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Hollywood’s future in the air as SAG-AFTRA joins writers’ strike

Jaguirre2192 | Wikimedia Commons

The Writers Guild of America Strike has been in effect since May 2023. 72 days ago, writers of many platforms grabbed signs and marched to the picket lines demanding fair working conditions and now, new allies have joined the WGA in its ongoing struggle.

WGA has gained allies in the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists as the nearly 160,000 members of the entertainment organization join the WGA in their ongoing strike on  July 14.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, along with National Executive Director & Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, announced the massive move during a news press conference. The announcement came following the expiration of the union’s current contract with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television, Entertainment Weekly reported.

During the strike, union members are banned from doing any promotional work for shows and movies that are scheduled to be released. Promotional work includes interviews, appearances, fan expos, panels, screenings, award shows and festivals.

“It came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads. But we had no choice,” Drescher said. “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.”

The actor’s strike is motivated by a need for fair wages. Actors and screenwriters alike have demanded an increase in residual payments from streaming services, The New York Times reported. Shows that originate from services including Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu have fewer episodes compared to their network counterparts.

The ongoing strike has put artificial intelligence at the center of the struggle.

Actors have expressed concern for the growing AI fascination and that the technological movement will replace them, according to a report from NBC News.

In a separate statement, Crabtree-Ireland called out studios on their tactics stating that they have created significant changes that affect every level of the Hollywood business model.

“The studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber, ” Crabtree-Ireland said. “That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor. Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”

Opponents on both sides of the strike have been unafraid to express their feelings regarding the many strike demands.

Recently returned Disney CEO Bob Iger, who extended his contract with the company through 2026, told CNBC’s Squawk Box that writers and actors who are participating in the strike are not being realistic with their demands.

“I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver,” Iger said. “We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the Directors Guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic.”

Iger also said the strike was “disruptive” and added to the existing challenges in Hollywood.

Celebrities across the television spectrum have announced many forms of solidarity with both WGA and SAG-AFTRA. Actor Sean Penn, brother of director James Gunn, called out Iger for his comments noting Iger’s massive salary compared to actors.

Since the strike took effect, many aspects of the Hollywood industry have been greatly affected. Television shows have halted productions while late-night shows are airing reruns due to the writer’s strike.

In addition to halted programming, the fate of the upcoming 75th Emmy Awards is unclear as organizers have reportedly had discussions regarding postponing the September 2023 ceremony.

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Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant
Jahlil Rush is a Production Assistant for The Ticker.
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