SAG-AFTRA actors picket outside major studios in industry 'inflection point'

Saturday, July 15, 2023
Actors picket outside major studios in industry 'inflection point'
Actors began picketing outside major film and TV studios as a strike involving Hollywood's biggest stars got underway.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Actors picketed outside major film and TV studios on Friday as the strike involving Hollywood's biggest stars gets underway.

Large crowds could be seen as strike demonstrations began at 9 a.m. in front of Netflix, Warner Bros., Paramount, Disney, Amazon, Sony, Fox and Sunset Gower. Demonstrations are taking place at four spots in New York City as well.

Actors say pay has been undercut by streaming and inflation, making it harder to live and work as an actor who is not a big star.

"I lost my apartment because of it. You know, it's just a huge thing and (we're) talking about billions of dollars not being trickled down to the people who create it," said James Hutson, an actor on the picket lines.

The issues actors in SAG-AFTRA are similar to what caused the Writers Guild of America to strike, which is still ongoing. Now, some are picketing as both actors and writers.

"When I get residual checks from streamers, sometimes they're for 3 cents, 50 cents, it's absurd," said Adrian Rose White, who is an actor and a writer. "I really think it's time for actors to stand up and join the writers and be a part of this because we really need to be making a sustainable income. It's not possible the way the industry is going right now."

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher made stops at pickets on Friday. She was at Netflix earlier in the day and was set to stop by Paramount as wel.

On Thursday, she announced the strike at a press conference, where she gave an impassioned speech chastising executives.

"Employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run," Drescher said. "It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history."

The strike also centers on health benefits, the growing tendency to make performers create video auditions at their own expense and the threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence.

It is the first time the SAG-AFTRA has gone on strike since 1960, and it is not clear how long it will last.

However, screenwriters have been on strike since May.

Some of Hollywood's biggest stars have also commented on the strike, including actor George Clooney.

"This is an inflection point in our industry. Actors and writers in large numbers have lost their ability to make a living. For our industry to survive that has to change. For actors that journey starts now," the actor said via a representative.

Meanwhile, Susan Sarandon stood among union members in New York City.

"So we're in an old contract for a new type of business and it's just not working for most people," she said.

Marvel actor Clark Gregg, who's both a member of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, said he was hoping for a bit more of a collaborative effort from the studios.

"They're not record-setting proposals," he said.

With thousands more people on the picket line, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass is worried about the ripple effect.

She released a statement Friday saying in part, "This affects all of us and is essential to our overall economy. I call upon all sides to come to the table and work around the clock until an equitable agreement is reached."

"Things have changed," said actor William Shatner. "We need to face that change and the companies that hire us need to face that change. Eventually, it'll work out, but it's a huge transition."

However, the question people are asking is: Do the studios really have the money to meet the strikers' demands?

One expert says the answer is somewhere in the middle.

"Of course the studios will tell you, they don't have much money. The unions will say, you have oodles of money, come on and pony up. The reality is somewhere in the middle," said Dominic Patten, the senior editor of Deadline.