In an epic one-two punch for the film and television industry, SAG-AFTRA went on to join the WGA by going on strike this week. The Writers Guild of America which represents roughly 11,500 screenwriters, has been on strike since May with no end in sight in a dispute over residuals from streaming media and contractual reassurances with the use of AI, pension, and medical care funding. As of midnight Thursday, the Screen Actors Guild also went on strike asking for higher wages and increased residual payments, and protections from the use of AI.
Actress and head of SAG-AFTRA Fran Drescher gave a scalding speech aimed at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that represent the studios. Drescher pulls no punches in calling out a greedy enterprise that is victimizing actors and that they are not going to take it anymore.
SAG-AFTRA Stike Press Conference (via Variety)
“And so it came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads. But we had no choice. We are the victims here. 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. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them.”
“They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity. Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions. Because at some point, the jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI.”
The strike even managed to impact the London premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. The film, which is already receiving praise from reviewers, has a star-studded cast that essentially walked out during the premiere. Nolan recently commented that AI could become the scapegoat for just about anything but also clarified those using should be held accountable for their actions with it.
From Christopher Nolan (per Deadline):
“I have to acknowledge the work of our incredible cast, led by Cillian Murphy,” Nolan said from the stage. “The list is enormous — Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek and so many more. … You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet. Unfortunately, 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.”
Meanwhile, the effects of both strikes can be seen in the film and television industry as scripted TV production in Los Angeles has virtually come to a stop. The LA Times reported in June that permits for production had an unheard-of count of zero. CableTV reports that while many movies may already have their screenplays written, as is done prior to production, you can’t film something without the attached cast. It has a list of projects that have been affected along with those that are completed and waiting to air that can be found here.