Actors to join writers on strike: What this means for Georgia

Almost all production will shut down except for reality shows.

Actors on Friday are joining writers on the picket line after negotiations with producers failed to produce a contract by the deadline Wednesday night.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing 160,000 actors, said talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to produce a new contract. This will mark the first time actors have gone on strike since 1980. That impasse dragged on for three months when the home video market was new.

Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA’s president and best known to the public for her lead role in the 1990s sitcom “The Nanny,” said in a statement that the two sides remained far apart on key issues, calling many of the producers’ offers “insulting and disrespectful. ... The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”

At a press conference Thursday, Drescher added: “The eyes of the world and particularly the eyes of labor are upon us. What happens here is important because what is happening to us is happening across all fields of labor.”

“We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations,” the producers said in a statement. “This is the union’s choice, not ours.”

The 72-day-old writers strike has significantly reduced production in Georgia in recent months, with thousands of workers such as set constructors, production assistants and camera operators out for work. This SAG-AFTRA strike will close almost everything else down except for a handful of reality shows.

Actors are grappling with many of the same issues as writers regarding a desire for higher wages, more robust residuals and protections regarding the rise of artificial intelligence.

Residuals have been a major income booster for actors when broadcast and cable TV re-air older TV shows and movies. But with streaming shows, residuals are greatly shrunken since a “repeat” doesn’t really exist.

About 3,700 members of SAG-AFTRA work out of Georgia, triple the number from a decade ago.

“I hope it’s over soon, but I also hope we gain more than we lose,” said Atlanta actor Alpha Trivette, whose credits include the CW’s “A Waltons Thanksgiving,” Paramount+’s “Tulsa King” and Netflix’s “Sweet Magnolias.” “Sadly, many here in Georgia, newer to the industry, are so eager to be on set and working, we’re unaware of what acceptable standards should be.”

This is a fraught environment for both sides. Streaming services in recent years spent lavishly on hundreds of scripted series without worries about profits. But that has changed in the past year as shareholders began demanding companies like Netflix, Disney and Warner Brothers Discovery start generating profits from their streaming services. As a result, there has been a noticeable cutback in spending across the board.

Streaming services have also sharply reduced audiences and profits for traditional broadcast and cable television networks.

AMPTP did manage to sign a deal with directors last month, but that did not deter the actors from going on strike.

Actors arguably have more leverage than writers in the pecking order in Hollywood and could place more pressure on producers to close a deal quickly. An actors strike will also bring A-listers such as Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence onto the picket lines, generating more press and social media buzz.

The active slate of productions on the Georgia film office site before the actors strike was 20, the fewest since the pandemic began in 2020. (The typical number is in the 30s and 40s.) Most remaining productions are reality shows such as Bravo’s “Married to Medicine,” WE-TV’s “Mama June” and MTV’s “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.”

Planned seasons of Tyler Perry’s “Assisted Living” and “House of Payne” set to begin July 17 will be delayed.

A Clint Eastwood film shooting in Savannah, “Juror 2″ featuring Kiefer Sutherland and Toni Collette, will have to stop production. Other big-budget films have wrapped in recent weeks.

In metro Atlanta, popular series like Netflix’s “Cobra Kai” and “Stranger Things” were already delayed due to the writers strike. The upcoming production of season two of ABC’s hit drama “Will Trent,” which is shot and set in Atlanta, was supposed to begin this month but is now on ice.

Union actors will be discouraged from doing promotion for any upcoming TV or film series until the strike ends. Already, the writers strike has shut down a major promotional tool: late night talk shows. Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have not been on air since the end of April.

While this won’t have an immediate impact on what viewers see on TV, it has already delayed most scripted TV show debuts for the fall broadcast season and will mean more unscripted reality TV shows in the coming months. And it may mean fewer new scripted streaming shows later in the year and into 2024 if the strikes drag on.


Direct spending in fiscal year ending July 1, 2022: $4.4 billion

Film and TV projects in fiscal year 2022: 412

Notable films & TV shows shot in Georgia in fiscal year 2022: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Creed 3,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Ozark,” “Cobra Kai.”

SOURCE: Georgia film office