On July 14, 2023, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) went on strike for issues including streaming royalties, wage increases, and the impact of artificial intelligence, among others. Similar to the 146-day Writer’s Guild of America strike, the SAG-AFTRA strike was a long process of back-and-forth negotiations, with a tentative agreement being reached on November 9 – 118 days later. This has been the longest strike between actors and Hollywood studios in history. The voting period for this tentative agreement ended Tuesday, December 5, resulting in 78.33% of SAG-AFTRA voters supporting the deal.
Among the negotiations, this deal will offer protections for actors against studios using their likeness with AI – the first time such protections have been placed in writing. Ensuring there are rules in place with actors and AI is a crucial element of the contract because it stops studios from replicating an actor without their permission (watch Annie Murphy’s episode of Black Mirror for the too-close-to-home consequences).
The deal also includes a historic pay increase, with most wage minimums increasing immediately by 7%, with another 4% increase in July 2024 and again with 3.5% jump in July 2025. There will also be increases in pension, health contributions and a “streaming participation bonus” of $120 million over the next three years.
While this strike is for American actors, the Canadian film industry has certainly felt its impact, as along with American productions, many Canadian productions work with American studios and hire SAG-AFTRA actors. We asked Omari Newton, Vancouver Film School’s Head of Acting, what opportunities the end of the strike could bring for VFS students and burgeoning actors:
“The end of the strike marks a time of great excitement and opportunity for actors, particularly those newly entering the industry. Projects that had stalled due to the extended work stoppage are roaring back, and we will soon see Vancouver return to a high volume of projects that earned the city the title of "Hollywood North." VFS acting graduates enter the industry with a distinct advantage. Backed by the training of working industry professionals, VFS grads are launched into the business well prepared and with an extensive network of VFS alumni to draw on for guidance and industry resources like self tape rooms, rehearsal facilities, and coaching.
The creative industries at large are also set to thrive in the next few years. As delayed projects return to production, the demand for prepared and professional film and TV workers at all levels of experience will be insatiable. Graduates of all our programs boast a track record of being well versed in the latest industry trends, and well prepped to contribute to any set immediately.
We are fiercely proud of the thousands of alumni working both in front of the camera and behind the scenes on some of the world's biggest productions. We invite anyone with the passion, rigour, and curiosity to work in the creative industries to join our growing fraternity today.”
There is no doubt that performers and non-performers alike are rejoicing in the end of the strike and looking forward to being on set again with improved working conditions and proper pay.