Film & TV

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You

Chris Cullari
July 21, 2023

As of 12:01 AM on July 14th, the SAG Strike of 2023 is on. For the first time since 2000, the powerful union of film and television performers has walked off the job.

It’s a momentous decision with wide-ranging repercussions. You may find yourself wondering “When was the last SAG strike?” or “How long this strike will last?” In this article, we’ll break down the causes of the SAG strike in 2023, the repercussions it will have for the industry, and what to know about the disruption it will cause in Hollywood and beyond.


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How the SAG Strike (2023) could affect you 

The SAG Strike in 2023 is going to affect everyone in the industry. We’re going to break it down and start by explaining how it will directly affect the actors, as their restrictions will inform everyone else.


According to SAG-AFTRA’s strike authorization guidelines, actors cannot perform in anything covered by the union’s TV and theatrical contracts. In short, that means actors can’t work on any feature films or scripted television projects across theatrical, network, cable, and streaming services. 

This work stoppage also affects all independent films. SAG-AFTRA will be making interim agreements with many independent films, but only after it is verified that each project is truly independent and not associated with any members of the AMPTP.  

If you’re producing an independent film, you will need to budget additional time so SAG-AFTRA can verify your project.

Struck services include all on-camera work like acting, singing, dancing, stunts, and puppeteering, as well as off-camera work such as voice acting, narrating, ADR, and looping. 

Actors can continue to perform in contracts covered by SAG-AFTRA’s Network Television Code. This contract covers a wide variety of TV programming, including but not limited to:

  • Talk shows
  • Variety shows
  • Reality competition shows
  • Game shows
  • Award shows
  • Documentaries (without a theatrical release)
  • Soap operas

Actors can continue to perform theatrically on Broadway as well, since stage shows are covered by a different guild, Actor’s Equity

Any actor performing work covered under the strike rules is considered “scabbing,” and if caught, will be punished with fines or expulsion from the guild. Non-union members who plan to join SAG in the future should be careful not to scab as well, as such actions will bar them from future entry into the guild.

Actors aren’t the only ones who can be met with consequences for scabbing. Anyone caught hiring scabbing workers can find themselves in trouble with SAG-AFTRA as well. The Guild may levy fines against the company, or even take them to court for violating labor laws.

For more information, visit where you can find detailed updates and helpful FAQs.


Actors on strike also can’t promote any of their film or television projects that fall under the work stoppage triggered by the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization.

This will affect promotions and premieres until the SAG strike of 2023 is over. The cast of Oppenheimer already walked off the red carpet early. Many premieres and panels from here out will be canceled, including many highly anticipated events at San Diego Comic Con.

The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization also threatens to disrupt the fall festival season where many studios debut smaller independent films. While the strike doesn’t mean the festivals must be canceled, it does mean the actors can’t attend to promote the films without crossing the strike line. 

Without the promotional benefit of these festival premieres, some studios may choose to send these smaller films directly to streaming services - or not release them at all.

What about everyone else?

This strike is going to affect everyone in the entertainment industry and beyond. While the WGA already shut down most of productions across the country, the SAG strike of 2023 is going to shut down the rest.

The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization is going to delay films and television shows at every stage of the production pipeline, from projects casting in pre-production to projects completing ADR in post. 

A complete and total work stoppage for all of Hollywood.

What is SAG-AFTRA?

Before we break down the reasons for the SAG Strike of 2023, it’s important to understand the players involved.

SAG-AFTRA exists to prevent the exploitation of film actors by the studios that employ them. At the time of SAG’s creation in 1933, contracts were notoriously exploitative, and studios were nearly all-powerful.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Group Application
The signed group application for SAG membership from July 10, 1933. SOURCE

The only chance actors had to even the odds was to leverage their numbers and negotiate their contracts collectively. 

As the film industry continued to grow, SAG members used their collective bargaining power to negotiate their way through economic upturns and downturns. As well as the birth of new technologies such as television, home video, and the internet.

It’s important to note that the SAG Strike of 2023 is not being undertaken by SAG alone. In 2012, SAG merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). 

The combined union, known as SAG-AFTRA, represents approximately 160,000 individuals in diverse roles, such as:

  • Actors
  • Announcers
  • Broadcast journalists
  • Dancers
  • DJs
  • News writers
  • News editors
  • Program hosts
  • Puppeteers
  • Recording artists
  • Singers
  • Stunt performers
  • Voiceover artists
  • Other media professionals

It’s worth noting that not all of the above roles are on strike, as different contracts cover different jobs.

When was the last SAG strike?

These strikes don’t happen very often.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Charlton Heston
When was the last SAG strike? When Charlton Heston went on strike to make sure he was paid fairly by those “damn, dirty apes” in advertising. SOURCE

The last time SAG actors hit the picket line was in 2000 when commercial actors struck to gain residuals each time an ad they appeared in aired. Before that, actors were only paid a flat fee to appear in commercials.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Actors Striking
When was the last SAG strike? When people still watched commercials. SOURCE

When was the last SAG strike before that? It was 1986 when actors hit the strike line over wage increases and general improvements in residual payments. Both sides were quickly brought to the table and the strike only lasted 14 hours. 

What is the SAG Strike (2023)?

