When the actors joined the writers on strike on July 14th, 2023 a lot of what we watch on television and movies was put into indefinite hiatus. Both the actors and writers refused to create new works until they were paid for their work appropriately. The writer’s strike ended on September 27th, 2023 after the WGA approved a new contract for their union, returning writers back to their word processors crafting new works. The actors, however, are striking for the protections and proper payment they deserve.
First, lets debunk some myths
They’re just greedy millionaires …
Truth is the majority of the strike centers around better insurance coverage for the 170,000 plus members, who according to the website talktomira.com, only 12.7 percent qualify for the benefits. It also involves the studios’ use of artificial intelligence, or AI, in use of creation of content for us, the viewers. There is also concern about how residuals are being divided between the streaming services, the studios, and the actors.
The stark reality is that many of those who are on the picket lines aren’t making the money of a Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise or Robert Downey Jr. Reports suggest, like the one noted above, that more than 70% to approximately 75% of SAG members cant even afford to pay for monthly health care costs and are living paycheck to paycheck like the vast majority of Americans. It’s not a question of greed, its a question of whats fair and equitable to all who are involved. If your boss wasn’t paying you enough for your work, wouldn’t you be looking to resolve that? If your boss, was looking to use your likeness or voice without your permission and no future payment, wouldn’t you want that to change? You would probably call that unfair even.
Although not said by many, they should just shut up, is a thought that is being uttered by some. Typically after accusing actors of being greedy. However, without voicing the need for change, things stay the same. Imagine you voicing concerns to your boss about your pay, your work conditions, or what the future held for you and your workmates and it was ignored? You wouldn’t be too keen to continue working as you were, more than likely. You’d likely be vocal about your needs and talk to anyone who listens. The only difference is that their plight is public and available for all to see, and yours is personal and more private.
How the strike affects us, the viewers
Safe to say, other than forcing us to wait for shows that are in holding patterns, the strike really doesn’t affect us. It does force us to be a little more patient and ready ourselves to endure the onslaught of reality TV that the networks are going to attempt to replace the shows that were slated for 2024 that couldn’t be completed due to the Writers and Actors strike.
The studios are not doing anything to prove that they aren’t in fact the greedy portion in this debate. The studios have walked away from the bargaining table, unwilling to yield to requests for better pay, more stringent requirements on the use of AI, and a fairer share of streaming profits. So if we waiting for shows like season 3 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, The Mandalorian season 4, and other popular shows like that, we may be waiting for some time.
How the strike affects film makers
The last time Actors went on strike was in the year 2000. That 182-day strike was eventually ended and the agreement that was struck had no idea what the future held. The 2000 agreement was 5 years before the creation of YouTube, and 7 years before Netflix started their video on-demand services.
Arguably, the independent movie scene began to peak in the mid to late 1990s, right before the Actors strike of 2000. During that strike and since that time we have seen an increase in indie films. Why? Because there is an opportunity for creative and artistic expression for writers, actors, and directors, alike. There is also the lack of network or studio influence or requirements because the filmmakers are not beholden to anyone and are able to tell the story they want to tell.
If you follow any of your favorite actors on social media, what are they promoting, nothing from a major studio, only shows and movies from independent film houses that have SAG clearances for the film. Many are telling those stories and finding that there is a lack of need for major studios.
Further proof of the lack of need for major studio interference in movie creation and promotion is the Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie that is hitting AMC Theaters across the country now. This movie was brought to theaters without the major networks or studios’ help or interference. In fact, the opening weekend for the Swift production was approximately 97 Million dollars. Trust me, the studios are noticing the loss of money. What if this blazes the trail and shows that this can be done without them?
What can you do?
Fight the urge to cancel your streaming subscriptions. Canceling them doesn’t help prove the point to the studios that the actors have value and their worth is more than they are receiving. Acknowledge the work of our actors in anything we write about online on our socials, showing that we appreciate their work and know it’s not possible to see these great stories without them bringing their characters to life.
Patience. Lots and lots and lots of patience. Oh, and don’t give into all the reality TV they are going to throw your way, we’re all better than that.