By Meeta Vengapally
As a parent of two young performers, I know all too well that SAG-AFTRA actors are on strike in Hollywood and New York. This upheaval came on the heels of the WGA writer’s strike. We’re all concerned over this and there remain many unanswered questions.
As adults, we understand why unions strike. In this case, actors are fighting against unregulated AI as well as how residual payments are affected by streaming shows and movies. Everything has changed rapidly in the industry. Unfortunately, young performers don’t understand the challenges that adult actors face. Like my kids, I’m sure that yours put their hearts and souls into their work and aren’t even concerned about the money. But we need to help our kids put this moment in history into perspective.
Who is impacted by the strike?
Many people don’t realize that SAG-AFTRA represents actors in film and television, as well as video game performers, radio personalities, models, and even YouTube content creators. These artists have wide-ranging incomes and levels of success. There’s an assumption going around that only millionaire actors are on strike. They are, of course, but the majority of those on the picket lines are middle-class actors and personalities who are losing important income. The clash is between these artists and AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), the organization representing studio heads. Essentially, AMPTP doesn’t want to regulate AI or change the system in place for residual payments.
Why the strike is important for your child
With the SAG-AFTRA strike, the future of the entertainment industry hangs in the balance. Young performers like my children deserve a better tomorrow, and so do yours. I commend those on the picket lines. They’re fighting for themselves and also for our children. Imagine a day when our amazingly talented kids will get paid for their work streaming on Netflix or Hulu. They deserve it! And not only that, it adds to their self-worth when they know that the hard work and artistry they put in is being compensated each time that audiences get to see them. Listen, I know that union kids are upset right now because they can’t work, but sit down and tell them about the courageous artists who are forging the path to their best careers.
Why residuals need to change
I’m not saying that artists aren’t receiving residuals, but everything has changed since streaming has taken over the industry. The streamers are the ones making the money and they’re not revealing to performers how many people watch. What SAG-AFTRA is fighting for is honest compensation for performers based on how often they’re seen. Your child deserves this too! And so does your family.
It can be difficult to help our children understand. Their performances come from pure heart and magic. They want to let their light shine, but the union is temporarily preventing it. Actors are no longer able to promote films or shows they’ve made or even disclose future projects. There are no red carpets or talk shows. With the writers on strike as well, it seems like everything has gone dark in Hollywood.
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The elephant in the room: AI
The strike is important not only because residuals are incredibly important for an actor’s income, but also because AI stands to be a problem in the industry. Right now, studios could potentially capture an actor’s likeness and use the image again. It sounds pretty sci-fi, but if your child performs background work in a film and they show up in another film years later (without having shown up for the job and without being paid), then you would be pretty furious—and they’d be heartbroken. Although these points seem clear, major studios aren’t willing to budge.
The world is rapidly changing. Six months ago, none of us thought AI was a big deal. Now we all can see the crisis it presents—not only for actors, but also musicians, designers, writers, and almost anyone who has honed their craft and put their passion into their work. We’re not at the point where someone could make an outstanding movie using AI alone, but it’s safe to say that the rapid pace of machine learning has us all on edge. According to SAG-AFTRA’s head negotiator, “They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.”
As a momager, I’m incredibly worried. My kids are devoted to their careers—acting classes, auditions, going to meetings, and learning their craft. They deserve the confidence that comes from receiving proper compensation, both today and tomorrow.
The bright side—and what to tell your child
Although this is hard for so many, there is a silver lining. The strike only applies to companies that are members of AMPTP. Theater is still in business, so if your child is skilled at both film and live theater, lean into the stage work. This is a time for your child to continue to study and grow, perhaps by finding a local venue where they can let their light shine.
Most importantly, we’ll come back stronger. In their future careers, our young performers will receive the pay and respect that they deserve. We’re all in this shut-down together—our kids, off-camera workers, and even big-name celebrities. Independent filmmakers are exempt from the strike, so have your kids audition for these films. What amazing practice!
Sit down with your kids and explain what’s going on. You might also want to ask them about how they feel. There could be a lot of emotion involved, or conversely, maybe they just needed a break. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and this is no exception. The last WGA and SAG-AFTRA joint strike took place in the 1960s. The result? Residuals were granted to actors from then on, and $2.25 million was supplied by producers to form a SAG pension and healthcare system.
We’re striking for the future
Our kids perform because it brings them joy and a sense of purpose. These strikes might be confusing for them but there are so many options for keeping their creativity flowing as the entertainment industry shifts. The effort put in now will pave the way for our children’s futures in entertainment. AI has the potential to stifle artistry and creativity but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. There are good uses for it—justnot when it comes to our diligent and artistically-minded kids. Regulations must be put in place and performers deserve an honest living. For our young stars, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
About the Author
Meeta Vengapally is founder and CEO of Garnysh and a Top Influencer on social media, where she is a spokesperson for over 700 brands. Follow Meeta on Instagram, read her profile on Forbes, and see her articles and full bio at AllBusiness.com.