The film and television actors’ union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with major film and television studios on Wednesday night, ending a shutdown that has crippled most film production since May.
The three-year deal between SAG-AFTRA, the union representing more than 160,000 film and television actors, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers includes much of what the actors demanded, including protections from emerging artificial intelligence technology, greater compensation from streaming projects and improvements to residual payments.
With a tentative agreement in hand, the actors suspended picketing effective Thursday at 12:01am PT. SAG AFTRA’s negotiating committee unanimously approved Wednesday’s tentative agreement, according to union spokesperson Pamela Greenwalt. Union members still have to vote on the deal.
Film and TV are major New York industries, employing about 185,000 people in the city and region — so many that the strike slowed down the city’s jobs gains.
SAG-AFTRA represents more than 32,000 performers in New York. With both actors and screenwriters back on set, work on New York-produced shows like “Law and Order: SVU” and “Only Murders in the Building” can resume.
Ezra Knight, president of the union’s New York local, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But on Instagram Wednesday night, he wrote that he is “humbled thankful & proud of the work we’ve done & ready for the next level of work ahead.”
“[N]one of this immense result lives without determination & a collective push from the solidarity support & unity of so many,” he added.
In a statement addressed to union members, the union’s national negotiating committee described the tentative contract as one of “extraordinary scope,” valued at over $1 billion, with benefits that allow union members “from every category to build sustainable careers.”
“Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work,” the statement read.
The AMPTP, the entity that bargains on behalf of Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Netflix and other major film studios, wrote in a press release that the organization is “pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.”
Specifics of the agreement were not immediately available. The entire contract will be made public on Friday if the union’s leadership signs off on the deal; it would then go to members for a vote.
But the union did provide an overview: Studios agreed to minimum compensation increases slightly higher than the ones gained by the screenwriters, terms aiming to protect performers from “the threat of AI,” and bonuses for actors who participate in popular streaming projects.
Film and TV production has been at a near standstill since May because of dual strikes by actors and screenwriters seeking better compensation from streaming services and residuals, and fearful of the potential of artificial intelligence technology to threaten their ability to work.
The actors joined the screenwriters, who are represented by the Writers Guild of America, on the picket lines in July, marking the first time the two unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960. The WGA, which represents more than 6,000 film and TV writers in New York City, reached an agreement with the studios and ended its strike in September, after 148 days on the line.
While the screenwriters’ strike shut down production of most films and scripted television, it was the actors’ walkout that kneecapped the film industry. Film permits in New York dropped 53% in August, the first full month both unions were on strike, Variety reported.
Out-of-work actors and film crew also struggled as the months dragged on without a deal, with many returning to fallback jobs in the service industry. Businesses that rely on film production, from catering to makeup artists, also took a hit.
Roughly 99% of WGA screenwriters voted to ratify their agreement last month, in a deal that includes greater compensation for streaming content and concessions from studios on minimum staffing for television shows.
The screenwriters and the studios also agreed to guarantees that artificial intelligence will not encroach on screenwriters’ credit and compensation.
The studios adamantly opposed SAG-AFTRA’s proposal for a streaming revenue sharing arrangement, but the two sides agreed to work on a success-based arrangement that have been described as more lucrative than the deal between the studios and the screenwriters, the Los Angeles Times reported.