Actors unions around the world offer solidarity amid strike

Actors unions around the world offer solidarity amid strike

NEW YORK — Actors unions around the world have expressed solidarity with their U.S. counterparts as television and film actors in the United States go on strike, sending ripple effects across an increasingly globalized industry in the streaming era.

Actors everywhere are facing “long-standing, shared fights” over issues such as pay and residual payments, as well as new challenges including artificial intelligence, said Paul W. Fleming, general secretary of Equity, the actors union in Britain.

SAG-AFTRA, the U.S. actors union that began striking on Friday, effectively shutting down Hollywood — the world’s largest entertainment industry — “has our total solidarity in this fight,” Fleming said. Thousands of Hollywood writers went on strike last month.

Hollywood actors announce strike after SAG-AFTRA negotiations fail

“Securing fairness in pay, terms, and conditions is critical whether they be with traditional producers, or new global streamers, and with new modes of making and distributing work to a global audience,” he said.

ACTRA, which represents 28,000 performers in Canada, said it stood in “steadfast solidarity” with SAG-AFTRA actors.

“We recognize that their fight is our fight,” ACTRA president Eleanor Noble said, adding that the strike was “for the good of all performers.”

Erin Madeley, chief executive of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, which represents actors and crew members in Australia, said that a positive outcome for SAG-AFTRA could help actors globally.

“A win in Hollywood will set the standard for improvements for screen performers around the world,” she said.

While the unions said they stood with their American counterparts, their ability to strike alongside them may be limited by legal boundaries — including for some SAG-AFTRA members abroad.

How long will the SAG actors’ strike last? Months, possibly.

Equity said it had been advised by its lawyers that although the SAG-AFTRA strike was legal in the United States, it is “not lawful under United Kingdom law.” As such, an actor in Britain who joins the strike “will have no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract” by the production company, Equity said. SAG-AFTRA members who were working in Britain on an Equity contract should continue working, Equity said, noting that it was illegal under U.K. law for the U.S. union to discipline them for continuing to work.

The Canadian union, ACTRA, said it would support the strike “by all lawful means.”

The entertainment industry has long been an international one, with filming for Hollywood productions often happening far beyond Los Angeles. Two of the three HBO shows nominated for best drama at this year’s Emmy Awards were filmed outside the United States. “The Last of Us,” a zombie thriller, was filmed in Alberta, Canada; “The White Lotus,” a satire about extremely wealthy vacationers, was filmed at a Four Seasons hotel in Italy.

The strike could push entertainment companies to lean in further to their operations outside of the United States. Netflix said in April it was investing $2.5 billion into production of series and films in South Korea, home to hits for the streaming service like “Squid Game” and “The Glory.”

With its trove of content and pipeline of international programming from hubs around the world, Netflix is well positioned to ride out the strike, said Alisa Perren, a professor in the radio-TV-film department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sunder Narayanan, who teaches about the globalization of the entertainment industry at New York University, said less unionization in other countries has encouraged production companies to film outside of the United States. Labor costs are often lower, and in recent years, production standards have improved in many foreign countries, he said.

There is a possibility, Perren said, that Hollywood workers like set designers who aren’t in the union but are out of work while production stops could find employment on other projects outside the United States. But such arrangements would be dependent on logistical limitations, such as work visas, she noted.

The extent of the impact to current production outside the United States was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the strike. MEAA, the Australian union, said that a “small number of productions currently underway in Australia may be impacted,” and that it would advise its members on their rights if their work was interrupted by the strike.

Variety reported that production of “House of the Dragon,” the HBO prequel to “Game of Thrones,” would continue filming in Britain, as much of its cast was covered by Equity. A spokeswoman for Equity confirmed to The Washington Post that “House of the Dragon” is registered with the British union, but declined to comment on the project’s status.

There was at least one visible impact of the strike abroad, almost immediately. Some of the A-list cast of the film “Oppenheimer” walked out of a premiere of the movie in London on Thursday evening local time after SAG-AFTRA announced the move. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, confirmed that the cohort — including actors Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy — had left “to write their picket signs.”

Kelsey Ables and Victoria Bisset contributed to this report.

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