Having weathered plague, Hollywood is now fully at war in its own “Apocalypse Now” double feature. Tens of thousands Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artist hit the picket lines last week, joining 11,000 WGA screenwriters who have been on strike since May.
The last time screen actors and writers struck simultaneously, in 1960, the guilds established royalty (later residual) payments for replays of films and TV episodes, among other landmark protections. If that strike reckoned with the dawn of television, this one does much the same for the streaming era.
For decades, an actor who appeared on a popular TV show like “Seinfeld” or “The Office” even once could count on getting royalty checks when the show appeared in reruns, bringing pay even at times they were unable to find work.
The streaming model has largely dried up that income, with residual payments untethered from a show or movie's popularity. Actors want a long-term share of that revenue.
For both scribes and performers, the move to streaming and its ripple effects have also meant shorter seasons of shows with longer gaps between them, and therefore less work. They say inflation is outpacing the scheduled pay bumps in their contracts.
And both writers and actors fear the threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence. The actors say studios want to be able to use their likenesses without having to hire them, or pay them.