Strike — On July 13, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike, startling the entertainment industry. The decision came after contract discussions with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down, resulting in an official walkout by Hollywood actors.
They have now joined the Writers Guild of America, which has been on strike since early May, for the first time since 1960. As a result, several film and television productions have been halted until the two unions reach a deal with the AMPTP.
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Call to strike
Fran Drescher, the well-known actress from The Nanny and union president, spoke at a press conference last week to share about the strike, saying:
“What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor. When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run, we have a problem, and we are experiencing that right at this moment.”
“The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee, or our board members, who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike,” she continued. “It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands if not millions of people all across the country and around the world.”
Urged to get a better deal
In June, about 300 SAG-AFTRA members gathered to sign off on a letter to the negotiating committee. They lobbied the leaders not to approve a deal that did not suit their demands in order to improve the present entertainment scene. The following celebrities have signed off on the letter:
- Quinta Brunson
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Jennifer Lawrence
- Rami Malek
- Amy Schumer
- Amy Poehler
- Meryl Streep
Silence and support
While the major emphasis of the strike has been a standstill in film and television production, the union has also barred actors from marketing their films, including premieres, interviews, and even social media, for the duration of the strike.
Celebrities showed their support for the strike by attending their final film premieres until the issue was resolved. During the London premiere of Barbie, Margot Robbie expressed her support for the strike.
“I very much am in support of all the unions, and I’m a part of SAG, so I would absolutely stand by them,” said Robbie.
The next day, Oppenheimer had its UK premiere, but performers Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Florence Pugh left early. The director, Christopher Nolan, defended their departure by saying:
“They are off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of their union.”
Over the weekend, several A-list celebrities expressed their support for the strike online, calling for unity and sharing their personal experiences as actors. Kimiko Glenn of Orange is the New Black, for example, highlighted her experience with salary inequity, alleging that many of the actors were not enough compensated to quit their side jobs.
“People were bartenders still. People had their second jobs still,” she said. “They were fucking famous as shit, like internationally famous, couldn’t go outside, but had to keep their second jobs because they couldn’t afford to not.”
Several celebrities were afterwards seen striking in Hollywood in support of the SAG-AFTRA strike, and actor social media responses poured in.
Mark Ruffalo referenced SAG-AFTRA member Lois Smith on Twitter, writing:
“I urge us striking at the same time as the writers to change the awful inequity of money and power in film and television. I remember when we went on strike in 1960, the only time writers and actors struck at the same time. That strike got us film residual checks. A monumental change.”
“Sending love to all my fellow actors and writers,” tweeted Keke Palmer. “Praying that this is resolved swiftly and we all come out feeling empowered! Families have to be fed but people have to and deserved to be respected for their work as well.”
Jessica Chastain expressed her support for the strike as well, saying: “The AMPTP refused to make a fair deal on television, theatrical and streaming work. We are not afraid of a fight and we will not back down. My union, SAG/AFTRA is now on strike.”
John Cusack recounted his experience in the film Say Anything:
“The greed is almost a legendary comic trope. One fun fact, when I was a youngin [sic], I did a film (with a boombox) and somehow I got points – net, not gross.”
“Never expected to see any money, but the film became quite famous,” he continued. “So about 10 years ago, I looked again at the financial statements they were obligated to report and to my shock they claimed they had lost 44 million dollars on the film. I thought, “Wow, I almost bankrupted Fox!” (Not really) The film cost about $13 million to make, and money spent to release was minimal at the time. 30 years in, that film lost millions every year! A neat accounting trick, don’t you think?”