Actors' union agrees to last-minute deal, but Hollywood "double strike" still looms
Los Angeles, California - The union representing 160,000 actors and performers on Friday agreed to extend contract negotiations with Hollywood studios, staving off a potentially crippling strike until at least July 12.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) has been locked in lengthy negotiations with the likes of Netflix and Disney, but as a midnight deadline loomed, both sides announced they would continue to negotiate.
The current contract has been extended until July 12 at midnight Los Angeles time, SAG-AFTRA said in a statement, adding that a media blackout on the negotiations would remain in effect.
Fears had mounted that the actors would join writers on the picket line, a "double strike" not seen in more than 60 years, and which would bring nearly all US film and television productions to a halt.
SAG-AFTRA's members – from the biggest stars to the extras – have pre-approved industrial action if negotiators cannot reach a deal.
Like writers, who have already spent nine weeks on the picket lines, the actors are demanding higher pay to counteract inflation, and guarantees for their future livelihoods.
In addition to salaries when they are actively working, actors earn residuals every time a film or show they starred in is aired on network or cable. But today, streamers like Netflix and Disney+ do not disclose viewing figures for their shows, and offer the same paltry flat rate for everything on their platforms, regardless of its popularity.
"Residuals are our livelihood in between projects," said 48-year-old Shon Lange, whose resume includes small roles on television shows such as NCIS: Los Angelesand The Terminal List.
"For those of us who aren't as lucky to be going from project to project yet, residuals put food on the table, they help put my kid in school. So it's very important."
Hollywood A-listers ready to join picket lines
While the writers' strike has already dramatically reduced the number of movies and shows in production, an actors' walkout would shutter almost everything.
Some reality TV, animation and talk shows could continue, but even high-profile events like the Emmy Awards, set for September 18, would be at risk.
Popular series set to return to TV as soon as this fall would be delayed. And further down the line, blockbuster films could be postponed too.
This week, hundreds of A-listers including Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence signed an open letter insisting they were ready to strike, unless SAG-AFTRA is able to reach a "transformative deal."
The letter said the showbiz industry is at an "unprecedented inflection point."
Actors also want guarantees to regulate the future use of AI.
"We need to modernize the contracts for new technologies," 52-year-old Kim Donovan told AFP, saying she was worried about studios using the likeness or voice of an actor without offering compensation.
A-list actors "have the bigger voices – we need their support," she said.
"Most actors have to live from gig to gig."
Cover photo: Robyn Beck / AFP