The ongoing dual Hollywood strike by writers and actors has already shut down some of the most anticipated TV shows and movies currently in production. As studios burn through the material they already banked in anticipation of the strike and plan for what is likely to be a reality-heavy slate in the fall and spring, a number of anticipated movies have already been put on hold as negotiations continue.
That means that fans will have to wait a bit longer for Deadpool 3, the live-action Lilo & Stitch, the Jason Momoa-fronted video game adaptation Minecraft, the second part of Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning and many more. It also means that production has shut down on just about every U.S.-based TV show that wasn’t already on ice due to the writers’ strike that began on May 2; SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJ, news writers/editors, puppeteers, singers, stunt performers and other media professionals went on strike on July 14.
So how will the first dual actor/writer strike since 1960 affect upcoming awards show and TV series/movies featuring some of your favorite music stars?
“Musicians who are members of SAG-AFTRA are equally subject to the rules around the strike — we cover vocalists in the music industry, as well as vocalists in the film/TV/streaming side and some broadcast journalists — and when any member is working on a project as an actor then the rules mean that they are not in a position to promote that project, even if they are more generally known as a singer or recording artist,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, tells Billboard.
The 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, for instance, announced a Sept. 12 airdate back in May. And while the show is still in the early planning stages for the broadcast from the Prudential Center in New Jersey, a spokesperson had no comment at press time when asked how the strike might impact the show — or if it could cause production to pivot to a different date, or to plow ahead with an unscripted show, as the Tony Awards did in June in the midst of what was then just the writers’ strike.
At press time, CBS had not announced how it will handle next year’s Grammy Awards, CMT Music Awards or Kennedy Center Honors, should the strike drag on into 2024.
One of the more complicated scenarios for an awards show like the VMAs is that they are covered by a different SAG-AFTRA contract — so Crabtree-Ireland says they can go on, and SAG-AFTRA-covered dancers, voiceover artists and announcers can work on the broadcast. But members not working on the production who are there to present or receive awards cannot promote anything created under the existing contract. The MTV Movie and TV Awards — which took place in April — are a different story, though.
Crabtree-Ireland says members cannot accept any award made under the existing contract, though, technically they could accept it in absentia as long as they don’t appear to collect it. “The point is that they are not supposed to facilitate any promotion of work done under this contract, which includes going to an awards show and accepting an award,” he says, noting that it is “virtually impossible” to find a work-around, as the rules require artists to skip the red carpet, interviews and going on stage to collect their prize.
Though both sides have dug in their heels and a resolution seems distant at present, a number of already completed Showtime/Paramount+ music-related shows have already been wrapped and gotten premiere dates. Among them are: I Wanna Rock: The ’80s Metal Dream (July 18), Mixtape (August 1), Reinventing Elvis: The ’68 Comeback (August 15) and All Up in the Biz, a Biz Markie biopic that premiered at the Tribeca Festival last month; the latter will debut on Paramount+/Showtime on August 11. At press time, a spokesperson said firm air dates have not yet been announced for another pair of music docs that premiered at Tribeca, the Latin diaspora doc De La Calle and the biopic Milli Vanilli (in which this writer appears.)
Similarly, a spokesperson for the Lil Dicky FXX comedy series Dave said it was too soon to know how the dual strikes will impact the show that concluded its third season on May 31. Meanwhile, reality and scripted shows shot outside the U.S. can continue production thanks to a different union contract, while U.S.-based reality shows, game shows and the majority of daytime talkers (and soap operas) should also not be impacted.
As Crabtree-Ireland points out, actors immediately stopped doing publicity appearances or walking the carpet at premieres for their movies, which made for an awkward scene recently when none of the cast of Disney’s Haunted Mansion — which includes Jared Leto, Tiffany Haddish, Rosario Dawson and Danny DeVito, among others — showed up to help launch the film adaptation of the Disneyland ride.
For artists eager to promote their already-in-the-can shows and movies still slated for release, during the duration of the strike, they are not allowed to participate in the following promotional activities: press tours, personal appearances, interviews, ComiCon/conventions/fan expos, for your consideration events, awards shows, junkets, podcasts, social media, panels or premieres/screenings.
