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What to Know About the Actors and Writers’ Strikes

Courtesy of Jack Quaid's Instagram

2023 has been an exciting year for movies, including recent weekends with the success of Oppenheimer and Barbie. Despite so many good movies coming out this year, it’s been overshadowed by two strikes in Hollywood that are getting worse before they get better. On May 2nd, 2023, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. On July 14, 2023, SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, officially went on strike. Why did this happen?

History of Strikes

The last time the actors and writers were on strike at the same time was in 1960. Back then, Ronald Reagan was the president of the SAG union before he got into politics. The writers first went on strike on January 12, 1960, because the writers wanted better compensation. Less than two months later, the actors went on strike because of residuals from films that were being sold to television networks. Each strike ended in three months, with the unions getting deals. Only eight movies in production were put on hold for a few months when the actors were on strike.

More strikes would happen now and then, but the most recent strike to happen before the 2023 ones was the 2007-2008 one involving the Writers Guild. When negotiating a new Minimum Basic Agreement, they came to an impasse, and members of the Writers Guild of America voted to strike on November 2, 2007. Three days later, they went on strike. This one impacted some films, including Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Quantum of Solace, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Television was more impacted, with some shows getting delayed, some having shortened seasons, or getting canceled. Reality television seemed to benefit, with some shows getting more than one season. Late-night comedy shows started showing reruns, and it took a while to get back to making new episodes. After four months, the strike ended on February 12, 2008, with a new deal.

2023 Strikes

The 2023 Writers Guild of America strike was caused by the failure to reach a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and writers not getting enough compensation for the residuals of streaming. Members began picketing in front of studios on May 2. The fear of A.I. also writing stories has kicked in. At the beginning of July, news broke that studios were hoping that by October of 2023, some writers would lose their homes and apartments and eventually come crawling back to the studios, which got online backlash. Recently, it came out that the AMPTP is open to having talks with the Writers Guild of America. While no new deal is in place, there are hopes that talks can still pick up.

On July 13, 2023, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher announced that the SAG-AFTRA would go on strike after not getting a new deal done with the AMPTP. The actors want better pay and residuals, which are down due to the rise of streaming. Another disagreement is the use of A.I. The studios want to pay actors once to take their likeness and use it for multiple projects without the actor’s consent and without paying them for those projects. There are also concerns that actors could get replaced by A.I.

The next day, SAG-AFTRA officially went on strike. During the strike, actors cannot work on television or film productions. They cannot participate in events that promote movies, including press junkets and movie premieres. They also cannot promote at events like San Diego Comic-Con. None of the upcoming movies got promoted at the 2023 San Diego Comic-Con.

Because actors cannot work on movies from the major studios, upcoming movies such as Deadpool 3 and Beetlejuice 2 halted production. Some films, mainly indie films, are allowed to continue during the strike if they are not connected to a studio that’s in the AMPTP. For example, upcoming A24 movies like Mother Mary and Death of a Unicorn can continue filming because the actors can still work on them. Some shows and movies got waivers for the actors to continue filming. By July 25, over 50 projects got exemptions. Also, projects that are in foreign countries and fall under different unions, not SAG-AFTRA, can resume filming. For example, projects like House of the Dragon, where actors work under different contracts and filming is in the U.K, can keep filming. Reality shows, game shows, and soap operas are not affected because the stars got different contracts.

The reception of the strikes seems to be in support of the actors and writers. The cast of Oppenheimer left the premiere of the movie when the actor’s strike first began. Not everyone has been supportive though. Disney CEO Bob Iger got criticism when he said the strikes were disturbing because of how disruptive they were and that the demands of the actors and writers were unrealistic. Some actors like Zachary Levi and Stephen Amell made comments and criticisms of SAG that got criticism themselves.

With productions on hold or not even starting, delays are likely to happen again. Remember that 2023 saw movies that got delayed due to Covid in 2021, and 2022 finally came out. On July 28, Sony announced they were delaying Kraven the Hunter, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, and Ghostbusters 4. Rumors are growing that WB Discovery could delay some of their movies, including Dune: Part II and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

It’s currently unknown if 2024 movies will get delayed until 2025. Some movies, such as Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes and Joker: Folie a Deux, wrapped up filming before these strikes happened. Captain America: Brave New World wrapped up filming after the writers went on strike, but before the actors went on strike. Some movies scheduled for 2024, such as Thunderbolts, have not started filming and will likely get delayed into 2025.

It’s unknown when these strikes will end. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav recently said he is hopeful a deal can be made soon, but it seems unlikely. August 9 marked the hundredth day of the writer’s strike. It’s growing more likely that these strikes will last longer than the ones from 2007 and 2008. Hopefully, these deals can get done this upcoming fall that are fair for the actors and writers.

What are your thoughts on these strikes currently happening? Let us know in the comments below.

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