Skip to content

This is a war against the studios

Interviews with SAG-AFTRA and WGA picketers in Hollywood

Tempest members Dana Cloud and Nina Lozano went out in support of a picket against Netflix in Hollywood, where they interviewed six actors and writers about their work and the demands of the strike.

About two hundred writers, actors, and supporters walked the picket line on July 20 at Netflix Studios in Hollywood. Actors Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda came out for the picket to express their support (giving a performance of the song “9 to 5” and being mobbed by reporters). But the real stars of this show were the workers themselves. In their conversations with us, they spoke to a number of issues facing them, the strike, and their demands.

First, they are fighting for fair pay. Since streaming has replaced network syndication, actors have seen their residuals–royalty checks–diminish to almost nothing. While the studios rake in millions of dollars on streaming content, workers are struggling to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

Second, they are concerned about the impact of AI on the future of acting and writing. While AI is not capable (yet) of replacing all talent, already, background actors’ images can be replicated indefinitely across content without compensation to the actor, and there is the possibility that AI could displace writing staff, leaving one or two human writers on the scene. The picketers are also worried that AI would produce content without a soul.

Third, they value their human contributions to the narratives shaping society today. Queer and BIPOC stories are flourishing in the era of streaming. The strikers, while refusing to work on any new and ongoing productions, are not calling on audiences to boycott already-made content even though they themselves are refusing to be active in promoting the studios’ films and television shows.

Fourth, they are outraged that studio executives, so far, have not been responsive to the strikes. Rather than bargain with the unions, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has repeated the threat that if the workers remain on strike, they will lose their homes and their cars. The studios are trying to outlast the strikers, but the writers and actors are confident in their own staying power.

Finally, the picketers spoke to the power of solidarity, not only between the WGA and SAG-AFTRA but also among hospitality workers in UNITE HERE presently engaged in rolling strikes at hotels across the city;  the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), who have pledged their support; and Teamsters at UPS who may go out on strike soon.

A Black man holds a picket sign in red and blue reading Strike! Thank you IATSE and Teamsters
Photo by Dana Cloud.

Film and television are core industries in the United States with the power to shape culture. They are also incredibly profitable. The WGA represents 12 thousand screenwriters. They have been on strike since May 2, the largest action on their part since a strike in 2008. On July 14, SAG-AFTRA, representing 160,000 workers worldwide, joined them. The actors’ union last struck in 1980. Their joint strike now is the first time they have walked out simultaneously since 1960.

The looming UPS strike could shut down logistics; UNITE HERE can shut down hotels. SAG-AFTRA and the WGA can shut down our society’s storytelling, and that is a very powerful thing.

Interview with Eric Owusu, writer

Dana Cloud: Can you say a little bit about why the writers are out here with the actors today?

Eric Owusu: I’m a member of the Writers Guild of America. We’re out here picketing at Netflix. We’ve been out here for about eighty days now. SAG has also called their own strike. We’re sick and tired of the way the industry is treating us.

These companies that are all represented by the AMPTP [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] are not paying us fair and equitably. They rake in record profits, in the millions and billions. They pay their CEOs tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, yet we have not seen significant pay increases over the years to keep up with inflation.

And they don’t do anything but put out the content we create for them. Actors and writers, we deserve more. We’re not even asking for half. We’re asking for two percent more of the overall profits to go into our pocket so that we can comfortably afford to live in New York, Los Angeles, and everywhere we live.

They’ve changed the business model, especially with streaming. Residuals aren’t what they were back in the day when we used to go into public syndication. You used to get a check every time the show got re-aired. And now there’s one flat streaming residual check that people get that is sometimes like 98 cents.

Meanwhile, they’re making record profits but crying poor to us that they can’t afford to pay us equitably. We’re out here protesting and saying enough is enough. We will not accept anything less than what we deserve, because it’s fair and because we need it. We need to ensure the future of both the writing career and the acting career.

They’re looking to make AI be able to recreate actors’ faces and likenesses in perpetuity. Background actors are getting called in for one day of work. They scan your face and then they can use your face and likeness for anything, forever, without paying you past that one day you came in to record your face.

So we’re fighting for a lot of things. That’s what we’re fighting for. The writers are out here and the actors are out here. They’re all here in solidarity.

A woman in blue holds a picket sign reading strike! Her shirt reads: Pencils the f*** down.
Photo by Dana Cloud.

DC: And how do you think your own strike is going? How do you think the strikes are going?

EO: It’s great. It’s lovely. Sunny. You can’t beat that.

DC: I love your sign.

