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Actors Join the Strike!

July 22, 2023 at 9:02 am
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Those of you who have been following the news out of Hollywood will already know that SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, has gone on strike, joining the Writers Guild of America (WGA).  We have been striking since May 2.   If you’re in LA or NYC or… sometimes… here in Santa Fe, you may have seen our picket lines.   The pickets have gotten bigger since the actors joined us, and you may see some familiar faces holding signs.

Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, gave a rousing speech when the announcing the strike.

Not much I can add to that, except “AMEN.”

The SAG contract ended on June 30, but the actors gave AMPTP every chance to reach an equitable agreement by extending negotiations to July 12.  That proved to be a futile gesture.  The studios did not move an inch from their previous positions, and still refuse to address some of the most important issues on the table, including AI and payments and residuals from streaming.   They gave the actors no choice but to walk.

As for the writers… well, the studios are not even TALKING to us.   All negotiations between AMPTP and the WGA shut down back in May when the strike started.  It is hard to reach any agreement when  the other side won’t even come to the table.

I joined the WGA in 1986 and have been through several strikes with them.  We made gains in all of them, but some issues are more important than others… and this year’s strike is the most important of my lifetime.  An unnamed producer was quoted last week saying the AMPTP strategy was to stand fast until the writers started losing their homes and apartments, which gives you a hint of what we’re facing.

But we ARE facing it.  I have never seen such unity in the Guilds; the strike authorization votes for both SAG and WGA were as close to unanimous as we are ever likely to see.

No one can be certain where we go from here, but I have a bad feeling that this strike will be long and bitter.  It may get as bad as the infamous 1985 strike, though I hope not.

You may be wondering how all this has affected me and my own projects.

Well, the second season of DARK WINDS wrapped before either strike began.   Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee will be returning to television on July 30, on AMC and AMC+.   Union members will not be participating in any promotions, however… at least the actors and writers won’t (you may see some directors, since the DGA settled and signed a deal with the studios).   The DARK WINDS premieres that AMC had scheduled for New York and LA have both been cancelled.

San Diego Comicon is being held as usual, but virtually all the big television and film promotions that  usually occur there have been cancelled, after the stars and writers all pulled out.   SDCC may need to return to its roots, and focus on comic books and the writers and artists who produce them.  (Excelsior!).

I have been on several pickets here in New Mexico.  So far as I know, all the shows shooting here have shut down.   So have most of the films and television shows shooting in LA.   The studios can stockpile scripts, but they can’t stockpile the actors.

(No, that’s not me).

One of the few shows till shooting is HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, as you may have read.   That’s true.   I am told the second season is half done.   ALL of the scripts had been finished months before the WGA strike began.   No writing has been done since, to the best of my knowledge.   HOT D is shot mostly in London (and a little bit in Wales, Spain, and various other locations), which is why filming has continued.  The actors are members of the British union, Equity, not SAG-AFTRA, and though Equity strongly supports their American cousins (they have a big rally planned to show that support), British law forbids them from staging a sympathy strike.   If they walk, they have no protection against being fired for breach of contract, or even sued.

((Honestly, I was shocked to hear that.   One of the two major UK political parties, Labour, has its roots in the trade union movement.  How in the world could they have allowed such anti-labor regulations to be enacted?   Seems to me that Labour Party really needs to do a better job of protecting the right to strike)).

As for me personally, my overall deal with HBO was suspended on June 1.

I still have plenty to do, of course.   In that, I am one of the lucky ones.   (These strikes are not really about name writers or producers or showrunners, most of whom are fine; we’re striking for the entry level writers, the story editors, the students hoping to break in, the actor who has four lines, the guy working his first staff job who dreams of creating his own show one day, as I did back in the 80s).

Last week we had a great meeting with the producers on THE IRON THRONE, the stage play we’ve been working on the past few years.  The scripts for that one are coming along well, and it’s got me very excited.   SAG-AFTRA covers television and film, but not the stage, so the strike has no impact there.   Maybe we will even be able to bring the show to the West End by… well, no, better not say, do not want to jinx the project.

I have also been editing a couple new Wild Cards books.   PAIRING UP just came out, but we’re still working on SLEEPER STRADDLE and HOUSE RULES for Bantam.

And, yes, yes, of course, I’ve been working on WINDS OF WINTER.  Almost every day.  Writing, rewriting, editing, writing some more.   Making steady progress.   Not as fast as I would like.. .certainly not as fast as YOU  would like… but progress nonetheless.

It keeps me out of trouble.

So that’s the latest from the front lines.   I hope we will have your support.  HONK if you see us picketing… and NEVER cross a picket line… and maybe we will be able to get this settled quickly.   Before we all lose our houses….