Hollywood Actors’ Strike Looms as SAG-AFTRA Says Contract Talks Collapse

With Hollywood nearing its first industry-wide shutdown in 63 years, a union representing 160,000 TV and film actors is set to call a strike as early as Thursday, joining screenwriters who quit their jobs in May.

The union, known as SAG-AFTRA, announced Thursday at nearly 1 a.m. Pacific time that negotiations with Hollywood studios over a new contract had broken down and that the negotiating committee had unanimously voted to recommend a strike. The previous three-year contract expired at 11:59 pm after being extended from 30 June to allow for further negotiations.

The union’s national board was scheduled to meet at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time to make a final vote on the strike. The picket could start later on Thursday.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher called the studio’s handling of the negotiation table “disrespectful and disrespectful.”

“Companies have refused meaningful engagement on some subjects and outright sabotaged others,” Drescher said in a statement. “Unless they negotiate in good faith, we cannot reach an agreement.”

Not since 1960, when Marilyn Monroe was still in her prime, did an actor and a writer go on strike at the same time. The dual strike has effectively brought the entertainment business to a halt, pitting more than 170,000 employees against long-established studios such as Disney, Universal, Sony and Paramount, as well as tech giants such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple. Become.

The Federation of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is negotiating on behalf of Hollywood companies, said in a statement it was “extremely disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to withdraw from negotiations.” “This is the union’s choice, not ours.”

While Hollywood has been gearing up for a writers strike since the beginning of the year (eight writers have resigned in the past 70 years, most recently in 2007), the actors’ unusual resolve in recent weeks has been met by senior executives and producers. I was taken by surprise.

Many of the actors’ demands mirror writers’ demands for higher wages, increased balances (a form of royalties) from streaming services, and aggressive guardrails against the use of artificial intelligence to maintain employment. Guild leaders also want new regulations on self-tape auditions, which have seen livecasting sessions dwindle due to the pandemic phenomenon.

The Producers Alliance said the Actors Guild is “a breakthrough in historic wage and residual increases, significant increases in pension and health insurance premiums, audition protection, shorter series option periods, and protection of actors’ digital likenesses.” AI proposals, and more.”

The last time actors went on a major strike was in 1980, due to the economic situation of the nascent home video rental and sales boom. Their latest move is part of a revived labor movement, particularly in California, where hotel workers, school bus drivers, teachers and cafeteria staff have gone on strike for a period of time in recent months.

The first distress call to the studio was sent in early June, when the approximately 65,000 members of the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA voted to approve the strike. Nearly 98 percent of voters supported the sanction, a staggering figure that was just a margin above the authors’ margins.

Still, studio negotiators approached negotiations with optimism. They were surprised to see a list of suggestions from the union. The list totals 48 pages, nearly triple the list from the last round of negotiations in 2020, according to two people familiar with the proposal, who asked to remain anonymous. To discuss confidential talks.

And in late June, more than 1,000 actors, including celebrities such as Meryl Streep, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lawrence, Constance Wu, and Ben Stiller, signed a letter to Guild leaders saying, “We ready to attack,” he declared sternly.

“This is an unprecedented tipping point in our industry, and what would normally be considered a good deal is simply not good enough,” the letter reads. “We feel our wages, our technology, our creative freedom, and our union power have all been undermined over the past decade. We need to reverse those trajectories. “

On Tuesday, the union agreed to a request by the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance to hire a federal mediator, but declined to extend the contract deadline after Wednesday. Two mediators were involved, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

Hollywood studios will now have to navigate a two-sided labor war that has no up-to-date strategy to guide them. There are many open questions, including whether the actors and writers may request parallel negotiations with studios in the future. One guild not included is the Directors Guild of America, which last month ratified a deal with a studio that union leadership described as “historic.”

The actors’ strike would have immediate benefits for the writers who have walked the picket line for more than 70 days. Their union, the Writers Guild of America, has yet to return to talks with the studio. Los Angeles and New York will soon see actors join writers for a raucous, star-studded spectacle. The struggling actors are still trying to get a foothold next to the big stars, with bodyguards earning over $20 million a movie. movie role.

It’s sure to get hotter: Meteorologists said the “severe” heat wave in the Los Angeles area will continue into next week. Highs in Burbank can reach 108 degrees Celsius.

The last time writers and actors went on strike together was in 1960, when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild, and the survival of a televised film turned into a day-labor struggle.

Many productions closed after the writers went on strike, but some movies and TV series with completed scripts continued to shoot. A prominent talent agent said the writers’ strike had effectively shut down 80 percent of the writing industry, and a second strike would shut it down entirely.

The strike is the latest monumental blow to an entertainment industry that has been rocked by the pandemic and sweeping technological change in recent years.

Hollywood studios have seen stock prices plummet and margins shrink as cable and network viewerships and box office revenues collapse in the wake of the explosive growth of streaming entertainment.

Many companies are resorting to layoffs or removing series from streaming services in the name of boosting profit margins and pleasing reluctant investors. Studio executives had already put the brakes on new TV series orders last year as streaming services continued to run out of money.

Veteran media executive Barry Diller said in an interview that the recent turmoil in the industry has hurt both sides.

“The underlying economics of the entertainment business, which has been maintained for the last 50, if not 100 years, has completely changed,” he said. “Everything was basically balanced under the hegemony of the big five studios, but then technology companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and companies that were rapidly transforming due to the impact of the new coronavirus appeared. As a result, the business is completely turned upside down.”

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