On Sunday night, after 146 days of striking, the Writers Guild of America, or the WGA, reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. The WGA has been on strike since early May, following an ongoing disagreement with the AMPTP.
A little over a month after the WGA announced their strike, their sister union, the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, joined the picket line; demanding many of the same benefits the WGA was, including fair pay. This is the WGA’s and SAG-AFTRA’s first joint strike since 1960.
For a number of reasons, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are striking for problems that have arisen since their last agreements with AMPTP were signed in 2020. This includes actors and writers receiving residual payments from streaming services, the use of artificial intelligence and fair pay.
SAG-AFTRA congratulated the WGA in a letter last night and stated that they will remain on strike until their members can reach a fair deal.
It should be noted that the WGA is on strike until the agreement is finalized, but picketing will be halted. Instead, the WGA encourages members to participate in the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.
It is anticipated that after the WGA and AMPTP finalize their contract, the leaders of the AMPTP will approach the SAG-AFTRA negotiation table to discuss a potential deal.
With awards season rapidly approaching, it’s worth questioning whether the events will occur at all. The Emmy Awards, which were scheduled for Sept. 18, postponed its annual award show until January 2024.
If the film festival season was any indication, the awards season will not happen without difficulty. Notably, the Venice Film Festival was impacted by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. “Challengers” pulled out of the Venice Film Festival in support of the sister unions. This left the festival without an opener until it was replaced by “Comandante,” an Italian film.
The loss of “Challengers” meant losing the appearance of many high-profile actors, including Zendaya and Josh O’Connor. However, the film festival wasn’t completely at a loss for stars.
Despite the ongoing strikes, a number of actors were allowed to attend the Venice event under interim agreements. These agreements allow SAG-AFTRA members to work for independent productions that meet the union’s terms.
Included was actress Jessica Chastain, who walked the red carpet wearing a shirt in support of SAG-AFTRA. Other waivers have been given to a number of independent productions, including A24’s “Mother Mary” and “Death of a Unicorn.”
Although it looks like the WGA may soon close a deal, SAG-AFTRA has yet to begin negotiations with AMPTP. Until then, actors will not be allowed to attend awards shows without crossing the picket line or with a waiver.
Awards shows have already seen the impact of the joint strike. The Peabody Awards canceled its ceremony entirely and the MTV Movie & TV Awards switched to pre-taping after Drew Barrymore withdrew from hosting live. Notably, the Tony Awards were initially canceled before moving forward with a ceremony that met the WGA’s requests.
Approaching fast is Oscars season, which is known for its nominee campaigns. If SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP can’t reach an agreement in time for the awards, this season might be completely void of actor interviews and Q&As. The impact would first be seen on Nov. 14, as actors wouldn’t be allowed to attend the Academy’s Governors Awards Ceremony; an event known for socialization between actors and Oscar voters.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards, an event held by SAG-AFTRA, is scheduled to live stream on Netflix on Feb. 24, 2024. However, with the tense relationship the union has with streaming services, it is unknown if the 30th annual SAG Awards will continue with production. It’s unlikely that SAG-AFTRA would waive their own awards, as it would draw attention to the struck companies.
If no agreement is made soon between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP, it’s likely that this season's awards shows will continue to be delayed or will refrain from ceremony entirely. It all comes down to what happens at the negotiation table.