What Is The Hollywood Strike All About, And How Will It Affect Your Favourite Shows And Films?

Tens of thousands of actors in the US are now on strike, effectively grinding Hollywood to a halt.
The famous Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California
The famous Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California
Jena Ardell via Getty Images

Hollywood is currently at the centre of its biggest labour dispute in decades, after tens of thousands of actors in the US went on strike on Thursday – here’s what you need to know.

How has the strike come about?

In the US, the film and TV industry is largely unionised, with 160,000 actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, presenters and stunt performers represented by the Screen Actors Guild union.

On Thursday, a strike officially began after new negotiations with film and TV studios fell apart.

The guild, known as SAG-AFTRA, had agreed to extend talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – which represents employers including Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others – two weeks past their contract expiration date of 30 June.

However, the two sides failed to reach an agreement in that time, even after federal mediators joined discussions, and the union’s negotiating committee unanimously recommended a strike to its national board early Thursday. The national board agreed hours later.

Before the talks first began on 7 June, the 65,000 actors who cast ballots voted overwhelmingly for union leaders to send them into a strike.

The initial deadline for a new deal approached in late June, more than 1,000 members of the union, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Bob Odenkirk, added their names to a letter signalling to leaders their willingness to strike.

Actors now join screenwriters in the first joint strike in more than six decades, with the Writers Guild of America having started strike action on 2 May over their dispute with AMPTP.

WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers have been on strike since May
WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers have been on strike since May
Mario Tama via Getty Images

It’s the first time two major Hollywood unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960, when future US president Ronald Reagan was the head of the actors’ guild.

It is also the first strike for film and television actors since 1980.

What are they striking for?

Actors say that their pay has been undercut by both inflation and the streaming ecosystem. They are also negotiating for better benefits, and railing against the growing tendency to make performers create video auditions at their own expense, as well as the potential threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence.

While famous names have joined the strike, it also includes tens of thousands of little-known actors who scramble for small parts at sometimes meagre pay. The union says modest-but-essential income streams including long-term residuals for shows they appear in have dried up.

Fran Drescher, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists president, and former star of The Nanny, said: “We had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimised by a very greedy entity.

“I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs.”

The SAG-AFTRA building, home to the US labor union that represents film and television actors, singers, and other performers, is seen in Los Angeles
The SAG-AFTRA building, home to the US labor union that represents film and television actors, singers, and other performers, is seen in Los Angeles
CHRIS DELMAS via Getty Images

What deal had been on the table?

The AMPTP said it presented a generous deal that included the biggest bump in minimum pay in 35 years, higher caps on pension and health contributions, and “a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses”.

“A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life,” the group said in a statement. “The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

At present, no talks further are planned, and no end is in sight for the work stoppage.

What will happen during the strike?

The strike will effectively grind Hollywood to a halt – at least, temporarily – with production on film and TV shows shut down.

Strike rules also prevent actors from making personal appearances or promoting their work on podcasts or at premieres. And they are barred from do any production work including auditions, readings, rehearsals or voiceovers along with actual shooting.

While international shoots technically can continue, the stoppage among US-based writers and performers is likely to have a drag on those too.

The stars of numerous summer blockbusters like Oppenheimer and Barbie will be pulled from red carpets and press junkets, The Wrap reported.

Striking actors are also expected to begin picketing alongside writers in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

What shows and films will be affected?

The double-barrelled strike will shut down the small number of productions that continued shooting in the two months since screenwriters stopped working.

In fact, the actors’ strike had an almost immediate effect for the stars of one of the summer’s most anticipated blockbusters.

When the action was first announced on Thursday evening, the premiere of Oppenheimer was already underway, with a number of its cast members – including Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphyleaving the event in the middle.

“You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet, unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs,” director Christopher Nolan told those in attendance, explaining the stars’ sudden absence.

On Friday morning, Deadline reported that production on the new Deadpool film – starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, reprising his role as Wolverine for what’s been billed as the final time – has shut down production due to SAG’s decision.

Vanity Fair pointed out a number of shows in production that will most likely be affected by the strike, including the upcoming seasons of American Horror Story (which showrunner Ryan Murphy chose not to shut down during the writers’ strike, despite being a member of the Writers’ Guild of America himself) and the Star Wars spin-off Andor.

The media outlet also pointed out that this action will affect numerous movies that are currently in production, specifically naming the big-screen adaptation of Wicked, as well as sequels to Paddington, Gladiator and Beetlejuice.

One show that will apparently not be affected is the Game Of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragon, production on which is currently underway.

House Of The Dragon previously dodged being shut down by the writers’ strikes, as its scripts were complete and signed off on before the action began.

Variety has now reported the fantasy show will be able to go ahead as planned as its majority-British cast are members of another union, Equity, and therefore aren’t able to take part in the Screen Actors’ Guild strike.

The strike will also have an impact on UK/US co-productions, Channel 4′s head of content Ian Katz has told Variety, suggesting UK writers now “don’t want to be involved in any conversations with US platforms”.

Co-productions have become increasingly popular in recent years, with It’s A Sin and Get Millie Black both being examples of C4 shows that were made with the support of US network HBO.

It’s worth pointing out that a number of our favourite shows – including Stranger Things, Abbott Elementary and Yellowjackets – were already on ice due to the writers’ strikes.

As for films and shows that have already been shot, the Oppenheimer premiere proved that their casts will be unable to take part in promotional appearances, press junkets and red carpets, which could leave studios pondering whether to delay certain highly-anticipated projects.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.


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