Updated Jul 13, 2023, 4:30pm EDT
North America

The actors are striking. Here’s what happens now

SAG-AFTRA union President Fran Drescher.
REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing over 150,000 movie and TV actors, is striking alongside writers for their first double strike in 63 years after contract talks with studios failed.

Union leaders announced the strike Thursday, with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher saying the “entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI.” Screenwriters, meanwhile, have been on strike since May after contract negotiations failed.

SAG had been negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios like Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Disney, as well as streamers like Netflix and Amazon. The actors had been pushing for better pay and streaming residuals.

The studio alliance said it was disappointed in the decision to strike and that other professions dependent on the industry, like makeup artists and set designers, would be hurt, The Los Angeles Times reported.

We’ve curated helpful insights to illustrate the bigger picture.

Title icon


  • What does this mean for TV shows and movies in the pipeline? “First and foremost, all production will now be forced to shut down completely," Variety reported. Some productions had still continued without writers, but studios will now “have no hope of completing any productions until both strikes are resolved.”
  • The impact of the strike is already being felt. At the U.K. premiere of Oppenheimer, director Christopher Nolan said members of the cast, including Matt Damon and Florence Pugh, left the premiere after the red carpet because of the imminent strike. “They’re off to write their picket signs,” he told the crowd.
  • After Emmy nominations were announced on Wednesday, promotion and awards campaigning will be ”virtually nonexistent" if the strike lasts longer than a few weeks, Vanity Fair reported. (Nominated actors typically do a flurry of press to build buzz.) And the ceremony itself could be postponed.
  • For movies and shows that are already completed, stars will no longer be able to promote the movies at press junkets or premieres. The fate of events that are typically major promotion tools for studios, like film festivals and Comic-Con, is up the air. The upcoming Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York film festivals could be impacted, with one studio executive telling Variety: “You can’t premiere movies anywhere without your stars.”
  • Like with the writers’ strike, the use of artificial intelligence was central to the contract negotiations. Actors want ”heavy duty assurances and guarantees in terms of the deployment, reach, and scope of AI in the industry,” including on the use of actors’ likenesses, Deadline reported. The studio alliance said it put a “groundbreaking AI proposal” on the table, though union reps said that included the ability to scan a background actor’s likeness for future use.