It’s been exactly 3 months and 24 days since SAG-AFTRA and its members decided to go on strike with the writers’ union over labour dispute, in the biggest strike since the 1980s. It is the first-time actors and writers had simultaneously gone on strike together since 1960. It is officially the longest strike in SAG-AFTRA history, with an estimated $6.5 Billion loss to the southern California economy.
Writers were officially allowed to work again on the 27th September after an agreement was met with the studios, meaning Hollywood production is well underway again. However, questions about the ever-increasing gap in power between studios and workers remain- as well as the fundamental questions about the future role of AI in film.
Actors initially joined writers on the picket lines due to the significant use of Artificial Intelligence in their work, along with the demand for payments on films and tv shows that stream regularly. SAG is one of the biggest unions in the world representing around 160,000 people worldwide. While picket lines have spent the last few months outside some of the biggest media companies in the world including Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros and Discovery, SAG has been busy sealing a deal which represents the handwork creatives make on a daily basis for worldwide entertainment.
That day was the 9th of November whereabouts a deal was struck, with the deal officially going for approval on the Friday. One of the biggest issues of the yo-yo negotiations was due to the ongoing issue concerning digital likeness and studios proposals around AI, with studios wanting to scan actors into digital characters which could be used for the rest of time even if the actor has passed away. Counter roposals by studios to SAG were rejected multiple times due to essential items not being up to standard. But ultimately studios were willing to agree to adjust language on AI use. With details on the adjustment not being published yet you can’t help but think actors and especially Schedule F Performers (used to employ an actor on a film or tv show for a specific period of time) will come away with a huge improvement.
It is already reported SAG president Fran Drescher secured SAG-AFTRA a new contract worth up to $1 billion over 3 years. With Fran aiming for a 2% sought of steaming revenue, and the 1% equivalating to $500 Million being secured seeming distant, it seems like Fran suggested we’re ‘starting to claw our way back’ is ringing true.
With more details to follow on the agreement what do we know around the start of production on films and TV in Hollywood?
It seems likely the rush to promote projects by actors will be one of the immediate changes. With Disney’s The Marvels releasing on the 10th of December it’s expected leading actress Brie Larson will make an appearance on The Tonight Show. We know Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited sequel to Gladiator staring Paul Mescal, David Washington, Connie Nielson, Pedro Pascal, and Barry Keoghan is about to restart production over in Europe. Deadpool 3 starring Ryan Reynolds will also follow suit. Lastly an Apple original F1 film starring Brad Pitt eyes a restart and so does an adaption of Colleen Hoover’s best seller, It Ends With Us, eyes a starring Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni.
There is expected to be a push back on a number of film releases with blockbuster Dune 2 which was set for a late 2023 release being pushed back to the 15th of March. Most importantly 2024 productions are locked in. Tron 3, Warner Bros’ Minecraft, New Lines’ Mortal Kombat and Lionsgate’s Good Fortune starring Seth Rogan and Keanu Reeves can resume production.
The more long-term productions of James Gunn’s 2025 release Superman can continue to get back to work after a summer of preparation coming to a halt. One important aspect of the end of the strike is of
animation. After racking in over $690 Million this summer with Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-verse, Sony aims for voiceovers for the third instalment after it’s easter 2024 release off the calendar (it had yet to have a confirmed date).
On the TV front, it was confirmed HBO’s House of the Dragon is set to premiere early next summer while their other 2023 hit The Last of US will have to work around Gladiator 2, according to Deadline, due to it being in its first position for Pedro Pascal.
With cinemas being massively impacted by the effects of Covid and then the strike it can’t be more reiterated that 2024 needs demand and significant financial outcome for studios and cinema chains worldwide. While the general feeling of enthusiasm lingers, it is one step in a long journey, when it comes to the SAG and its members. With the boundaries of AI and its power forever increasing it will not be surprising if we are in the same position in three years’ time. But time is something it gives unions to protect, support and help its members after this turbulent period.