How the Hollywood actors’ strike could impact Canada’s film industry

It’s official: the union representing film and television actors has voted to go on strike starting Thursday at midnight — and Canada’s film industry will feel the effects. 

Still reeling from an ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, industry insiders in Canada say this second strike will only make things worse for Canada’s creative economy.

So, who is involved in the strike, and what does it mean for Canadian-made movies and TV? 

The key players

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) confirmed strike action during a press conference Thursday, after contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a group representing studio executives, ended without a new deal.

“All of us will be on picket lines tomorrow morning,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA.

A person facing away from the camera holds a sign that reads, 'Unions Stand Together.'
A sign reads ‘Unions Stand Together’ as Hollywood actors walk the picket line in solidarity with striking writers in Los Angeles on July 11. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It marks the first time that actors and writers are picketing film and television productions simultaneously since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the actors’ guild president.

“We are the victims here,” said Fran Drescher, the actors’ guild president.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said earlier it was disappointed by the failure to reach a deal.

“This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more,” the AMPTP said in a statement.

Issues in negotiations include: the unregulated use of artificial intelligence, and the effects on residual pay brought on by the streaming ecosystem that has emerged in recent years.

WATCH | ‘We demand respect,’ says actor Fran Drescher in impassioned speech: 

Fran Drescher, head of SAG-AFTRA, announces that the Hollywood actors union is joining screenwriters in the first joint strike in more than six decades.

What it means for Canada

Members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been on strike since early May, already slowing the production of films and television shows.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has 28,000 members working in Canadian productions. In a statement, ACTRA said “members from across Canada stand in steadfast solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and its members in their effort to achieve a fair and equitable contract.”

Some Canadians are already being impacted by the labour unrest. 

Amanda Row is a Canadian director and producer who has worked on dozens of TV shows that have been shot in Canada. “People don’t recognize how much of the content they watch is actually created here,” Row told CBC News. 

Row said the writers’ strike has already impacted her ability to work — and the actors’ strike will likely make things worse.

“I’ve definitely been working way less than I usually would. I know directors who have not worked at all.”

A woman gives an impassioned speech at a podium, with a colleague flanking her to her  left.
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher speaks during a press conference announcing a strike by The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Thursday. This marks the first time since 1960 that actors and writers will picket film and television productions at the same time. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

Damian Petti, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 212 in Calgary, has similar concerns. Petti said the majority of IATSE’s 1,500 members work in the film industry and will be impacted by the strike. 

“This is a very large storm that has happened and it heavily impacts the employment of our members.”

Petti said Calgary’s film industry had been booming in recent years following updates to the city’s filming incentives. But he is now seeing a lack of opportunities because of the writers’ strike. He said the new actors’ strike will worsen the situation. 

Martin Katz is president and founder of Prospero Pictures in Toronto. He has produced a number of Hollywood movies, including five alongside director David Cronenberg. 

He said the strike’s impact will be felt on productions across the country. 

“If they’re shooting in Malta or they’re shooting in Toronto or Vancouver or Newfoundland, SAG will take jurisdiction over that show and that show will be shut down now that those actors are on strike,” he told CBC News. 

WATCH | How will the Hollywood actors strike impact your favourite shows?: 

How will the Hollywood actors’ strike impact your favourite shows?

Martin Katz, a Canadian producer and frequent collaborator of director David Cronenberg, spoke with CBC News to shed light on how the SAG-AFTRA strike will impact your favourite TV shows in Canada and abroad.

This comes at a time when some productions in Canada were already facing delays due to the writers’ strike. 

Canadian co-productions like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is shot in Toronto, and HBO’s The Last of Us, which will film its second season in Vancouver, have both been delayed due to the WGA strike. 

In an email, a spokesperson for the City of Toronto told CBC News “it’s premature to speculate on any potential future impacts,” the actors’ strike could have on the city’s film industry. 

But if we take a look back at how things have gone this year amid the WGA strike, we can start to get a sense of how the SAG-AFTRA strike could further impact productions in Canada. 

Looking ahead

As of last month, only 15 projects had set up shop in Toronto this year amid talk of the now-ongoing U.S. writers’ strike, compared to 25 last year, Marguerite Pigott, the city’s film commissioner, told CBC News in an interview last month. 

Similar dynamics are playing out in western Canada. 

British Columbia hit a low of 28 active productions just before the beginning of the WGA strike — around half of what it would typically see that time of the year, Gemma Martini, the CEO of Martini Film Studios in Langley, said in an earlier interview. 

Promo shot from the HBO series The Last of Us, in which characters Joel and Ellie stand in front of a post-apocalyptic city destroyed by fungal networks.
Shooting for HBO’s The Last of Us, which will film its second season in Vancouver, has been delayed due to the writers’ strike. (HBO)

While the numbers may paint a bleak picture, Petti said the SAG-AFTRA strike could provide an opportunity for independent Canadian filmmakers and workers. 

“For those who had projects ready to go, there’s definitely opportunities here that are arising from this. So for Canadian independent productions, they are seeing a more highly skilled crew available to them currently,” he told CBC News. 

How long could this last? 

While no one can say for sure, many industry insiders told CBC News they don’t expect the strike to end anytime soon. 

That could spell trouble for one of Canada’s major cultural extravaganzas: The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Held in late September, TIFF is typically a star-studded event. 

“If SAG is on strike and they won’t allow their members to come and do promotion at TIFF, it might take a lot of the wind out of the sails at TIFF, which would be disastrous as well,” said Katz from Prospero Pictures.

“It could be extremely devastating on the people who work in our industry at almost every level.”


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