Industry Insight

SAG-AFTRA Strikes: What to Know

The entertainment world is currently being rocked by a sweeping strike led by SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). If you're involved in the film industry, especially in distribution, it's crucial to understand the ins and outs of this major event. Here's a concise breakdown:

What's going on?

The strike commenced on July 14. Actors and writers are revolting against studios and streaming services grouped under the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Notably, this alliance consists of major film studios like Disney, Paramount, and Warner Bros., to name a few, as well as significant streaming services including Netflix, Apple TV+, and Amazon. The strike's foundation is built upon demands for better pay from streaming services, protections around artificial intelligence, and other gains.

Who’s allowed to cross the picket line?

Contrary to popular assumptions, not all productions are halted. Independent films and TV productions, some bursting with star power, are being granted waivers by SAG-AFTRA. While they are not owned by the industry giants, they must adhere to terms proposed by the union, which includes a wage rate that's 11% higher than before and guarantees about revenue sharing and AI protections. It's a mixed bag; while some actors and productions, like Viola Davis and her film "G20," are choosing to step back in solidarity, others continue unabated.

Will this affect film markets and festivals this fall?

Yes and no. While the strike undoubtedly brings a cloud of uncertainty, film festivals like TIFF are determined to persevere, predicting near-record attendance even if certain stars are absent. Films such as Luc Besson’s “DogMan” have been granted interim agreements, allowing actors to promote them through appearances and interviews. The festivals remain an essential platform for indie films to gain visibility, even in these challenging times.

What are the short term implications?

Hollywood studios are now re-evaluating their 2023 release schedules due to the strike's continuation. Big-budget movies are being removed or delayed, with studios like Warner Bros. considering postponing anticipated releases like “Dune: Part Two.” This hesitation in the fall release schedule threatens to further destabilize a movie theater industry still rebounding from the pandemic.

What are the potential long term impacts?

While the strike's immediate effects are evident, it also hints at a deeper existential crisis in Hollywood. The industry's overreliance on intellectual properties and lack of originality might alienate younger audiences and dampen their enthusiasm for cinema. Furthermore, the ongoing strike underscores the necessity of evolving industry practices, fair remuneration, and the prioritization of original content.

In essence, the current strike is not just a "bummer" but a wakeup call. As some indie films proceed, they might offer a glimpse of a feasible way forward, adhering to the requirements set by the union. If these "test runs" succeed, they could pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable Hollywood.

In the meantime, indie film makers might enjoy a bit more of the spotlight. Now is the time to break the formulaic mold of blockbuster franchises, and charm audiences with fresh narratives and innovative storytelling. While the strike presents significant challenges for the entertainment industry, it might also serve as an inadvertent catalyst, amplifying the voices and visions of indie filmmakers.

Navigating the Strikes:

As the waves of the strikes crash against the shores of Hollywood, they bring with them a cascade of challenges and opportunities for distributors. Understanding these shifts and pivots will be crucial for distributors, big and small, to navigate through the storm. Here are the key dynamics to be aware of:

1. Shifting Release Calendars:

Distributors could face a reshuffle in their release timelines, particularly for titles that hinge on promotional events involving unionized talents. Such delays could ripple through distribution plans, skew revenue predictions, and potentially clash with existing agreements with theaters or digital platforms.

2. Diminished Promotions:

With completed films often banking on promotional campaigns, the absence of unionized actors from publicity stunts might dampen a movie's initial buzz, possibly impacting its eventual earnings.

3. Budget Revisions:

Distributors may need to recalibrate their marketing budgets to offset the diminished promotional avenues, adding to overhead costs.

4. Navigating Perception:

Distributors stand at a crossroad, where they could be seen as undermining the union by crossing picket lines. In the film industry, where relationships and image are paramount, such perceptions can be detrimental.

5. Shift to Non-Union Content:

The hiatus in unionized projects could pave the way for non-union or indie content. While this may provide distributors with more content options, it also brings the challenge of heightened competition within that niche.

6. Potential Opportunities for Indie Distributors:

In the short-term, distributors focusing on indie cinema might find themselves in a favorable position. With the spotlight momentarily shifted away from big studio productions, there's room for indie projects to capture audience attention. These distributors may experience increased demand or opportunities to pick up indie projects looking for avenues of promotion and distribution. This could bolster their portfolio and relationships in the long run.

In these turbulent times for the film industry, MOLTEN emerges as a beacon of democratization in film distribution. If the strikes have impacted you, leaving you grappling with uncertainties, it's crucial to optimize your library's value. MOLTEN provides that platform, enhancing transparency, streamlining operations, and ultimately reducing operational costs. On the other side, if you're an indie distributor sensing an opportunity amidst the chaos, looking to expand and take advantage of this unique landscape, MOLTEN is poised to empower your growth. In either scenario, we're here to bridge the gap and elevate your distribution game to its full potential.

Learn how MOLTEN can help.