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Predicting 5 Things That Will Happen If The Writer’s Strike Lasts For Months (An Actor’s Perspective)

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The Writer’s Guild Strike that may begin starting May 1 has me and most of us in the film industry hugely on edge. As an actor in the New York City area who will hit 13 years in this industry at the end of the week, I’ve been fortunate to experience a great many things this field has to offer. Which is why I worry we may be in for a long battle. This potential strike shares similarities to the 2007 strike that lasted 100 days and shortened many TV seasons down to just a few episodes. Back then it was regarding residuals for DVD sales, this time residuals for streaming platforms. The times have changed, but the rationale remains the same. Should this strike run for a while (or DGA or SAG should strike this year), here’s 5 things I feel will happen as both sides fight for what they want.

1) You’ll see an uptick in non-union projects. This includes reality shows, reenactments, game shows or competitions, basically anything that doesn’t require a union contract and fill the time slots and watch hours. Game shows/competitions are considered unscripted so they don’t fall under a union jurisdiction which is why union members end up as judges, talk show hosts and guests on both. Even when I did America’s Got Talent 8 years ago it didn’t matter that I was SAG since it was unscripted all the way though. With reality programming, it makes sense as projects like this oftentimes are quicker to produce and less expensive, but lack the name draw that union television will provide. My first experience with reality shows was standing in for Andy Cohen on a Real Housewives reunion special. I learned there that reality programming can at times cost 1/4 of what a standard TV show costs which makes it extremely appealing for some networks. That’s why we have shows like this:

2) You’ll see a massive drop off in industry people qualifying for health insurance. I’m leading off with this one because this is my biggest fear. As someone who uses the film industry at this point mainly to get union health insurance, SAG has a hard line approach to qualifying. Either you make it or you don’t. No exceptions. There’s two ways to do it: $26,470 earned from or 102 days (or really 816 hours) on set. This is based solely on hours, working overnight, bringing a car, etc don’t count towards it. On the upside, overtime does. So time and a half, double time and if you’re lucky, golden time can build towards those numbers quickly. To make it simple: a 12.5 hour work day will count as 2 days towards 102 based on OT, so it can add up well.

SAG however will not make exceptions for industry shutdowns. You either get insurance or you don’t. We experienced this in 2020 when Hollywood stopped for 6 months for Covid; people were still required to hit their insurance numbers if they wanted coverage and since we didn’t, we went on Cobra for several months. For my wife and I, we normally pay $531/quarter, a fair bit better than the $1,000 a month for Cobra or worse $2,000/month for ACA (yes really). If the strike lingers that’s an extra $800+/month for Cobra we have to pay out, every month until I requalify. Sh-t adds up.

3) More actors will go Fi-Core. Financial Core is a tricky subject matter, some are in favor of it, some aren’t. Short version is you can do non-union projects like many mentioned above. You lose voting rights and don’t get to screen films for the SAG awards, plus get the scorn of many old school SAG members, but it’s an additional revenue stream as needed. Being Fi-Core myself, I’ve seen both sides of this scenario. My agent was on me for years to do so, currently I’m working on another article about the good, bad and ugly of being Fi-Core. A few weeks ago I did a day on Evil Lives here which was a quick payday and 15 minutes from my house in New Jersey. Those projects are smaller scale than your Law & Order style, so don’t expect the budget of NBC, but personally I enjoy them in some ways more. Those projects feel like organized, high quality independent projects, and not the ones where bad actors point guns at your head without realizing blanks can kill you (see my Rust article here for THAT story). If the strike continues and the paychecks stop, people will look here to keep padding that resume.

4) Actors will go in odd directions to pay the bills, both in and out of the industry. Your Verizon bill couldn’t care less about the strike, so while Fi-Core may happen for some, so will things like Affiliate Marketing, Unemployment and PT work. I’ll skip the PT job because that’s obvious and a running joke for people outside the industry. “Oh you’re an actor? Where do you wait tables?” However what’s less obvious is unemployment. Here in the NY area it’s a weird given that many actors are also on unemployment, I’m ashamed to say I’ve done it a few times also. But damn, some folks milk that system. Not surprising, even Studio apartments can run you $1,500-$3,000 or more. For folks with a social media following, you might find some of them will use that following to sell product to cover the bills, some of which could end up surprising.

5) There will be an explosion of content once it’s all said and done. It’s not all doom and gloom. While scripts can’t be written during a strike, ideas can still be bounced around and storylines can be created. This happened during the Covid shut down; producers and execs stuck to Zoom calls and a slew of ideas came from it. I expect this will happen again if the writer’s shutdown happens. However when a deal is reached and these folks are back in action, there will be an absolute influx of new content. So that’s a positive.

Those are my thoughts, for better or for worse. If you have any opinions let me know, I’m interested to hear. Thanks for reading, hang in and stay awesome.

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