SAG-AFTRA‘s National Board has officially called for a strike. It begins at midnight (Jul. 13, 2023). 160,000+ actors will stop working, which will include promoting their upcoming work.
The last time SAG striked was back in 1980. It lasted 95 days.
Following weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a 12-day extension, and the last-minute presence of a federal mediator, the actor’s guild has joined the WGA on the picket lines, demanding a better deal from the studios.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that the guild would officially be on strike at midnight PST. “A strike is an instrument of last resort,” Crabtree-Ireland said, citing the weeks of failed negotiations.
“What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run,” Drescher told reporters. “This is a very seminal moment for us. I went in in earnest, thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me, or our negotiating committee, or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions of people, all across this country and around the world.”
Now that the strike is on, SAG has shared a specific list of rules with its members. Though acting, singing, dancing, performing stunts, or even auditioning for films and TV shows is out, union work in commercials, music videos, corporate/educational videos, and news broadcasts is permitted.
Union work on morning shows, talk shows, the three remaining network soap operas, variety shows, reality shows, game shows, and sports programs will also be allowed since all those media are covered under a separate contract called the Network Television Code. This loophole also means the late-night programs that have been shut down since May due to the writer’s strike could potentially return to the air despite the SAG strike, albeit without writers—as some did in 2007, during the last writers strike.
SAG-negotiated voiceover work for animated projects, video games, and dubbing is more of a gray area. SAG insiders indicate that these sorts of contracts may be permitted as well but say union members can’t move forward with such projects without approval from SAG-AFTRA’s national board.
Sources also indicate that exceptions can be made for “truly independent projects”—ones not produced, financed, or distributed by the studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. Podcast and audiobook work that doesn’t fall under the SAG-AFTRA umbrella is also presumably permitted.
What won’t be permitted is the promotion of work done under TV and theatrical contracts—which means that as long as the strike continues, actors won’t be able to boost their film and television work through photo shoots, interviews, social media posts, or press of any kind. They won’t be able to attend premieres or awards shows, either.
There, too, a few exceptions may be made, as Natalie Jarvey and Joy Press wrote earlier this week: “Performers would be allowed to appear at events like Comic-Con for career-related panels that don’t promote a current project. Charity events and the receipt of lifetime achievement awards would also be permissible, as long as actors aren’t photographed in front of corporate logos on the red carpet.” Actors who produce projects can do press as producers but not as actors.