Thursday, 28 September, 2023
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Suspense in Hollywood as actors poised to join writers on strike

Suspense in Hollywood as actors poised to join writers on strike

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Will Hollywood soon be faced with a double strike?

The clock ticked down Friday to a deadline for actors to decide whether to join writers in walking off the job -- a decision that would bring nearly all US film and television productions to a halt.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is locked in last-minute negotiations with the likes of Netflix and Disney, with the deadline fast approaching at midnight Los Angeles time (0700 GMT Saturday).

The labor union's 160,000 actors and performers -- from A-listers to extras -- have pre-approved industrial action if a deal is not struck in time.

But rumors were flying in Tinseltown about a possible last-minute extension of the talks. Citing unnamed sources, Variety reported that talks on Friday could stretch into Saturday and then resume after the July 4 holiday.

"It's possible, we could go on strike. I hope not, but if we do, it'll be for good reason," Jorome Melendez, a 59-year-old actor, told AFP as he joined several dozen performers on the picket line in support of writers at Warner Bros studios.

Like the writers, who have already spent nine weeks on the picket lines, actors are demanding higher pay to counteract inflation, and guarantees for their future livelihoods.

In addition to salaries when they are actively working, actors earn payments called "residuals" every time a film or show they starred in is aired on network or cable -- particularly helpful when performers are between projects.

But today, streamers like Netflix and Disney+ do not disclose viewing figures for their shows, and offer the same paltry flat rate for everything on their platforms, regardless of its popularity.

"Residuals are our livelihood in between projects," said 48-year-old Shon Lange, whose resume includes small roles on television shows such as "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Terminal List."

"For those of us who aren't as lucky to be going from project to project yet, residuals put food on the table, they help put my kid in school. So it's very important."

- 'Gig to gig' -

A double strike would be the first time that all Hollywood actors and writers have walked off the job simultaneously since 1960.

While the writers' strike has already dramatically reduced the number of movies and shows in production, an actors' walkout would shutter almost everything.

Some reality TV, animation and talk shows could continue, but even high-profile events like television's Emmy Awards, set for September 18, would be at risk.

Popular series set to return to television as soon as this fall would be delayed. And further down the line, blockbuster films could be postponed too.

This week, hundreds of high-profile actors including Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence signed an open letter insisting they are ready to strike, unless SAG-AFTRA is able to reach a "transformative deal."

The letter says the showbiz industry is at an "unprecedented inflection point."

"We need to modernize the contracts for new technologies," 52-year-old actress Kim Donovan told AFP.

Actors want guarantees to regulate the future use of artificial intelligence.

Donovan raised this issue, and said she was worried about studios using the likeness or voice of an actor without offering compensation.

A-list actors "have the bigger voices -- we need their support," she said.

"Most actors have to live from gig to gig."