SAG-AFTRA and Studios Extend Contract Talks to July 12

The actors guild and AMPTP agree to keep talking just hours before expiration of their existing deal

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have extended contract talks until midnight on July 12, delaying the expiration of their current deal, which would otherwise have ended at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

While the extension is not a guarantee that the groups will reach a deal for a new contract, similar extensions of contract negotiations between AMPTP and the Actors Guild happened 2014 and 2017, when previous contracts were struck.

SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP both declined to comment in accordance with the customary media blackouts during Hollywood labor negotiations.

Prior to the start of negotiations earlier this month, an overwhelming majority of SAG-AFTRA members voted to authorize guild leaders to call a strike if a satisfactory deal could not be reached. Among the key issues include stricter regulations on self-taped auditions, rules regarding consent and compensation for re-creations of performers’ work and likeness using so-called “AI,” and increases in residuals for streaming films and TV shows.

In a video message to members released a week ago, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said they were optimistic about the progress of negotiations.

“I just want to assure you that we are having an extremely productive negotiations that are laser-focused on all of the crucial issues you told us are most important to you,” Drescher said. “And we’re standing strong and we’re going to achieve a seminal deal.”

But days later, over 1,000 SAG-AFTRA members, including A-listers like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, signed an internal letter urging the guild’s negotiating committee not to settle for “a less than transformative deal.”

“We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories,” the letter continued. “We want you to know that we would rather go on strike than compromise on these fundamental points, and we believe that, if we settle for a less than transformative deal, the future of our union and our craft will be undermined, and SAG-AFTRA will enter the next negotiation with drastically reduced leverage.”

“This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us,” the members’ letter read. “We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it. If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines. For our union and its future, this is our moment. We hope that, on our behalf, you will meet that moment and not miss it.”

If SAG-AFTRA does strike, it will be the first time since 1960 that Hollywood has been hit by two guild strikes at the same time. It would immediately shut down major film productions still shooting outside the U.S. in spite of the ongoing WGA strike, such as Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part Two.”

Even the possibility of an actors strike has had ripple effects. Multiple studios to are skipping San Diego Comic-Con next month, including Marvel Studios, Netflix and Universal. An actors strike would also likely lead to a postponement of this year’s Emmys telecast, as nominated actors would not participate in the ceremony or any awards campaigns. Preparations for 75th Emmys ceremony, which will take place on September 18, are set to begin on July 15, three days after the new SAG-AFTRA deadline.

Some SAG-AFTRA members have told TheWrap they are willing to strike to reverse what they say are unsustainable trends in Hollywood. Among them, the increasing difficulty for members to earn the roughly $26,000 a year needed to qualify for SAG-AFTRA’s health plan. Similar to WGA members, whose picket lines have been joined by thousands of SAG-AFTRA members, there is a sense that this round of contracts is labor’s best opportunity to safeguard against a future where more Hollywood workers are unable to make ends meet.