EO: Yeah, you gotta have a sign. Gotta let people know why you’re out here. It’s great to see everyone in solidarity.

You know, we’ve been locked up in the house because of COVID for the last three years. So this is the first time I’m seeing a lot of writers in person. Since 2019.  I’ve been an active member of the Writers Guild since 2017. I’m used to being able to go to weekly events and meetings at the Writers Guild offices.

We’ve only been able to see each other on Zoom. So us being out here, people honking in solidarity for what we’re doing, being able to shake people’s hands and touch people who are on our side, fighting for the good fight. It’s very important.

DC: What sorts of things do you write for?

EO: I’m a comedy writer. I’ve written for the Disney Channel and sold some shows. I also do standup comedy.

DC: Somebody I talked to said that AI can’t totally take over because it can’t make jokes.

EO: Part of the insidious nature of what the companies are trying to do is trying to have AI play a bigger part in the creative process.

So get rid of entire writers’ rooms for TV shows and have one singular human writer, where the AI writes the first draft of scripts. Then the human writer does all the work of a writers’ room, which would deprive us of most of our business and most of our work and keep us from having this be a viable career.

It also keeps us from training to become future showrunners. If there is one showrunner or one writer in writers’ rooms right now, they’re gonna age out and no human will be trained.

So it would basically remove the humanity from the arts. That would be terrible for the content, which has to have the soul of human beings.  AI doesn’t create thoughts. AI doesn’t have childhood trauma like we do. We need humans.

DC: How do you think the bosses or the studio executives are feeling right now? Do you think they’re running scared at all?

EO: I think so. An anonymous person in the ivory tower has said, “We want the writers to starve and lose their apartments and lose their houses.” I think that’s a scare tactic. It’s meant to break us. It’s meant to make us cower in fear. But it’s not gonna work because we’ve been here before. History’s on our side. We’ve been on strike against the companies.

1960 was the last time the SAG and the WGA were together. We went to war against them in 2007, 2008, and got what we needed back then. We went to war against the agents and the packaging deals and we won that. And now here we are again. So you might take a little bit, but we’re gonna come out on top.

Four people stand with picket signs representing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes
Photo by Dana Cloud.

DC: Is there anything else you want us to know or our readers to know about why you’re out here or what’s happening?

EO: Yes. It’s not just us; it’s not just the arts. It’s like you said earlier; it’s the hospitality workers. It’s the Teamsters at UPS. Earlier this year in LA it was the school teachers fighting for more and they got more. People are sick and tired of only being fed crumbs when we make the pie. Give  us a bigger slice of the pie, is all we ask.

We don’t even want half the pie. We could take half the pie if we wanted to.

Interview with actors Brit MacRae and Zuri Starks

Dana Cloud: Can you tell me a little bit about why you all are out here?

Brit MacRae: Absolutely. We’re fighting for our rights as artists, for our rights as actors.

In the present system with streaming and with the emergence of AI, we’re not being paid properly. We’re not getting residuals, and AI is starting to take our jobs. We’re fighting for all of that.

DC: You’re an actor, I take it?

BM: I’m presently a series regular on an NBC Peacock show called Departure.

DC: Zuri, how about you?

Zuri Starks: I am an actor as well. I’ve been on Chicago Fire, Days of Our Lives, Family Reunion. I’m in a new Netflix movie that comes out in the fall and it features BIPOC narratives. I also will not be talking much about it.

It’s sad because I’m proud of it, but I’m not proud of where we’re at right now. We should be doing so much better. People have so many questions, and we have questions, and truth be told, I’m on all these shows and films and I still bartend so, right. It’s a real thing.

DC: Can you say a little bit more about how the pay system has changed with streaming?

Two women hold picket signs for WGA and SAG-AFTRA reading Strike!
Zuri Starks and Brit MacRae. Photo by Dana Cloud.

BM: I got a residual check a month ago for two cents. Oh my God. Back in the day with TV shows, when they were on these networks, it was great because there were ad placements, there were commercials. There were only so many networks and only so many TV shows. So you knew that if you were on the cast of Friends, every single time a commercial aired, you as the actors in that project were getting paid forever in residuals.

Just to put things in perspective, I think the cast of Friends still makes a million dollars a year from those residuals. With streaming, because there are hundreds and hundreds of television shows and hundreds and hundreds of projects split among all of these different platforms. And we don’t have commercials.

I think about something like Squid Games. The producer only got paid a hundred thousand dollars to produce the whole thing. It was his life story. That was his entire compensation, that was it. And that show went on to earn billions and billions of dollars. It’s one of Netflix’s greatest successes.

