing here,” said local SAG-AFTRA strike captain Thomasina Gross, an actor whose career spans TV, Broadway and voiceover. “We're seeing more people come out, so it's really nice to see.”
Actors may be used to experiencing sporadic employment, but that doesn’t mean that the dual writer-actor work stoppages haven’t hit people hard.
“It's really tough. I do worry about where my rent is going to come from for November and December,” added Gross. “Unemployment is going to run out and that's a really real thing for me, but it's just nice to know that there's the SAG foundation, there’s the Entertainment Community Fund... I'm glad we have those resources and I'm just praying that we don't get to that point.”
Said background and stage actor Shana Carr, “We're kind of in debt like everybody else is these days. I'm hoping to get in there and get back to work and get over this hump, so that I can contribute to our lives, our household.”
But as the holidays approach, the actors have some leverage if the studios want any hope of returning to production by the new year. And this far in, they’re not going to take the first offer on the table.
“People have gone through a really tough time and we're not just going to settle for anything,” said strike captain Robert Fisher. “We're gonna get this thing done — as long as it takes.”
Talks broke down amid major differences over the issues of AI and revenue-sharing. The guild previously said it had revised its offer, “completely transforming our revenue share proposal, which would cost the companies less than 57¢ per subscriber each year.” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos called it “a bridge too far.”
“What happened last week was a bummer, to say the least, but I think we all know that it is a long fight and the most important thing about this is we can't back down from it,” said actor Jason Ko, a card-carrying member since 2017. “The threat [of] AI is is existential, as well as our request for having a livable wage and things like regulations for self-tape auditions. These are really life and death situations for us.”
Picket lines had thinned out a bit in the immediate week or so following the resolution of the WGA strike, but dedicated performers continue to stick it out even as the sweltering Southern California heat carries on through October.
“If there's any card-carrying SAG-AFTRA members out here who haven't been out at the picket lines already: you should be out here,” added Ko, gesturing at the sidewalk full of picketers in black-and-yellow union shirts behind him. “You should be supporting them, because some of these people behind me, they've been here since Week 1. And they've been here when the WGA was on strike more than five months ago.”
For more, here’s our full chat with strike captains Fisher and Perez, below. Have thoughts you want to share? Talk to me: email@example.com.
ICYMI: Strike News
George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tyler Perry and a group of other A-list actors had a unique idea to end the strike, proposing in a meeting with SAG-AFTRA brass that they remove the cap on guild dues so that the stars could inject more funds into the union over a three-year span. (Deadline)
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher responded to the proposal, essentially saying leadership appreciated the gesture but that it was “kind of apples and oranges” in contrast to the contract being negotiated. (The Hollywood Reporter)
During Netflix’s Q3 earnings call on Wednesday, co-CEO Ted Sarandos told investors that he and the rest of the AMPTP “want nothing more than to resolve this and for everyone to get back to work.” He also attributed the breakdown in negotiations to SAG-AFTRA’s revenue share proposal. “We spent hours and hours with SAG-AFTRA over the last few weeks, and we were actually very optimistic that we were making progress,” said Sarandos. “But then at the very end of our last session together, the guild presented this new demand … a subscriber levy unrelated to viewing or success, and this really broke our momentum unfortunately.” (The Wrap)
Director Shawn Levy warned of the postponement earlier this week, but now it’s come full fruition, with Deadpool 3 reportedly set to move off its May 3, 2024 release date. (AV Club)
Spooky consequences are in store should the strike not be resolved by Halloween, as SAG-AFTRA warned members against dressing up and posting pictures as characters from struck shows and films. (Variety)
Additional reporting for ICYMI: Strike News by Matthew Frank.
Disclosure: Elaine Low is an inactive member of SAG-AFTRA.