Despite the famous faces involved, the SAG Strike of 2023 is essentially just like any other labor stoppage, such as the ongoing WGA Strike.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Fran Drescher
SAG-AFTRA believes that acting is labor and all actors deserve a fair share of the profit they generate. SOURCE

Every few years, SAG-AFTRA negotiates a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with their employers, which in this case is the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This time, they're negotiating the SAG-AFTRA Basic agreement and SAG-AFTRA TV Agreement, both of which have three-year terms.

This CBA sets the floor for union members’ contracts across a broad spectrum of television shows, new media, and low, medium, and high budget films.

On June 5th, 2023, a SAG-AFTRA strike authorization was called with 97.91% in favor of a strike authorization ahead of negotiations of the TV/Theatrical Contracts, should the existing contract expire on June 30th without a new deal in place.

As time ran out on the 30th, both sides agreed to push the deadline to July 12th to keep working towards a solution. The clock ran out at midnight on July 13th, and SAG-AFTRA announced their strike at noon that day.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Strike Announcement
As of the morning of July 14, 2023, SAG-AFTRA is on strike. SOURCE

The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization put them out on the line with their sister union, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), creating a double strike for the second time in Hollywood’s history.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Ronald Reagan
The last time there was a double strike, Ronald Reagan was the president... of SAG! SOURCE

That strike lasted 21 weeks and was responsible for getting actors and writers the healthcare, pension, and residual benefits they enjoy today.

Why did SAG Strike in 2023?

The issues at play in the SAG Strike of 2023 involve everything from increased streaming residuals, rules around the use of artificial intelligence, and an audition practice known as “self-tapes.”

Streaming residuals

Just like the writers, actors are seeking higher residual pay for streaming shows. 

The amount of money that actors receive in streaming residuals - the fees paid when an episode of television or movie they’ve starred in airs - pales in comparison to traditional residuals. 

In the past, home video sales have also bolstered these residuals - whether on VHS, DVD, or Blu-Ray. Unfortunately, the rise of streaming services and the collapse of the DVD market has decimated these income streams for actors.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - DVDs
Streaming residuals are pennies compared to what actors used to make from DVD sales. SOURCE

These income streams are important because even the best actors can go for long stretches of time between jobs. It is also argued that it gives actors skin in the game. If they’re part of a hit show, they can see returns for a long time.

Determining a new formula for these residuals has been difficult because the streamers don’t share their viewership numbers the way cable and broadcast channels do. Without knowing how many people are watching a film or episode, it’s hard to know how to properly compensate the people involved in creating it. 

One of the reasons the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization is so important is that the union wants to get the studios to share those numbers, or to make them amenable to creating a new way of formulating these essential payments. 

Artificial intelligence

While writers fear the rise of ChatGPT, SAG has similar concerns around proliferation of AIs that can mimic their voice or likeness. Some of these concerns are immediate - eg, what are actors being paid if these tools are trained on their performances? Some are a little more forward thinking. 

For instance, if these tools aren’t controlled now, how long before we live in a world where actors aren’t necessary? Where performances are built entirely from digital libraries of their work?

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Salma Hayek
Actors worry we’re racing towards a Black Mirror future where they are no longer needed. SOURCE

While generative AI hasn’t yet reached that level, SAG-AFTRA has noticed that the technology is advancing quickly.

SAG-AFTRA has been studying these issues for several years. The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization comes after the union’s initial success in adding language that protects performers from the use of “digital doubles” in its commercials agreement and low-budget agreements. 

The union is now looking for more comprehensive protections in the MBA, including details that would bar studios from training AI programs on actors’ work without permission.


The practice of “self-tapes” - or sending a video audition instead of auditioning in person - began long before the current strike. Originally employed as a way for actors to audition from another city or country, self-tapes became the only way for actors to audition during the pandemic.

It was meant to be a temporary solution to a difficult problem, but it became standard practice. The SAG strike in 2023 seeks to roll back this change in the business.

What the SAG Strike (2023) Means for You - Wrapbook - Self Tape
Pictured: the most complicated and expensive way to audition - the self-tape. SOURCE

Besides removing an actor’s ability to impress a casting director or producer in the room, self-tapes are expensive. They require an actor to invest in cameras, lights, backdrops, sound recording equipment, and other tools that may be out of their price range.

According to SAG-AFTRA, this has created a predatory industry around self-tapes where rehearsal studios or casting spaces may offer actors the opportunity to use their equipment… for a price, of course. 

While production companies estimate self-tapes save them around $250 million dollars in office space and staff, the result is one more cost squeezing actors at an already terrible time for the business. 

SAG-AFTRA’s strike authorization seeks to address these practices by imposing restrictions around self-tapes - though it stops short of banning them. 

Wrapping up

How this strike shakes out is anybody’s guess, but one thing is for sure…

It’s going to be a long, hot summer in Hollywood.

The SAG strike of 2023 isn’t the only strike in Hollywood right now. For more information, hop over to our article on the WGA strike that began earlier this year.


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the Author

Chris Cullari

Chris Cullari is a writer/director based out of Los Angeles. His most recent film, THE AVIARY, is available for streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime. You can find him tweeting about monsters, pro-wrestling, and horror movies.