No publicity, no premieres: What actors can and can't do during the SAG strike

Hollywood actors could be headed back to work soon after nearly four months on strike.

On Nov. 8, SAG-AFTRA, a labor union union that represents about 160,000 actors and others in the entertainment industry, reached a tentative agreement with studios, officially ending the strike on Nov. 9 at 12:01 PT.

Prior to the new tentative deal, actors were barred from a myriad of activities and actions when the strike began on July 14 at 12:01 PT.

According to the Strike Notice and Order, which was sent in an open memo to all members of SAG-AFTRA, union members were banned from doing most on-camera work, such as:

  • Acting

  • Singing

  • Dancing

  • Performing stunts

  • Piloting on-camera aircraft

  • Puppeteering

  • Performance capture or motion capture work

SAG members are also prohibited from doing off camera work, such as:

  • ADR/looping (that’s when a film’s original audio is re-recorded in a studio)

  • TV trailers, promos, theatrical trailers

  • Voice acting

  • Singing

  • Narration, including audio descriptive services (although the union notes there are some exceptions to this, if the work is covered by a different collective bargaining agreement)

  • Stunt coordinating and related services

SAG-AFTRA’s memo also states that its members are prohibited from engaging in background work, such as stand-in or body double work, fittings, wardrobe or makeup test, rehearsals or camera tests, and interviews and auditions, among other services.

Here's what to know about what actors could and could not do during the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Can actors promote any of their projects?

In short — no. In addition to stopping all work on camera and behind the scenes, actors are prohibited from promoting projects they’ve already filmed, in the form of interviews, premieres, fan expos, press junkets, festivals, and podcast appearances, among other types of publicity.

SAG members are also banned from promoting their projects via social media.

A stark example of this promotions ban played on the evening of July 13 at the London premiere of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

After the strike was called just after 8 p.m. local time, the film’s cast, including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh, left the premiere early.

“Obviously we stand with all of the actors and at whatever point it’s called, we’re going to be going home and standing together through it because I want everyone to get a fair deal,” Blunt told Variety on the red carpet a few hours before the strike was announced.

Is there anything actors can do while on strike?

Yes. SAG-AFTRA explained in another bulletin that its members are still permitted to work on productions covered by the Network Television Code, which is not involved in the strike.

This includes work on non-dramatic productions such as variety shows, talk shows, game shows, reality and competition shows, and special events.

The union also notes on its website that members are allowed to “honor any contractual commitments to work on an award show” if they are working in the capacity of a host, or performing in a skit.

However, union members are not allowed to “appear on an award show to promote a struck project (whether nominated or not) or accept an award for performance in a struck production.”

Work on “daytime serials,” or soap operas, is also still permitted.

What happens if an actor crosses the picket line?

SAG-AFTRA offers stern warnings to any of its members who continue to work for a struck company during the strike, a practice often referred to as “scabbing.”

Penalties for strikebreaking could include disciplinary action such as “censure, reprimand, fine, suspension, and/or expulsion,” the union says on its website.

The union also noted in its recent member that any non-member “seeking future membership in SAG-AFTRA who performs covered services for a struck company during the strike will not be admitted into membership in SAG-AFTRA.”

What is the SAG-AFTRA strike about, again?

SAG-AFTRA says it is fighting for better pay and working conditions for actors and others in the entertainment industry. The union is also demanding contracts that address concerns about artificial intelligence, and how the use of AI could exploit performers.

Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, called the strike “a moment of history” and a “moment of truth.”

“If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble,” she said in the July 13 press conference announcing the strike. “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family.”

With both Hollywood actors and writers now on strike — the first “double strike” of its kind since 1960 — the entertainment industry is essentially going dark, with production stalled on countless movies and TV shows.

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