Temperatures Flare as Hollywood Actors, Writers Strike Heats Up

Temperatures Flare as Hollywood Actors, Writers Strike Heats Up

Hollywood actors join the industry’s writers on the picket line after their union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), authorized a strike against major studios, outside of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 14, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

7/18/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

BURBANK, Calif.—Despite temperatures reaching the mid-90s on July 18, thousands of Hollywood actors and writers continued to picket outside major studios, striking together for the first time in more than 60 years.
Tempers also flared this week as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) criticized the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents over 350 television and film production companies in the United States.
“We need transformative contracts, yet remain far apart on the most critical issues that affect the very survival of our profession,” SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating team, led by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, wrote in a July 17 release.
The actors’ union joined the picket lines July 14 after negotiations with the alliance failed to result in a new contract agreement.
SAG-AFTRA released an extensive list of demands on July 17 which they claimed were ignored by the studios. The union claimed the companies in the alliance—including Amazon/MGM, Disney, Netflix, Sony, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, and more—are prioritizing shareholders and Wall Street over union members.
Hollywood actors join the industry’s writers on the picket line after their union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), authorized a strike against major studios, outside of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 14, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Hollywood actors join the industry’s writers on the picket line after their union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), authorized a strike against major studios, outside of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 14, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Specifically, the union requested “fair compensation that accounts for inflation, revenue sharing on top of residuals, protection from [artificial intelligence] technology, and updates to our pension and health contribution caps, which haven’t been changed in decades,” the group added.
The actors’ union asked for an 11 percent general wage increase, but were offered only 5 percent by the alliance, which would result in a pay cut because of inflation, SAG-AFTRA claims.
Performers also demanded protection of their images and performances to prevent replacement by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the union said. The alliance wants to be able to scan a background performer’s image, pay them for half a day’s work, and then use their image for any purpose without their consent, the union said in the statement. The studios also want to be able to make changes to performers’ dialogue and create new scenes without consent, they said.
The comprehensive list of union demands included better compensation from streaming services and more contribution from studios for health and retirement funds. The union also wanted to include reimbursement for relocation expenses in the contracts, SAG-AFTRA added.
The alliance disputed many of the claims made by the actors’ union in a release July 17.
“SAG-AFTRA continues to mischaracterize the negotiations with AMPTP,” the alliance wrote. “Not only does its press release deliberately distort the offers made by AMPTP, it also fails to include the proposals offered verbally to SAG-AFTRA leadership on July 12.”
The alliance offered a deal worth more than $1 billion in wage increases, pension and health contributions, and residual increases, and included “first-of-their-kind protections” over its three-year contract term, according to AMPTP.
Members of the Writer’s Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) picket together outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 18, 2023, as temperatures reached the mid-90s. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Members of the Writer’s Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) picket together outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 18, 2023, as temperatures reached the mid-90s. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

The minimum wage increase offer was the highest percentage increase in 35 years, the alliance added.
“The AMPTP’s goal from day one has been to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with SAG-AFTRA,” the alliance said in the release. “A strike is not the outcome we wanted. For SAG-AFTRA to assert that we have not been responsive to the needs of its membership is disingenuous at best.”
The alliance also offered performers a proposal to protect their digital images from AI, including requiring their consent to create and use digital replicas or alterations of their performance, the alliance said.
The AI issue was important to background actors, Richard Carter told The Epoch Times at a demonstration outside Disney Studios on Tuesday.
“I think it’s a good turnout,” Mr. Carter told The Epoch Times. “The AI stuff is really important especially for me as a background artist. They could potentially take us out. They could just replace us. It’s hard enough to get work but to give yourself up, it would be horrible.”

