SAG-AFTRA, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, has been facing criticism over its decision to permit more than 100 independent productions to film during the ongoing strike. Some prominent members, including Sarah Silverman and Viola Davis, publicly voiced concerns that working under an interim agreement would undermine the strike’s impact. Silverman even referred to it as “scabbing,” though she later retracted her criticism after discussions with union leadership.
In response to the controversy, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee released a message defending the interim agreements, asserting that they play a crucial role in the overall strike strategy. The union urged independent producers to apply for the agreements and encouraged its members to work on projects that secure the Interim Agreement. These agreements are available to producers who are independent of companies affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and who agree to SAG-AFTRA’s proposed terms from the negotiations.
A significant condition within the agreement is that productions must pay the cast 2% of the streaming revenue attributed to the specific production by Parrot Analytics. While some actors raised concerns that independent productions could eventually be distributed by AMPTP companies like Amazon or Netflix, SAG-AFTRA argued that the revenue-sharing provision makes it currently “unfeasible” for these projects to be distributed on AMPTP platforms.
The union firmly stated that these interim agreements would eventually align with the final terms of the deal reached with AMPTP. This means that independent producers will not be at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts operating under AMPTP contracts. The agreements are seen by some as a “waiver,” but SAG-AFTRA discourages this term, emphasizing that the productions are not sidestepping its demands but rather accepting them. This strategy aims to increase competitive pressure on AMPTP companies and compel them to return to the negotiating table, thus leading to an end to the strike.
SAG-AFTRA also contended that if producers are willing to shoot projects on the union’s terms, it signifies the reasonableness of those terms. Additionally, allowing independent producers to film under these agreements ensures that budgets are directed towards union-covered work instead of supporting non-union foreign productions.
It’s important to note that the SAG-AFTRA strike solely pertains to the TV/Theatrical contract, granting members the freedom to continue working on reality shows, game shows, video games, commercials, and other projects covered by different contracts. The strike was declared on July 13 after a month of talks with AMPTP failed to result in a new contract.
In summary, SAG-AFTRA is defending its decision to allow indie productions during the strike, asserting that it is an essential part of their overall strategy to pressure AMPTP and bring the strike to a resolution. The interim agreements, subject to final alignment with the deal reached with AMPTP, ensure that independent producers adhere to reasonable terms and that union budgets support covered work rather than non-union foreign productions. The strike remains limited to the TV/Theatrical contract, permitting members to continue working on other projects covered by separate agreements.