SAG-AFTRA SAG-AFTRA

Leaders of the Hollywood union SAG-AFTRA, which represents roughly 160,000 television and film actors, voted to strike on Thursday, joining Writers Guild of America (WGA) members who have been on strike for the past two months.

The actors’ strike begins at midnight on Thursday and picketing will start on Friday morning.

What happened today? SAG-AFTRA leadership has unanimously voted in favor of a strike after contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke down. The previous three-year contract between the groups expired at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, after a prior extension was granted on June 30 to allow for talks to continue.

What happens next? The strike will shut down all film and tv production involving SAG-AFTRA members. Union actors will also stop doing any promotional work such as red carpets or press meets for productions they’re involved with.

Historical context: This is only the second time in Hollywood history that both actors and writers have been striking at the same time. The last time it happened was in 1960, as actors and writers were dealing with the popularization of tv. At the time, Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Why are actors striking? Several unresolved issues are being debated by the two sides involved in the strike, but the two biggest concerns the union would like addressed are the incredible changes caused by the introduction of streaming and the increased use of artificial intelligence in entertainment production. The union is arguing that the entertainment industry has experienced profound changes since streaming became popular and contracts under which actors are working have not sufficiently adapted to those changes. With AI promising even more drastic upheaval in the near future, the union felt compelled to act.

What impact will this have on animation production? The possibility of an actors’ strike has been around for some time now, and many upcoming animated films and series have already recorded extensive voice acting work in preparation. So, in the immediate future, animation production won’t be much affected and consumers likely won’t recognize any dip in new productions being released by studios.

Long term, however, the SAG-AFTRA strike and the WGA strike could both have a major impact on next year’s Animation Guild contract negotiations. TAG’s current contract runs from 2021-2024, meaning that animation industry workers will surely be watching closely to see how the current strikes and negotiations play out.

What they’re saying: At a Thursday morning press conference, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said:

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. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. 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. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands if not millions of people all across this country and around the world.

A statement released by the AMPTP reads:

AMPTP member companies entered the negotiations with SAG-AFTRA with the goal of forging a new, mutually beneficial contract. The AMPTP presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members. 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 Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.

The full SAG-AFTRA strike order can be found here (download PDF).

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Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.