Hollywood is set to witness its first industrywide shutdown in 63 years as the union representing over 1,50,000 television and movie actors announced their decision to join the screenwriters' strike that began in May. The leaders of the union, officially referred to as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), made the strike announcement on Thursday following the collapse of contract negotiations with studios. The standoff primarily revolves around streaming services and artificial intelligence.
On Friday, actors will stand alongside screenwriters on picket lines in various American cities, including New York and Los Angeles, where a multitude of scripted shows and movies are produced.
In their pursuit of fair compensation and protection against the unauthorized use of their images facilitated by artificial intelligence (AI), actors are advocating for higher pay and safeguards. They perceive their profession as particularly susceptible to emerging technologies, as generative AI has the capability to replicate facial expressions, body movements, and voices with disconcerting precision.
Amidst the announcement of the strike, notable stars including Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, and Emily Blunt departed the London premiere of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer on Thursday evening.
SAG-AFTRA is also advocating for a guarantee that the implementation of artificial intelligence and computer-generated faces and voices will not serve as replacements for actors.
In a gathering of industry leaders held at an Idaho resort prior to the SAG's announcement on Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Iger expressed his concerns about the impracticality and detrimental impact of the demands put forth by both actors and writers. He emphasized that the entertainment industry is currently in a delicate recovery phase following the pandemic, and the additional disruption caused by the strike is deeply unsettling.
While the Directors Guild of America, another prominent union, successfully negotiated a contract in June, they will not be participating in the walkout. As a result of the ongoing writers' strike, the list of halted or delayed projects continues to grow, and the upcoming actors' walkout will further contribute to this trend.