This article was originally published July 13 and has been updated to include new information on the impact to the promotion of Broadway shows.
Following unsuccessful negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG-AFTRA's National Board voted to officially begin a full strike beginning at midnight July 14. SAG-AFTRA's previous contract was initially scheduled to expire June 30, but was extended through July 12 to allow for further negotiation.
Joining the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, the move is likely to force a complete shutdown of scripted TV and film projects worldwide that employ SAG-AFTRA actors. The union's membership—comprising actors for streaming, theatrical films, and TV—voted to pre-authorize the strike last month. Picketing is expected to accompany the strike.
Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes share primary grievances: AMPTP (which represents major film studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros. Discovery) has failed to provide satisfactory compensation in the relatively new streaming markets, with a focus on residuals after a project has been filmed and premiered. Both are also seeking protections from A.I.-generated content—for actors in particular, the union is seeking protection against the A.I. usage of actors' likenesses and voices.
The WGA strike has already forced many productions to shut down, either for lack of writers or following pressure from picket lines. With actors now striking as well, Hollywood will be largely in a complete shutdown. Soap operas, which operate on a different contract, will be exempt, and studios may attempt to produce reality projects that do not utilize actors or WGA writers. The strike will also bar SAG-AFTRA members from participating in promotional events for film, TV, and streaming projects, including photo shoots and media interviews.
Another likely casualty of the strike is the 2023 Emmy Awards. Organizers proceeded with releasing nominations July 12 with several theatre notables picking up nods, but the ceremony itself, currently scheduled for September 18, is likely to be postponed. According to a report in Variety, there are opposing plans for a new date in November or as late as January, 2024.
The strike is not, however, likely to affect Broadway, whose acting union is Actors' Equity Association. Though many actors are members of both unions, SAG-AFTRA does not have any jurisdiction over stage projects. Unions are known to act in solidarity with other striking unions within the same industry, but Broadway's disconnection from film and TV should keep that from affecting live theatre. Equity's Broadway and touring contracts were both recently successfully renegotiated and will not expire for years.
"Actors’ Equity Association stands in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA as they strike in pursuit of a fair TV/ Theatrical/Streaming contract from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers," said AEA President Kate Shindle in a statement released moments after the strike was announced. "Performers deserve to share in the success of the work we do for these global, multi-billion-dollar companies. Nobody should step in front of a camera fearing that today's work will be mined, manipulated, or repurposed in the future without consent or compensation. And like all workers, SAG-AFTRA members deserve to have employers bargain in good faith toward a strong contract that will remain relevant in a rapidly evolving medium. The AMPTP's behavior once again prioritizes shareholders over the workers who create their hugely profitable content, instead of simply making a deal to get everyone back to work. Shame on them."
It remains unclear if the SAG-AFTRA strike will affect Broadway shows performing on talk shows or other unscripted TV shows, or what that means for the airing of Broadway commercials featuring SAG-AFTRA actors. [UPDATE, July 18: SAG-AFTRA members are allowed to promote projects that do not involve SAG-AFTRA-contracted work, clearing Broadway shows to perform on morning news and talk shows. Commercials for Broadway productions are also unaffected.]
As for writers, WGA does not participate in stage projects, freeing live theatre from the effects of the WGA strike as well. Muddying the waters here was this year's Tony Awards, which were affected because its live TV broadcast brought it under the jurisdiction of WGA. The broadcast ultimately was able to proceed as a completely unscripted affair.
What can be expected is lots more public commentary from Broadway actors who work in TV and film on the importance of SAG-AFTRA's demands and equitable pay. Waitress original Broadway cast member and screen favorite Kimiko Glenn recently spoke out on the subject on Instagram, showing video footage of a residual payment from Netflix's hit series Orange is the New Black that totaled $27.30, a far cry from what it would have been had the series been aired on network or even cable TV.