Los Angeles () — This Friday, the SAG-AFTRA union, which represents some 160,000 Hollywood actors, officially went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with the big studios.
This means that Hollywood actors and screenwriters are on strike simultaneously for the first time in more than 60 years, bringing most film and television productions to a standstill.
Among other demands, the striking actors are calling for a pay rise and a rethinking of residual wages, which union members say have fallen significantly with the rise of streaming services. The residuals are financial compensation that is paid to the actors each time the series or movies in which they have appeared are repeated.
Here are some significant figures:
The union’s 160,000 members join the 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America who have been on strike since May.
Many of the world’s highest-paid celebrities, including Meryl Streep and Matt Damon, have voiced their support for the strike, and the discussion over wage increases and residual wages has thousands of actors starring in hundreds of movies and shows on edge. of TV.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher rejected the idea that all actors are rich, stating that the vast majority “are workers trying to make a living, pay rent, put food on the table and send their children to school.” school”.
“Everything you see, what you enjoy, what entertains you, are scenes full of people who don’t make a lot of money,” he added.
$27.73 per hour
That’s the amount of money the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported as the median salary for California actors in 2022. Additionally, the BLS stressed that actors do not have a full-time, year-round salary due to the nature of their work.
Before negotiations between the actors and the movie studios officially expired this week, SAG-AFTRA members had discussed specific minimum fees for performers. For example, an actor who works on a television show for a week must be paid a minimum of $3,756.
However, Kellee Stewart, an actress who has been in the business for more than 20 years and has appeared on TV’s “All American” and “Black-ish,” said that performers generally don’t take home the number that appears as your fee.
“You don’t keep everything when you get paid,” he explains.
“You have to pay taxes and commissions. In my case, that would include an agent, a manager and a lawyer who negotiates your agreements. From the outset, when they give you an estimate of what you are going to charge, you already know that it is actually going to be 35% less, more or less,” he added.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the highest-paid actor of 2022, with $270 million, according to the forbes list of the highest paid artists. Johnson was paid heavily for his roles in “Jungle Cruise” and “Red Notice,” but according to Forbes, most of his 2022 earnings came from his tequila brand, Teremana.
Tom Cruise made headlines last year for earning $100 million from his contract to star in “Top Gun: Maverick,” for which he received a share of ticket sales, according to Variety.
On Sunday, on the show CBS’s Face the Nation IAC President Barry Diller called on both the highest-paid actors and film executives to take a 25% pay cut.
“The actors union says, ‘How come these 10 people who run these companies make all that money and don’t pay us? Whereas, if you look at it the other way, the top 10 highest paid actors get paid more than the top 10 top executives,” Diller said. “I’m not saying either is right. In reality, everyone is probably overpaid at the high end.”
The minimum amount of money an actor must make in a year to qualify for health insurance is $26,470.
Yet while well-known actors earn millions of dollars to star in movies and television shows, many SAG-AFTRA members don’t earn enough each year to meet the union’s minimum requirement.
According to Shaan Sharma, an actor and SAG-AFTRA board member, only 12.7% of SAG-AFTRA members are eligible for the union’s health plan.
Actor Rod McLachlan, who has appeared in television series such as “Blue Bloods,” said it is “a constant struggle” to reach the health insurance threshold.
“If you think about it, $26,000 is not a middle-class salary,” he said.
“The thing about the life of an actor is that you have good years and bad years,” he added.
Due to the unpredictable nature of television acting and the competition for roles, actors often rely on residual payments ––which they receive when movies or series are rerun–– as a form of steady income in periods when it’s hard to get a job.
“If you appear in a popular episode of a popular series, the income streams could last for quite some time. You have almost 18 months at one level or another where you’re making significant enough gains to see you through until the next time you’re on a network show,” McLachlan explained.
The players say the calculation of residual payments has changed. As more shows and movies move to streaming services, streamingwhere it’s not always clear how often content is rerun, actors say they’re making much less money.
“The difference in residual payments that I get from the TV networks compared to what I would get from Netflix is heaven to earth,” Stewart said.
On Twitter, Stewart shared a screenshot of five residual payments totaling 13 cents for replays on services. streaming.
“Not only is there a difference between traditional residual television and the streaming; they’re not even in the same conversation,” he told .
On Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the demands of the actors and writers taking part in the strike are “simply unrealistic.”
“They are adding to a set of challenges that this business already faces, which is frankly very disturbing,” he told CNBC.
When Iger rejoined Disney as CEO in November 2022, he agreed to a $1 million annual base salary with a possible $2 million annual bonus. The deal also includes Disney stock awards totaling $25 million.
On Wednesday, Iger agreed to remain in his role at Disney until 2026 while the company’s board of directors searches for a successor. In his new deal, Iger is now eligible for a bonus of up to $5 million, according to a company filing, meaning his total pay can reach $31 million per year.
Walt Disney Studios is part of The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade group that deals with the writers and actors currently on strike. Other major movie studios like Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures along with streaming services like Netflix and Apple TV+ are also members. Warner Bros. Discovery, ‘s parent company, is also part of the group.
Netflix co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters earned $50 million and $28 million, respectively, in 2022, according to a company filing.
In a statement to , AMPTP said they were “deeply disappointed” with the union’s decision to go on strike.
“Instead of continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has set us on a path that will deepen the financial hardship of thousands of people who depend on the industry for their livelihood,” AMPTP said.
SAG-AFTRA did not respond to ‘s request for comment.
The potential economic impact of the writers’ and actors’ strike could cause $4 billion or more in damage, Kevin Klowden, chief global strategist at economic think tank Milken Institute, told .
Klowden said the impact of the double strike, which has halted Hollywood projects entirely, may go beyond the US economy.
“London and the UK, Australia, New Zealand and other places, that have studios or even post-production, will feel a real effect,” he said.
‘s Natasha Chen contributed to this story.