Hollywood is braced for a comprehensive shutdown after a union representing more than 160,000 actors voted to strike on Thursday after a midnight deadline to secure increased payment from movie studios expired.
In a statement released shortly afterwards, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) said it had unanimously decided to recommend industrial action. Its national board, led by the actress Fran Drescher, is expected to formalize the strike on Thursday.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – a body which represents major Hollywood studios and online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple and others – “remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members,” the statement read.
Actors are seeking higher pay, increased royalties, and guarantees that artificial intelligence will not be used to reproduce their images in movie and television productions without their express authorization.
In May, Hollywood’s writers’ union, the Writers’ Guild of America, voted to strike over similar issues related to payment, royalties and artificial intelligence. Should the actors’ union formalize its industrial action as expected, it will be the first simultaneous strike of actors and writers in Hollywood in 63 years.
“The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us,” Drescher said after the midnight deadline passed. “Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”
The AMPTP, meanwhile, said last month that its goal was to achieve “a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.” In June, a letter co-signed by several actors including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, urged the union to strike if the AMPTP did not agree to their terms.
A dual-strike by writers and now actors would cause havoc in the industry, which would extend to various other industries tangentially linked to film and television production. According to data from the Motion Picture Association, such industries support around 2.4 million jobs and pay out $186 billion in wages annually.
A strike is expected to have immediate ramifications for the industry. Any scheduled film or television productions will be postponed, while actors will also be unable to promote the release of upcoming movies at red carpet premieres. The most recent strike involving Hollywood actors was in 2000, which lasted for six months and was later described by USA Today as the sixth-largest work stoppage in American history.