Actors are picketing outside major Hollywood studios.
But will that affect the release of the next movie in your favorite franchise? What does streaming have to do with the strike? And why is everyone mad at Bob Iger?
For the casual viewer, here are some quick answers to some of the most pressing questions about the strike.
Why are the actors on strike?
The actors are on strike because they couldn’t reach a compromise with studios and broadcasters on a new three-year contract covering TV shows and movies. Because union leaders asked members to give the green light to a possible strike when they entered into contract negotiations with Hollywood studios and streamers, and members overwhelmingly voted in favor, the union called once their current contract expired and talks broke down. The union has said it feels the key issues at stake in this negotiation, including AI and broadcast compensation, are so important to the actors that a work stoppage is necessary to get the best deal.
Why do they keep fighting with the studios?
According to the union, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on important issues such as regulating the use of generative AI in entertainment, base pay increases and a proposal the union put forward for television and film casts to share revenue from subscribers from broadcast projects. But there are also many other smaller labor concerns that both sides continue to bicker over, from a proposal to increase the cost incurred when meal breaks are delayed to whether performance-capturing acting work (such as when actor Andy Serkis morphed into Gollum for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) may be covered by a union contract. The studios, for their part, claim that SAG-AFTRA backed out of a settlement that involved more than $1 billion in compensation and benefit increases.
What does the actors’ strike have to do with the writers’ strike?
Currently, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the union representing Hollywood film and television writers, is also on strike. While much of the Actors and Writers Guild’s demands differ, there is some overlap, especially when it comes to AI and residual payments from streaming series.
And what exactly is a residual?
A residual payment is a type of royalty payment to talent after a show has aired its initial run. Actors receive residuals when the film or television projects they worked on continue to air or screen on other networks, streaming platforms, etc.
The transmission seems to be a big problem. Because?
In case you haven’t heard, Hollywood is in its “broadcast era.” Almost every studio has their own streaming service (Disney has Disney+, Universal has Peacock, etc.) or the studio is a streaming service (Netflix, Amazon, Apple). Streaming has upended long-established business models when it comes to actor compensation for movies and TV series. Typically, a broadcast show has fewer episodes and fewer seasons, limiting money up front, compared to the previous norm of 22-episode seasons on network television. Residual payments are also capped on streaming services. The union asks to share the revenue generated by the projects found on streaming services, with payment based on the number of viewers, but the studios have been notoriously secretive about such data.
So should I cancel my streaming subscription?
While SAG has not called for a consumer boycott, some individual members have urged consumers to do so.
Why are some actors so mad at Bob Iger and David Zaslav?
Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, and Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, have drawn particular anger among striking members, with their names printed on picket signs along with colorful language.
Before the strike, the Zaslav regime shelved nearly finished films (see: Bat girl) and pulled entire series and movies from its streaming service HBO Max (now called Max) in the name of an apparent tax cut, a move that angered creatives across the industry. Iger recently came under fire for comments he made during an interview with CNBC while attending Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley Conference, attended by CEOs and billionaires, calling the strike “very disturbing” and the unions’ demands “just unrealistic,” adding that the strikes will have a “very, very damaging effect on the entire business.”
Then there are the huge salaries for CEOs. While unions maintain that wages have been flat or falling across the industry — a big sticking point in both the actor and writer walkouts — Hollywood CEOs have gotten massive paydays. When he stepped back up to Disney as CEO, Iger’s 2023 pay package was valued at $27 million. Zaslav’s compensation package for 2022 reached $39.3 million.
Why is Fran Drescher from The babysitter directing the actors
Drescher, best known for her role on the beloved ’90s sitcom The babysitter, is the president of SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors. She was cast in 2021, with endorsements from A-list actors like Tom Hanks; she is currently up for re-election and remains the favorite.
How will this affect the shows I watch?
Production on many shows has already halted due to the ongoing writers’ strike, including fan favorites like Strange things, cobra kai and yellow jackets. That work stoppage means audiences will be waiting longer for new seasons of their favorite shows. The dual strikes have led to more stoppages and the lowest production levels in Los Angeles since the pandemic. Some streamers may also start promoting shows without their stars to promote them.
Will the release dates of the film be brought forward?
It’s currently unclear if the movie dates will be pushed back, many of them are set in the distant future. But several big Hollywood productions, including the Gladiator sequel and Deadpool 3, had to close due to work stoppage. The longer the strike lasts, the more productions will be delayed and the less time productions will have to meet their current release dates. As of now, no movies have had their release dates pushed back due to the strike.
How many actors are on strike?
SAG-AFTRA has 160,000 members, all on strike, though the union has granted a limited number of exceptions for actors to work in low-budget independent productions.
Aren’t actors making a lot of money already?
Yes, A-list actors have been known to get bigger paydays, but SAG-AFTRA boasts 160,000 members, including supporting actors, singers, dancers, and stuntmen. Only 12.7 percent of SAG members earn the $26,470 a year needed to qualify for union health insurance, according to some union members. Actors earned a median salary of $46,960 in 2021, according to SAG’s chief negotiator and national executive director, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
What can’t actors do during the strike?
There is a total work stoppage during the strike, which means that SAG-AFTRA members cannot shoot shows or movies for major studios or broadcasters. Promotion of completed projects is also prohibited, including attending festivals such as the upcoming Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and participating in For Your Consideration events during Emmy season. The cast of Christopher Nolan oppenheimer he left the screening at the film’s London premiere when it appeared a strike was imminent. The publication of promotions on social networks about projects is not allowed either. In addition, off-camera work, including voice acting and narration, as well as background and stand-in work, is also prohibited.
So what can do the actors do during the strike?
In addition to walking the picket lines, SAG members will be able to film a few select projects. According to calls from agents before the strike, the members will be able to work on ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and UK stock projects, so the projects will not be filmed in the United States. The union has also granted various productions waivers, or interim agreements, that will allow them to continue filming under a specified set of conditions. These include an A24 film starring Anne Hathaway and a Lionsgate film the killer game.
How long will this last?
The time it takes to reach an agreement. It’s unclear how long that will take. Both AMPTP and SAG have said they are far apart on key issues, including broadcast residuals and the use of AI. On the first day of the picket, Drescher said the union discussed the potential cost of the strike for up to six months.
What is the AMPTP?
The AMPTP refers to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is a group that negotiates on behalf of major entertainment producers like Disney, Netflix and Apple with Hollywood unions from SAG-AFTRA to the Writers Guild of America and IATSE. Basically, it’s management in this situation, and management and workers have to come to an agreement to end the strike.
How will it end?
The strike will end when the studios and the union agree to a new contract, and a majority of union members vote to ratify that contract.
And what exactly is Tom Cruise doing?
Tom Cruise, movie’s greatest entertainer, savior of movie theaters and lover of popcorn, called a bargaining session in June to plead a case before both the AMPTP and the SAG. Her request of him to the studios? Listen to SAG’s concerns (see above), especially when it comes to the syndicate’s concerns about professional stuntmen and the use of generative AI to capture performances. Your request to SAG? Let movie stars promote their summer movies given the fragile state of the theatrical market. He joined the meeting via Zoom, not by parachute.
Katie Kilkenny contributed to this report.