ZS: What we’re saying is there needs to be more transparency and more sharing. That’s what’s missing. The transparency, the conversations. We are the ones who are making this amount of money. You keep busting out all these shows, and there are so many flops, but then there are these good ones. Why don’t these people see the reward? Why is there no benefit from that reward?

DC: You’re doing great work to promote the visibility and the voices of BIPOC people. The opportunities in the work are great, but then the material reward is not matching.

ZS: And then it’s like, why not? This is a trillion-dollar industry,

BM: There is so much money collectively that we have access to, and, and it’s all funneling to six white dudes. That’s it. Six. Six dudes. It’s not that we’re asking for something astronomical. It’s just to share in the profits that we helped create.

When you look at any company that has any sort of equity structure–I have friends who started during the early days at Spotify and they have shares in that company. They know that they’re going to benefit when the company rises, or, in our case, if the project does well.

ZS:If you do hair and makeup, whether you’re a grip, whether you’re an actor. You should be entitled to share in that success. Zendaya did it with Malcolm and Marie. And she’s one of the few people who actually made sure that everyone who was a part of that project got a percentage.

The fact that that was like headline news, like, wow, that is so nice. It’s also problematic because why is that not normal? I don’t know if people outside of the industry should boycott the streaming services coming up, because in a really probably toxic relationship kind of way, we do get residuals and they may not be great, but we do get them and it is helpful to our livelihoods.

BM:We also have to be careful not perpetuating the narrative that these shows aren’t successful, because they are successful. So I’m of the opinion to go to the movies and still watch the movies to support those artists.

DC: So those six guys, how do you think that they are responding to the strike? Do you think they’re running scared?

ZS: Not yet. They said quite ludicrous things like, we’ll just wait until they start losing their houses. It’s like a funny joke on you because most of us already know what it’s like to be broke. We are broke and will continue to be broke. So we’re going to be hanging in for a long time, buddy.

I was saying to Brit earlier, the only reason people are ever upset, the only reason people ever lash out or retaliate is because they’re being held to a boundary that they weren’t being held to before. And now they’re like, oh, now I can’t cross that boundary. Well, how dare you.

BM: I also don’t know a ton about this, but I know that specifically with the WGA, a lot of these artists have overall deals with some of these studios. I know that they were waiting for those overall deals to expire, because it means that the $150 million overall deal here, the hundred million dollar overall deal, there, if they just let it expire, they’re now not having to pay these people.

This might be an absolute, completely incorrect obtuse theory, but I feel like a lot of these smaller streaming services are gonna eventually be eaten by the mothership, which is Netflix. Netflix right now has such reliance on foreign content. They are going to continue to shoot and do their thing elsewhere in the world.

With these other smaller streaming services, they don’t have enough of a bank, that I eventually wonder if Netflix will absorb and pay pennies on the dollar to absorb that content.

a line of picketers
Photo by Dana Cloud.

DC: You told me you wanted to plug some work of independents. Can you say more about that and why it’s important?

BM: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been talking about a lot of this stuff for a while now, and a year ago we founded a company called KINO, which democratizes film and television. We treat it exactly like Zendaya treated her one film, where every single project we create through KINO, every single person involved in that project, whether it’s your first day on set, whether you’re an 18-year-old, brand new P.A. [production assistant], the makeup artist, the grip, whoever–every single person owns a percentage of the backend in that film.

So if it then goes and becomes the next Lord of the Rings, for example, you’re making money on that in perpetuity, forever. A real percentage. We have transparent ledgers, so everything is transparent. There is complete honesty, openness, transparency with everything.

So we’ve been building this thing for a year. We’re backed by some pretty awesome people and we have a SAG waiver [to work during the strike] and we’ll be moving forward with creating an independent film this coming September and doing it right.

The thing is, it’s like this isn’t a war on film and TV and artists. This is a war against the studios. I think the best thing we can be doing right now is supporting independent films. If we can prove that we can build outside of the studio model, we won’t need them anymore.

ZS: It’s honestly inspiring. I’m one of the newest people in the company. Just hearing about it, feeling the passion and thinking oh yeah, that’s right. A big thing that I do at the company is talk to all the people below their line, because no one thinks to talk to them or really thinks about their job. Gaffers and PAs are actually vital. They’re the first ones on set and the last ones. That’s why things run.

They are so important and thank God for them. I’m so grateful that I’m a part of a company that really champions voices that are underrepresented.

And that’s the whole point.

DC: How strong do you think the strike is and do you think you all can outlast the studios?

ZS: Yes. Oh, absolutely. There’s more of us than there are of them.

