The deadline for the current contract between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expired on June 30 at midnight, but the two groups agreed to extend negotiations till 11:59 PM on July 12 (that’s Pacific time). There’s still a week left for negotiations, and for high-profile films like Barbie and Oppenheimer to continue doing press and premieres in advance of their films opening (which matters now more than ever, after Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny tanked). 


The actors’ negotiating committee sent a letter to the SAG-AFTRA membership not to “mistake this extension for weakness”, and that the extension is to allow for a “comprehensive and inclusive” deal. Given everything on the table—AI, streaming, decimated residuals—trying to hammer out a deal in just three weeks probably was wildly optimistic. So now we wait for another week to see if the actors will or will not join the writers on the picket line as more than just support, but as fellow strikers. 

Rumors are RAMPANT. One rumor is that the Directors Guild leadership, having ratified their own deal with AMPTP—with only 41% voter turnout, I would LOVE to hear from the directors who didn’t vote, given the massive holes in their new contract—is pressuring the SAG-AFTRA leadership to make a deal and not leave the directors alone on the wrong side of the picket line. That they’re even worried about this probably says everything about how they shouldn’t have taken the deal with AMPTP. 


Then there are the contradictory rumors that the actors are or are not close to a deal. From what I’ve heard, it’s a very fine line. Nobody WANTS to strike, but everyone is aware this is an unprecedented opportunity for labor in Hollywood. If the writers and actors strike together, they could significantly move the needle for labor in entertainment. After all, collective bargaining works best for labor, not management. Also, there is some concern about the effect on the WGA of leaving the writers alone in the cold, not just on their bargaining position, but also on their morale. While there are those actors who will insist that they “improvise” their lines, most actually do know where their bread is buttered and don’t want to demoralize the writers or hurt their bargaining effort. 

If the actors get a decent deal on the table—which I would define as not having the glaring, obvious omissions of the directors’ deal, particularly regarding AI—the actors will take it. Again, nobody wants to strike, and actors, at least the small fraction of SAG-AFTRA membership who actually make a living performing, are just getting back to normal after the pandemic. Not having another major disruption is desirable. 


But they’re ready if need be. A letter signed by over a thousand actors, including SAG president Fran Drescher herself, was submitted to SAG-AFTRA leadership last week, signaling a desire to strike unless they get an exceptional deal. The letter clearly states this is an unprecedented opportunity to push for more, since actors and writers have a chance to strike together. We still have a whole week to see what happens, but I can’t help but feel that NOT striking would be a huge mistake. It might be years, even decades, before the guilds have a chance to stand together again.