Today is not actually day 1 of the strike. Actors have been on pickets in solidarity with writers since May 1, but today they took to the streets outside Netflix, Warner Bros., Disney and elsewhere in the city with their mission, their existential threats and their frustration with the system.
SAG-AFTRA went on strike against the studios on Friday at midnight, and the crowds and incessant honking were reminders that even in the third month of the WGA strike, people are still pissed. With this being the first double union strike to hit Hollywood in over 60 years – yes, since Ronald Reagan headed the guild – the amazing thing is that the message is the same now from the actors as it was from the writers 70 days ago. . Both writers and actors are demanding a living wage in step with the times and a new business model built around streaming residue that can keep people afloat and help them get healthcare and protection against the threat of AI.
Indeed, were it not for the new series of picket signals or the much warmer weather, the average non-industry observer might not have noticed the difference. But there was also a new star in town, SAG-AFTRA chairman Fran Drescher, who along with chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland toured Netflix, Paramount and Warner Bros. to greet striking members of SAG- AFTRA. Inflamed by her impassioned speech on Thursday, “The Nanny” star was mobbed wherever she went, and protesters surrounded her with chants of one of her biggest lines of the press conference: “The jig is up “.
Speaking to IndieWire after the press conference on Thursday, Drescher acknowledged how gratified she felt to see such unity between actors and writers and why the bigger story is that actors are part of the workforce.
“We are a major contributor to this industry. Even just thinking like that, trying to squeeze us like they’re doing it disrespectfully, so disgracefully, and then doing all these low-key tactics to deflect the fact that they’re the ogres in this and we’re the underdogs, trying to make me look bad or whatever, it’s crazy,” Drescher said. “Wake up. Look in the mirror. See what you are doing. Build some character and courage. Enter the meeting room and say, these people are our partners. We have to do well with them. Whatever it costs, we’ll have one less flying dragon. We do what needs to be done to make this business model work as a collaborative art form, which is what it is and what it used to be.
Sean Astin, the ‘Rudy’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ star, who is one of the negotiating committee members for SAG-AFTRA, told IndieWire outside Warner Bros. how amazed he was by the unit that saw on display, including how miraculous it is that the SAG-AFTRA national board voted unanimously to approve today’s strike.
“Anyone who knows anything about SAG-AFTRA, because it is a member-run union, there has been a lot of infighting over the past two decades. That’s gone. We are hand in hand. We are united as a union has never been,” Astin said. “This is a testament to how serious the issues are and how narrowly it is possible to interpret them. It is what it is and we need what we need .
Astin described the mood of the last two weeks in the negotiating room as “a sinking feeling”. After agreeing to a 12-day extension after the initial June 30 contract expired — which came with a political cost among members — the negotiators felt duped by the studios, as if the only reason they wanted to extend was to not talk. further in good faith but to buy more time to promote tentpole summer films like they are expecting a strike.
“When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time around,” Astin said. “They came back with practically nothing. And they were disrespectful. We are volunteers and sat for four weeks. And it’s basic human courtesy that was a bit missing.
The message from Drescher and the rest of the negotiating team reached out to core members of SAG-AFTRA, some of whom spoke to IndieWire during the pickets about their pain points. Several strikers mentioned streaming residual checks they received recently for pennies and how this form of income they relied on has dried up to the point where they can’t make the minimum annual salary needed — $26,000 — to qualify for the health plan. of the guild.
“This has been the most daunting change since the contract negotiations of 2020. Now it’s even more difficult to do the minimum to reach your health care, and the residuals matter less and less because of it,” said “Schitt’s Creek” actor Dustin Milligan . “Being able to string together enough jobs so that you can afford to get sick, it’s not happening to that many people, and it’s sadly tragic how this has caused knock-on effects across the industry. There are people who have been doing it for years and years and years, seniors who suddenly can’t afford the critical care they need because their health care has declined or they’ve lost it, simply because of changes in what matters to them. our sanitary minimums and what not.
“Most of our members struggle to meet their health care. And in the media they say, “Oh Beverly Hills and their mansions.” No, I’m not,” Astin said. “These are real people who need to have a second or third job where they could have had a career before.”
Concerns about AI also loomed, overshadowing other negotiating topics like self-tapes or earnings for dancers, background actors and stunt coordinators.
“The terminology is intentionally vague. How to quantify similarity and compensation when the only term is similarity? That’s a very, very broad term, and I think it’s intentional essentially to eradicate the manpower pool, which is the actors,” said “Harriet the Spy” star Vanessa Chester. “This is very problematic. I think the top executives don’t understand creativity and see it as an underlying problem.”
But others have recognized that today’s strike isn’t just about Hollywood or actors: it’s about the general labor movement across the country, and they know that with actors on the pickets who are far more visible to the masses than writers, people if he will notice.
“The fact that this is something we love to do, and this is a dream for many of us to be out here, the fact that we have to sacrifice a living wage, our health, our happiness and our mental health to be fully available of studios and a contract that is sadly devaluing us to the point where it’s untenable to continue,” Milligan said. “That to me is, simply put, a huge, giant nutshell, why I’m here and why so many of us are here out.”
“It’s a convergence of things that have come together and made this a pivotal moment historically, because we’re not the only ones being marginalized and shut out of livelihoods by big business or threatened by artificial intelligence,” Drescher said. “It’s happening everywhere. I was in Santa Monica and there was a box that went around making deliveries by itself. It really saddened me. I thought, that was a person on a bicycle. What happened to that person? They were squeezed out of the money they were making by making an honest daily wage. We live in a really terrible time because it’s these very powerful companies that don’t really think about how their actions are affecting people.”
Additional reporting by Azwan Badruzaman.