(LOS ANGELES) Hollywood actors set to join screenwriters on the picket line on Thursday after talks between major US studios and the powerful actors’ union broke down in what is expected to be the industry’s worst ever crippling in over 60 years.
In the absence of an agreement reached before midnight Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, recommended going on strike to its national committee. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday at noon after a vote to ratify the strike.
Union president Fran Drescher denounced the “insulting” offers from studios and streaming platforms, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
For its part, the employers’ organization said it was “very disappointed” that the union “decided to leave the negotiations”. Disney boss Bob Iger even lambasted “unrealistic” demands on CNBC.
The 160,000 actors and other professionals of the small and big screen represented by SAG-AFTRA are thus preparing to join the screenwriters, who have ceased work since the beginning of May, opening the door to a double social movement never seen since 1960 in Hollywood.
The two trades are demanding an increase in their remuneration, at half mast in the era of streaming. They also want to obtain guarantees regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI), to prevent the latter from generating scripts or cloning their voice and image.
The actors going on strike will deal a serious blow to the industry.
Since May, the only productions that have decided to shoot do so on the basis of scripts already completed in the spring, without being able to modify them. This is particularly the case of the Lord of the Rings pre-episode financed by Amazon, the series The Rings of Power. But, without actors, filming would simply not be possible.
Only a few talk shows and reality shows could continue.
The actors also have the power to seriously hamper the promotion of this summer’s blockbusters, such as Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated Oppenheimer.
At the film’s London premiere on Thursday, actress Emily Blunt told reporters that the cast will walk off the red carpet “together” in a sign of “unity” if the strike is formally approved.
“We will have to. We’ll see what happens,” she said, reaffirming her hope for a “fair deal” with studios and platforms.
The film’s US premiere, scheduled for Monday in New York, is likely to be cut short.
The absence of comedians on the red carpets would leave a big void in California. Comic-Con, the high mass of American geeks and comic book lovers, should take place without stars from July 20 in San Diego.
Prior to the strike, Disney explained that the launch of its new movie, The Haunted Mansion, would be reduced to a “private event” for fans over the weekend in the event of a civil unrest.
Even the Emmy Awards ceremony, equivalent to the Oscars for TV, scheduled for September 18, is threatened. The production is already considering postponing the event in November, or even in 2024, according to the American press.
Because no one knows how long the movement could last. Actors have not gone on strike since 1980. The last writers’ strike, which dates back to 2007-2008, lasted 100 days and cost the industry two billion dollars.
A double strike would confirm the existential crisis currently affecting Hollywood. In late June, hundreds of famous actors, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Ben Stiller, signed a letter saying their industry was at an “unprecedented inflection point.”
Over the past decade, the advent of streaming has changed the “residual” remuneration of actors and screenwriters, resulting from each rerun of a film or series.
Interesting with television, because calculated according to the price of advertisements, these emoluments are much lower with streaming platforms, which do not communicate their audience figures and pay a flat rate, regardless of success.
Without this essential income to absorb the periods of inactivity between two productions, the many workers who do not have the status of actor or star author denounce a precariousness of their profession.
The rapid development of AI, which threatens to replace them, only adds fuel to the fire. Disney, for example, used it to produce the credits for its new Marvel series launched in June, Secret Invasion.
In New York on Thursday, several actors were already on the picket line.
“It’s painful and it’s necessary,” union actress Jennifer Van Dyck told AFP. “When the boss of Disney is making $45 million a year and we’re just asking for a living wage, I think they’re the ones who can be accused of being unreasonable. »