SAG-AFTRA has called a strike starting at midnight on Thursday after the Guild’s president Fran Drescher declared: “We are being victimised by a very greedy entity.”
Speaking at a livestreamed press conference in California after SAG-AFTRA’s national board voted on Thursday morning to call a strike following the break-down of talks on Wednesday, an impassioned Drescher lambasted the studios and streamers for “disgusting” behaviour.
“We are being victimised by a very greedy entity,” Drescher said. “I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.
“I cannot believe how far apart we are on so many things, how they plead poverty… when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment.”
The Guild will post a strike notice outlining the do’s and dont’s of industrial action later on Thursday. Besides the work stoppage, national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in general there can be no promotional work by actors at festivals, conventions, premieres, panels, on social media or other platforms or events.
This will be the first actors work stoppage since 1980 and the first double strike including the Writers Guild Of America – who have been on strike since May 2 – since 1960.
Asked when the Guild might reconvene with the studios and streamers, Drescher said, “That’s up to them. We’re ready to meet tonight.”
Crabtree-Ireland echoed the sentiment and later said, “I have zero doubt these companies could have agreed to every single item in our proposal in our packages without a problem whatsoever to their bottom line. They could do that. They chose not to do that.”
He continued, “This strike could have been avoided 100% by these companies simply being reasonable and nothing about this contract would damage these companies at all. It’s about respect for SAG-AFTRA members and the work they contribute and it just isn’t there.”
Crabtree-Ireland cited AI, minimum payments and revenue sharing proposals involving streamers as major sticking points in negotiations. He dismissed a statement from Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers (AMPTP) on Thursday morning, which alleged the studios and streamers have offered “historic pay and residual increases”. (Scroll to bottom. )
“Their proposal would have our members work in 2023 for less than they were making in real dollar terms in 2020,” he said, “and that would continue to be the case through the entire term of the contract. That’s just not right.”
Crabtree-Ireland continued, “There has been a sea change in the business model in the industry. We had a very reasonable proposal to address that by taking a small percentage of subscription revenue from streaming. The companies refused to engage on that, refused to discuss it over the entire course of the negotiations. For 35 days, no substantive discussion whatsoever, even though we told them it was a key priority. So there’s really not been the kind of engagement that you would expect from somebody who was trying to make a deal.”
Noting the sea change Drescher said: “The digital age is cannibalising us… As we see every single show get reduced to maybe six episodes — that’s a season now? Excuse me. When I did The Nanny, we did 28 episodes when it was predicated off of eyeballs and ad dollars and longevity. Well, that ain’t the way it is anymore. A big hit is a limited series of maybe four years, most of them are three years if they’re successful, or they get pulled off in the first 10.
“And how do you make money doing that? How do you make a living doing that? Most of these people are journeymen actors, they’re hardworking people just trying to put food on the table, pay their mortgage, put their kids in school. It’s just crazy that they are so insensitive to the very people that they leverage their artistry. What are they without us?”
Crabtree-Ireland and Drescher also defended Drescher’s much-publicised attendance at a Dolce & Gabbana fashion event in Italy over the weekend. Drescher said she was fulfilling a work obligation as a brand ambassador while strategising remotely with her Guild colleagues as the clock counted down to the talks deadline.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s Squawk Box that while he understood the Guild’s need to fight for fair compensation for its members he found the strikes to be “very disturbing” and was concerned about the impact on an industry already facing challenges.
“We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing. It’s not completely back,” Iger, who it was announced this week has extended his contract through the end of 2026, said. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”
The full AMPTP statement appears below:
AMPTP Statement Regarding SAG-AFTRA Strike Declaration
AMPTP member companies entered the negotiations with SAG-AFTRA with the goal of forging a new, mutually beneficial contract. The AMPTP presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members. A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.
Here are some of the components of the Producers’ offer that SAG-AFTRA has chosen to forgo in favor of a strike:
* The highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years
* 76% increase in High Budget SVOD foreign residuals
* Substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps
* Groundbreaking AI proposal which protects performers’ digital likenesses, including a requirement for performer’s consent for the creation and use of digital replicas or for digital alterations of a performance.
* 58% increase in salaries for major role (guest star) performers wages on High Budget SVOD Programs. * Limitation of self-tape requests, including page, time and tech requirements. Options for virtual or in-person auditions.
* 11% pay increase in year 1 for background actors, stand-ins and photo doubles, an additional 17% increase for background actors required to do extensive self-styling, and an additional 62% increase for stand-ins required to deliver lines during a run-through and photo doubles required to memorize and deliver lines on camera. * First-time-ever fixed residuals for Stunt Coordinators on television and High Budget SVOD programs.
* Shortened option periods for series regulars earning less than $65,000 per episode on a half-hour series or less than $70,000 per episode on a one-hour series.
* Dancers will now receive the on-camera rate for rehearsal days.
* Additional payments of 25% for dancers required to sing on camera during principal photography, as well as for singers required to dance on camera.
* First-of-its-kind provision establishing rates, terms and conditions for High Budget Programs made for AVOD.
* Hair and make-up consultation for performers of all complexions and hair textures.
* Limits on the amount of initial compensation that can be advanced or prepaid as residuals. # # #
What impact could the US strikes and the rise in property rates have on the UK studio sector?