SAG strike: Actors join writers on Hollywood picket lines

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Watch: How the Hollywood Strike Affects You in 75 Seconds

Jason Sudeikis, Susan Sarandon and thousands of actors have joined Hollywood picket lines with screenwriters in its biggest strike in more than 60 years.

Writers walked off the job in May, frustrated by pay, working conditions and lack of protection from advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

Major films in production, including the Avatar and Gladiator sequels, may be affected by the shutdown.

While the strike lasts, actors will not be able to appear in films or promote films.

Brian Cox, the lead actor for HBO’s Heir, told the BBC that the strike would last “until the end of the year”.

“The whole streaming thing has changed the paradigm,” the Scottish star told BBC Newscast.

“They’re trying to freeze us out and hit the ground running because there’s a lot of money to be made in streaming and they don’t want to share that with writers or artists.”

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See: Brian Cox: ‘I worry about artificial intelligence’

Talks for a new deal with studios and streaming giants broke down on Thursday, with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) accusing the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) of being “unwilling to offer a fair deal”.

About 160,000 artists stopped work at midnight, joining 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) who walked out on May 2.

At noon on Friday, union members and their supporters gathered outside the offices of major studios and streaming services in Los Angeles, New York and other cities.

The demonstrations have drawn support and star power from some of the biggest celebrities in the film and television business, including the stars of the Oppenheimer film, who walked down the red carpet Thursday night.

Both guilds want studios and streaming services to receive better wages, increased royalties, contributions to their pension and health plans, and protections for the use of AI in the industry.

Affected productions include sequels to the Avatar, Deadpool and Gladiator franchises, as well as upcoming seasons of shows like Stranger Things, Family Guy and The Simpsons.

Events including red carpet premieres, promotional interviews and the Emmys and Comic-Con have already been canceled, rescheduled or scaled back.

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WATCH: Famous faces on picket line supporting Hollywood strike

The strike action is an uncomfortable transition to the era of digital streaming and is being driven by broader technological changes.

“AI will affect everyone,” Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon told the BBC from a picket line in New York.

“Surely there’s always the feeling that if it’s not solved now, how do we solve it in the future?” she said.

“If you don’t have the vision to put something in place for the future, you’re screwed. It’s clear that nothing is going to change from the top down, it’s up to us at the bottom.”

Both writers and actors have complained that they are paid far less than they should have been, and that their contracts have been cut due to inflation.

For actors, pay for individual roles has decreased, forcing them to seek out more roles to make the same amount of money they did a few years ago.

Writing contracts have become shorter and more precarious, often not including payment for writers’ work on revisions or new material.

“We are suffering from a very greedy organization,” current SAG president Fran Tresher said Thursday. “I’m shocked by the way we’re treated by the people we’re in business with.”

Negotiations between the unions and the AMPTP failed, marking the first strike in the industry since 1960. The last actors’ strike, in 1980, lasted 10 weeks.

A third union, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), did not participate in the strike after successfully negotiating its own contract in June, but said the group “strongly supports” the strikers.

With the strike expected to last for months, theaters will face problems, and audiences may be left with nothing new to watch bar reality TV and live sports.

In a statement Friday, the White House said President Joe Biden “believes that all workers — including actors — deserve fair wages and benefits.”

“The president supports workers’ right to strike and believes the parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said spokeswoman Robin Patterson.

Actors represented by SAG’s sister union in the UK – Equity – must continue to work as usual due to UK employment laws. That includes the stars of HBO’s House of the Dragon.

However, the union has told US companies to “monitor very closely” any attempts to move US products to the UK.

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See: Susan Sarandon on the dangers of AI in the film industry

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