SAG-AFTRA is now on strike, and Hollywood actors and writers are picketing for better pay and other working conditions. What that means that nearly all Hollywood productions are ground to a halt, give or take some exceptions for productions over on the other side of the world. Still, there’s some questions about what is and isn’t affected by the strike, particularly for more relatively newer media that hasn’t been around as long as film and TV.
Podcasts and interactive media like video games (that fall under SAG-AFTRA purview) are notably exempt from the strike, but the Actual Play industry—where actors or other public figures record themselves playing a tabletop game (usually Dungeons & Dragons)—is a little trickier. The fate of an Actual Play show depends on the company behind it, and possibly what platform it’s released on: for example, the series Dimension 20 from the streaming service Dropout, is a SAG production. Checking the SAG database, various seasons of that show, and other Dropout series like Game Changer and Um, Actually are shown to fall under SAG’s Electronic Media contract, and are thus shut down. It’s possible some shows on the service are exempt from this, but its big ones are presently halted until the strike ends.
Similarly, shows that are part of the upcoming 24-hour Dungeons & Dragons Adventure streaming channel—Heroes Feast, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!, and Encounter Party—were made under the Electronic Media contract. A specific release date for that channel (which was expected to come to multiple, albeit unnamed platforms) was never revealed, and both Hasbro and eOne have been quiet about it since the initial May reveal. It stands to reason that silence will continue until the strike reaches an actual end.
Sam Reich of Dropout has confirmed that most of their shows ARE SAG, & are currently shut down. There’s possibility of an exemption from SAG-AFTRA.
Dropout records well in advance of air & has material in the can (D20 through end of year) moving through post-production.
— Dr. Emily Friedman (@friede) July 14, 2023
Conversely, Critical Role will continue to air new episodes as the strike goes on. Though its founding members are all SAG members due to their individual voice acting careers, ComicBook notes the founders also have their own stake in the production company that makes the show. It’s an odd grey area the series exists in—they air all their media on YouTube and Twitch, while their two animated series release under Prime Video. When contacted by Polygon, the company said it “fully supports the strike and stand in solidarity with our fellow actors. Currently, our release schedule is not impacted by the strike, but we will continue to evaluate and take the necessary steps should it be impacted in the future.”
The Glass Cannon Network, another Actual Play company responsible for Androids & Aliens and other shows, told Polygon it would also continue production during this time. In CEO Troy Lavallee’s statement to the outlet, he said that “There are enough rules in RPGs that the last thing we need is outside forces coming in to try and regulate how we gather together to play games. [...] With a small, but ever growing stable of full-time employees who rely on the success of our content to survive and to have access to health care, there is nothing that would ever stop or slow down the content creation machine that we’ve worked so hard to become.” He later added on Twitter that as a longtime member of both SAG and the WGA, he “fully supports making sure the little guy isn’t taken advantage of by the big guy.”
At time of writing, the fate of other Actual Play shows are presently in the air, as each of them are likely weighing their next move going forward. As it stands, it’s a reminder of how the entertainment industry still has complications in regards to how newer media and streaming fall into place. But given how the Actual Play space continues to grow, that slice of the industry may eventually be forced to leave the murky territory it’s been operating in.
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