If, however, they did interviews before the SAG-AFTRA strike began on July 14 and no additional consent or secondary interviews are needed for a publication with a long lead time, that is acceptable. “If the company has all the things they need to go forward [with a previously conducted promotional interview] that is in no way our members’ fault,” Crabtree-Ireland says. “But they shouldn’t do anything new at this time.”
That omerta even extends to projects that have already come and gone, such as HBO’s controversial music industry drama The Idol, which co-starred singer Troye Sivan. While recently speaking to Billboard, the “Rush” singer said he was unable to discuss his work on the Weeknd-starring show – or the his upcoming starring role in the coming-of-age film Three Months — due to the strict strike rules. “I am in total support of the strike and am holding strong with with everyone in waiting it out and making sure that that everyone gets treated fairly,” he said.
For what it’s worth, Crabtree-Ireland says Sivan handled that situation correctly, adding that artists are also expected to avoid promotion of music created for film/TV/streaming under the SAG-AFTRA contract during the strike. He also notes that members who have recorded music under the contract are asked to refrain from entering into any new music licenses for those projects during the strike, other than potentially fulfilling contractual obligations to their label for a song bound for a soundtrack.
Crabtree-Ireland says SAG-AFTRA is also asking members not to approve any new tracks for licensing to TV/film/streaming and to stop any promotion of songs that have already been licensed for use.
In addition to freezing work on future projects, the strike has complicated the roll-out for some highly anticipated ones. Director Jon M. Chu revealed last week (July 19) that though he was nearly done with the Wicked movie musicals, all work has been “paused until the strike is over.” In an Instagram Story, Chu wrote, “We were only a few days away from being done, so we were SO close. It’s been very painful to put a halt to it all but we will be back! And we will finish properly strong when the time is right.”
Some fans thought filming on the adaptation starring Ariana Grande as Glinda the Good Witch had wrapped, and Chu said the impact of the strike and the production halt “shouldn’t” affect the previously announced release dates for the two-part film, which is slated to release on Nov. 27, 2024 and Nov. 26, 2025.
The Associated Press reported on Monday (July 24) that director Luca Guadagnino’s tennis drama, Challengers, has been pulled from the Venice Film Festival due to the actors’ strike. The film starring Zendaya as a tennis coach entangled in a love triangle was slated to open the festival on August 30 before opening in theaters on Sept. 15. But due to the dual strikes, distributor MGM has pushed the opening date to April 26 of next year.
“We look forward to celebrating the film when we can do so with our ensemble cast, director Luca Guadagnino and the filmmaking team at a later date,” read a statement from MGM.
The strike doesn’t mean all music-related content will completely evaporate, though. NBC announced last week that The Voice is still slated to return on Sept. 25, with new judge Reba McEntire joining John Legend, Gwen Stefani and defending champ Niall Horan. In addition, the final two episodes of the current season of America’s Got Talent will still air on Sept. 26-27 and the first-ever People’s Choice Country Awards will air on Sept. 28 with hosts Little Big Town.
Crabtree-Ireland says that, by and large, the general parameters of what is and isn’t allowed during the strike are well understood by members, even though there are some complexities and “weird combinations of things” that have required personalized answers. That’s why SAG-AFTRA has set up a special email address to handle any strike-related questions from actors, agents, managers, production companies are anyone else who is unclear about the do’s and don’ts.
The strike had already closed down all the late night shows, taking away crucial couch and performance slots for bands and musicians looking to plug their upcoming movie/TV projects tours and albums. The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show and Saturday Night Live are not currently scheduled to return until the strike has ended, making for one of the potentially longest, broadest pauses in recent history in the late night realm, or the movie/TV industry at large, along with the pandemic-related slowdown of 2020-2021.
And, in case you were wondering: yes, social media counts. Crabtree-Ireland says that musicians who also act are prohibited from using their Twitter or Instagram accounts for promotional purposes for now.
With more than 160,000 SAG-AFTRA actors now on strike, joining the earlier strike by the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America, many shows may not be back on the air anytime soon, and potential blockbusters in the can will likely be pushed back or reshuffled repeatedly until the tense labor stand-off ends.