The SAG-AFTRA actors' strike is still happening, after it kicked off back in July 2023. The industrial action marks the first time since 1960 that actors and writers are both on strike simultaneously, with the WGA writers' strike also ongoing. In short, that means Hollywood is pretty much at a standstill. The actors' strike kicked off officially on July 13, which saw the stars of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer leave the movie's UK premiere early.
But what exactly is an actors' strike, and what does it mean for film and TV? We've got everything you need to know below, including what SAG-AFTRA is striking for, a list of everything actors aren't allowed to do during industrial action, and when the dispute could eventually be resolved. We've also got a list of all the movies and shows currently affected by the SAG-AFTRA actors' strike, from delayed release dates to projects that have entirely shut down. We also detail some of the exception deals that have been made as part of the strikes.
What is SAG-AFTRA?
SAG-AFTRA stands for the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. It's a union that represents around 160,000 film and TV actors, radio personalities, and other media professionals, which was formed in 2012 after SAG and AFTRA combined to form one organization. Members include Jennifer Lawrence, Ben Stiller, Kevin Bacon, Glenn Close, and Meryl Streep.
Why are actors striking?
A contract between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, who negotiate on behalf of Hollywood studios like Disney and Netflix, expired at 11.59pm on July 12. The two sides failed to agree on a new one and the union voted unanimously to go on strike until a new agreement is in place that meets their demands – the two biggest of which involve higher pay and safeguarding against the unauthorized use of performers' images with AI.
Members are striking for increased minimum pay rates and increased streaming residuals – i.e. royalty payments for work on streaming services like Disney Plus. Before streaming, actors were paid royalties based on television re-runs, but this is no longer a reliable source of income. Streaming has also marked a shift to shorter seasons of TV shows over longer periods of time compared to broadcast television, meaning less work and less income, so many actors rely on residuals.
As for demands surrounding AI, actors want guarantees from studios about how AI will be used going forward to protect their image being used by production companies in the future without their consent or compensation (anyone watch Joan is Awful in Black Mirror season 6...?).
SAG-AFTRA has released a full list of its proposals – Deadline has the document in full, which you can see through the link.
AMPTP has also issued a statement, which reads: "SAG-AFTRA continues to mischaracterize the negotiations with AMPTP. Not only does its press release deliberately distort the offers made by AMPTP, it also fails to include the proposals offered verbally to SAG-AFTRA leadership on July 12.
"The deal that SAG-AFTRA walked away from on July 12 is worth more than $1 billion in wage increases, pension & health contributions and residual increases and includes first-of-their-kind protections over its three-year term, including expressly with respect to AI.
"Despite what SAG-AFTRA would have you believe today, at its ratification in 2020, the current SAG-AFTRA contract was hailed by SAG-AFTRA leadership as 'the most lucrative deal we have ever negotiated … valued at $318 million over the three-year term of the contract.' SAG-AFTRA further stated at the time that the deal 'sets up for our long-term future…a forward-thinking agreement that builds on the changing realities of the streaming business.'
"The AMPTP's goal from day one has been to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with SAG-AFTRA. A strike is not the outcome we wanted. For SAG-AFTRA to assert that we have not been responsive to the needs of its membership is disingenuous at best."
What does the actors' strike mean for viewers?
With the Writers Guild of America already on strike, an actors' strike means that Hollywood would essentially shut down. This is the first time that both writers and actors have been on strike at the same time since 1960 – when Ronald Reagan was president of SAG.
Any movie or TV show shoots currently underway would need to be paused or rescheduled, and finished projects that require reshoots or voiceovers from their casts will be unable to complete their post-production work. That means a lot of movie and show release dates will be delayed, although how significantly depends on how long the strike goes on for.
Plus, actors will not be able to promote completed projects, as striking means they won't appear at press junkets to be interviewed by print and online journalists, make appearances on talk shows or at events like the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, or attend red carpet premieres.
SAG-AFTRA has released a full list of rules for their members – while the strike is ongoing, members will not be able to do the following:
- Personal appearances
- Fan expos
- For your consideration events
- Award shows
- Podcast appearances
- Social media
- Studio showcases
- Principal on camera work, such as acting, singing, dancing, performing stunts, piloting on-camera aircraft, puppeteering, and performance capture or motion capture work
- Principal off camera work, such as ADR/looping, TV and theatrical trailers, voice acting, and narration
- Background work
- Stand-in work
- Photo and/or body doubles
- Fittings, wardrobe tests, and makeup tests
- Rehearsals and camera tests
- Auditions (including via self-tape)
Which movies and TV shows are affected by the strike?
The vast majority of movies and TV shows will have to shut down production, though it is possible to continue filming under certain circumstances. Right now, we know these projects have stalled:
- Andor season 2
- Gladiator 2
- Mortal Kombat 2
- Deadpool 3
- Mission: Impossible 8
- Beetlejuice 2
- Lilo & Stitch
- Venom 3
- Juror #2
- Interview with the Vampire season 2
According to Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz, production on the Broadway musical adaptation was halted just 10 days before it was scheduled to wrap. As Variety states, the movie is set to be released in two parts, and both were near to completion when the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes kicked off in May and July, respectively.
