Sound the legal news klaxon, a potential actors strike has been averted thanks to a tentative new deal being agreed between The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The guild of actors and performers had threatened strike action over issues such as revenue from productions released on streaming sites like Netflix, working conditions for actors required to travel and pay for background actors.
This news comes almost two months after the AMPTP reached a similar agreement with the Writers' Guild of America in order to avert a repeat of the writers strike that occurred in 2007/2008 and had a huge impact on a variety of big-budget productions. Shows such as Lost and Supernatural received shorter (and many would consider weaker) seasons and movies as huge as James Bond installment Quantum of Solace were left in disarray with what star Daniel Craig described as a "bare bones script."
SAG-AFTRA has confirmed a tentative new three year deal with the AMPTP that has a number of benefits for union members. Highlights include a 0.5% increase in employer input to the pension and retirement funds, raising contributions to 17.5% in the first year and actors will be compensated more fairly for work broadcast on streaming services. Better travel expenses and reduced exclusivity periods were also agreed and additionally, "Middle Eastern North African" will now be officially recognized as a diverse category in casting data reports.
Clearly, this news is fantastic for movie and TV fans. Many people will remember the disruption of last decade's writers strike and similar action from actors would've been even more problematic, since they are obviously required to appear onscreen. And since SAG-AFTRA also covers voice actors, it's not as if the studios could've filled the deficit with an increase in animated projects either.
Some fans may be questioning why, when top actors earn millions per season or per movie, the threat of such action is necessary. It's certainly hard to imagine Leonardo DiCaprio concerning himself with travel expenses or Adam Sandler needing a union in order to get a fairer slice of his Netflix output.
However, it's crucial to remember that SAG-AFTRA doesn't just represent big time actors but also those just starting out in the business and are struggling to make a living from bit-part roles or working as background artists. It's these people who will really benefit from this new deal, with the new conditions helping to protect them from being unfairly rewarded for their efforts.