Strike — The strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists stunned the entertainment world on July 13. After contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fell down, Hollywood actors staged an official strike.
They have now joined the Writers Guild of America, which marks a collaborative strike for the first time since 1960, and have been doing so since early May. Several film and television productions have been suspended as a result until the two unions reach an agreement with the AMPTP.
Call to strike
Fran Drescher, a popular actress from The Nanny and union president, commented about the strike at a news conference last week, 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
Around 300 SAG-AFTRA members met in June to sign off on a letter to the negotiating committee. In order to enhance the current entertainment scene, they urged leaders not to ratify an agreement that did not meet their objectives. The letter has been signed by the following celebrities:
- Quinta Brunson
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Jennifer Lawrence
- Rami Malek
- Amy Schumer
- Amy Poehler
- Meryl Streep
Silence and support
While the main focus of the strike has been a halt in film and television production, the union has also prevented performers from marketing their films for the length of the strike, including premieres, interviews, and even social media.
Celebrities supported the strike by boycotting their final film premieres until the matter was settled. Margot Robbie supported the strike during the London premiere of Barbie.
“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.
Oppenheimer had its UK premiere the next day, but stars Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Florence Pugh departed early. Christopher Nolan, the filmmaker, explained their leaving 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.”
Several A-list celebrities showed their support for the strike online over the weekend, appealing for unity and sharing their own experiences as actors. Kimiko Glenn of Orange is the New Black, for example, discussed her experience with pay disparities, claiming that many of the performers were not adequately rewarded to give up their side occupations.
“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.”
Following that, several celebrities were observed striking in Hollywood in solidarity of the SAG-AFTRA strike, and actor social media replies flooded in.
On Twitter, Mark Ruffalo cited SAG-AFTRA member Lois Smith, 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 also spoke out in favor of the strike, 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.”
In the film Say Anything, John Cusack detailed his experience.
“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?”