"It's quite frustrating in a way because we have, I think, 10 days worth of shooting to go finish all the shooting for both movies…But on the other hand, I might as well declare it, I'm in great sympathy and support of the unions that are striking," he said.
A report from Variety revealed that the cost of these shutdowns on blockbuster productions will cost studios around $600,000 per week as they pay to hold on to soundstages containing sets and other equipment.
The following have most likely stopped or will not be able to begin shooting, though nothing is confirmed:
- Speak No Evil
- Paddington 3
- The Radleys
- Heads of State
- Industry season 3
- The White Lotus season 3
- Emily in Paris season 4
The following movies and TV shows are continuing to film:
- Beneath the Grass
- Bride Hard
- Bob Trevino Likes It
- The Chosen
- Death of a Unicorn
- Don't Move
- Dust Bunny
- The Gray House
- House of the Dragon season 2
- King Ivory
- Mother Mary
- Mother, May I?
- Postcard from Earth
- Rivals of Amziah King
- She Came to Me
- Untitled Guy Ritchie Project
- The Velocipastor 2
House of the Dragon season 2 can keep on filming overseas since the cast is made up mostly of actors from the UK, whose contracts are with the union Equity. Due to UK law, Equity members cannot strike in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA.
Two A24 productions have been granted SAG waivers: Mother Mary, starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel, and Death of a Unicorn, starring Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega. Another A24 production, Sofia Coppola's Priscilla starring Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny, has been given a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement. This means the cast of Priscilla has been granted permission to make press appearances and complete interviews at the Venice Film Festival where the movie will premiere. A24 is not part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Darren Aronofsky's immersive sci-fi film, set to open at the MSG Sphere in Vegas, has also been given an interim agreement that allows the cast to promote.
Per Variety, a total of 39 independent productions have been allowed to continue filming. This list includes: The Rivals of Amziah King, starring Matthew McConaughey, Dust Bunny starring Mads Mikkelsen and Sigourney Weaver, Bride Hard starring Rebel Wilson, and The Chosen, a multi-season TV series about the life of Jesus from Angel Studios. You can find the complete list on the official SAG-AFTRA website.
Studios are also starting to push back movie release dates – if striking actors can't promote their new projects, then studios lose out on a lot of their marketing material. And, of course, actors aren't able to film these projects, either, if work still needs to be done. The following movies have been delayed so far:
- Poor Things – delayed from September 8, 2023, to December 8, 2023
- Challengers – delayed from September 15, 2023, to April 26, 2024
- Kraven the Hunter – delayed from October 6, 2023, to August 30, 2024
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 – delayed from December 20, 2023, to March 29, 2024
- Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse – delayed from March 29, 2024 to TBC
- Karate Kid reboot – delayed from June 7, 2024, to December 13, 2024
- Dirty Dancing sequel – delayed from February 2024 to Summer 2025
Plus, completed movies and series will also be affected, as actors will not be able to promote them on press tours. However, Ferrari, the latest movie from Michael Mann, which stars Adam Driver as the founder of the car manufacturer, has been granted a waiver. This means that actors can promote the film when it premieres at Venice Film Festival. Your Lucky Day, a horror-thriller that features one of the last performances of late actor Angus Cloud, has been granted a similar waiver from SAG-AFTRA ahead of its premiere at Fantastic Fest.
A24 has also reached a slightly unique deal for the upcoming 2024 Oscars. The actors of Past Lives, Greta Lee, Teo Yoo and John Magaor, will be able to join the campaign trail for best actress, actor and supporting actor.
Are actors in the UK also on strike?
SAG-AFTRA members currently working in the UK on projects such as House of the Dragon and Industry are not able to go on strike. Anti-union laws in the UK mean that the actors' strike is not lawful in Britain, despite being so in the US.
Equity, the UK's performing arts and entertainment union, advises that partaking in strike action would result in "no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract by the producer or your engager if you take strike action or refuse to cross a picket… Under UK law, SAG-AFTRA is not permitted to discipline you for continuing to work."
Equity has announced that it stands in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA. General secretary Paul W. Fleming said in a statement: "Equity stands full square behind our sister union in their claim and the action their board have agreed to take. Equity too is experiencing bullish engagers attempting to undermine its collectively bargained agreements. SAG-AFTRA has our total solidarity in this fight." However, solidarity strikes are illegal in the UK.
How (and when) could the strike be resolved?
Well, that all depends on when SAG-AFTRA and the studios reach an agreement on a new contract. There's no time limit on when that might be – the aforementioned strike in 1960 lasted a total of six weeks, while another SAG-ATRA strike in 1980 lasted just over three months. With screenwriters also on strike with the WGA and Hollywood likely to go completely dark, it initially seemed likely that things would turn around quickly – but SAG-AFTRA has said that studios have declined to re-start negotiations. Expect industrial action to last for a while, then...