Disputes Get Personal

As actors walked off sets across Hollywood last week, tempers began to flare on social media.
Actor Ron Perlman raised eyebrows with a profanity-laced rant on Instagram July 13, threatening an unnamed studio executive who allegedly said he wanted the actors’ strike to continue until some people lost their house or apartment.
Ron Perlman attends the 20th Century Fox press line on Day 2 of Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 25, 2014. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Ron Perlman attends the 20th Century Fox press line on Day 2 of Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 25, 2014. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

“There’s a lot of ways to lose your house,” Mr. Perlman said in a live video that was later deleted. “Some of it is financial, some of it is karma, and some of it is just figuring out who the [expletive] said that. And we know who said that and where he [expletive] lives. ... Be careful.”
Mr. Perlman admitted the next day he became “quite heated,” and he didn’t wish anyone harm in another video also laced with profanity. He also called for everyone to get along.
On the other side, the Walt Disney Company’s executive director Bob Iger told CNBC on July 13 he thought the strike was “disturbing.”
“I respect their right and desire to get as much as they can in compensation for their people ... but you also have to be realistic about the business environment and what this business can deliver,” Mr. Iger said.
“Being realistic is imperative here. It will have a very damaging effect on the whole business, and unfortunately there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are support services. It will affect the economy of different regions even. ... It is really a shame.”

A Pivotal Moment

The Writers Guild of America was well into its third month of a contract dispute with the alliance this week as longtime writer Elizabeth Klaviter joined more than a thousand union members as they picketed under the blazing sun outside Disney Studios in Burbank, California, on Tuesday.
“This is definitely a pivotal time, not just for writers but for labor in the United States,” Ms. Klaviter told The Epoch Times. We need to stand up so that we can work the hours that we work and afford the things we need to have to live.
It’s not an exaggeration to say this is an existential moment for the career of television writers,” she added. “We are literally fighting for our future.”
Another writer, Zoanne Clack, who wrote for the Grey’s Anatomy series for 19 seasons, said there was more unity during this strike compared to other strikes.
“This is not just the elite versus the elite,” Ms. Clack told The Epoch Times. “This is working-class people trying to make a living and standing up for jobs, and trying to not have our jobs and careers taken away by digitizing and corporate greed.”
Longtime member of the entertainment industry Greg Twiford, president of TV & Motion Pictures Animal Trainers Association, demonstrated in support of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 18, 2023. Twiford, also a member of Teamsters Local 399, said he was trying to end the strike because the animal actors are starving. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Longtime member of the entertainment industry Greg Twiford, president of TV & Motion Pictures Animal Trainers Association, demonstrated in support of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 18, 2023. Twiford, also a member of Teamsters Local 399, said he was trying to end the strike because the animal actors are starving. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Actor Gabe Fonscea walked the picket line outside of Disney Studios on Tuesday but said he was worried about losing his insurance if the strike lasted too long. If he and his two children have to join his wife’s insurance, it would cost another $10,000 a year, he told The Epoch Times.
Other actors are getting second jobs during the strike, actor George Paez said.
“I had to go back to work,” Mr. Paez told The Epoch Times. He returned to his restaurant job as his other friends went back to working full time at offices. This made it difficult to go to auditions for commercials and other projects during the day, he said.
“In [Los Angeles], it’s expensive to live a normal life,” Mr. Paez said. “When you’re making standard pay, you can’t survive on one job per month.”
Other supporters joined the picket line, including family members and industry partners.
Greg Twiford, a longtime member of the entertainment industry and president of TV & Motion Picture Animal Trainers Association, told The Epoch Times he supported the strikes.
“I’m only out here trying to end this strike because the animal actors are starving,” Mr. Twiford said. “I speak for the animals.”
So far, demonstrations have remained fairly calm, but loud honking by passing vehicles has bothered some neighbors, according to Sgt. Fletcher Stone of the Burbank Police Department.
“We’re generating a lot of complaints from citizens that live in the area,” Mr. Stone told The Epoch Times. “Obviously both of our studios are major studios—Warner Bros. and Disney—are immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods. The excessive honking impacts their quality of life, because they’re just trying to be at home. They’re working from home and all day, everyday.”
Excessing honking is not protected speech under the First Amendment, Mr. Stone said.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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