BM: We’ve all had side hustles forever. So we’re gonna keep on doing our thing as long as we’re able to continue to maintain the side hustles in order to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, we’ll continue this fight because there’s no other option.

DC: What do you think about the writers and the actors joining together?

BM: It’s amazing. The writers are the life force.

History always repeats itself, and I wish that we would be able to keep up. As we continue to have new tech with it being streaming and everything that’s coming up, I wish we could keep up in terms of contracts. I’m really grateful that we have our writing partners, our writing friends, to fight this fight with us.

DC: I think all together you are kind of putting the studios on notice.

ZS: Yes. The WGA started it for us. So they really are paving the way in this strike. But also in what we do, we don’t have projects without words and without these beautiful concepts. I don’t have conversations without storytelling. So it’s a whole cycle that is necessary and I’m so grateful for them.

DC: The writers are worried about AI starting to write scripts and stuff. Are you worried about AI and its effects?

ZS: We were just talking, and Brit shared with me that they just put out an AI epoisode of South Park, where they basically scraped through all the past episodes of South Park and they put together an episode. And to be fair, it wasn’t horrible.

BM: But the jokes weren’t landing. It’s like the animation was similar but it feels like a robot created it. And I think, look, if we’re gonna utilize AI as a tool in storytelling, sure, but storytelling shapes culture, and you need the beating heartbeat of a person in their POV in order to be the storyteller that is shaping that culture.

And if we start having robots being the thing that’s shaping culture, that’s not a world I want to live in. I don’t know what that looks like.

ZS: I do. saw Ex Machina. I saw I, Robot. It’s terrifying. What the world looks like with robots, that’s not good. Movies and storytelling taught me that. And that is terrifying.

DC: Did you see that episode of Black Mirror where they took an actor, and the whole plot was about how they’d replaced her with the digital version of herself? She could do and say anything and be used in any context. I don’t know how real that is.

BM: It is for background actors. They’re saying, we’ll pay you a day rate and then we can use your name and image forever. It’s ridiculous that somebody could literally be paid $200 a day and then be used forever and never see any money. But more than that, like from a social and a values point of view, I think that people don’t want to do background on a job because they’ll be sitting with their family twenty years later watching a movie or TV show that doesn’t align with their values, to see themselves represented as a character, as a player in the background of that property. It’s just icky.

ZS:  It almost feels like this idea of perfectionism in terms of their saying, well, AI is perfect and can’t be faulty. The fun part of our industry is being human. We’re human. It’s fun to watch Game of Thrones and be like, oh, they have a Starbucks cup in their scene. That was so human of them. I get it.

DC: It’s also that, in terms of representing BIPOC people, queer people, in all of these narratives that are being spun in a new way to influence culture, it’s so amazing. I don’t know that an AI could do that.

ZS: No, but it’s kind of terrifying. They filtered through all the episodes of South Park to create that episode. Fine and dandy. But when it comes to storytelling, AI can’t tell the story of BLM when BLM was happening. And it was happening. They can’t tell that story; they weren’t there. So they’re going to go and scrape old things, and that’s the idea of history repeating itself. Who’s in charge of telling that story?

DC: Is there anything else you’d want our readers to know about the strike, about what you anticipate for the future? Do you think you will win?

ZS: I don’t even know if it’s about winning. I think it’s truly about things we’ve heard from everywhere in the world. People fall in love with our stories. Why can’t they pay us?

DC: Good way to put that. Is there anything else that you are thinking about that you would want us to know?

ZS: Support artists. Any way you can, whether it be donating to things you’re seeing, whether it be getting out here and striking, whatever it may be. Talk to somebody; talk to each other; do your research. Don’t believe everything you hear and see.

BM: And I think little things, too, like if you’re talking to grandparents on the phone or friends and family outside this industry, in this bubble, there are a lot of misconceptions about how we are as artists. They think, oh, you’re an actor, you must get paid millions of dollars. Un-huh. Making sure that that narrative is cleared up will help for more global empathy.

DC: Do you want people to boycott the new things that are coming out, like the streaming shows? Because you said you weren’t going to promote them. What is the stance of the union?

ZS: We do have to say that it’s not that we want there to be a lack of streaming, less of this or less of that, because the opportunity now compared to what it has been, especially for people of color, especially for those that don’t identify with these social norms or anything labeled as norm. The opportunity is so incredible, and it’s beautiful, and it really does make it feel like we both can sit at the same table or sit at our own table, which is empowering.

a picketer holds a white sign with yellow letters with the joke, what is this crossover episode? referring to unity between WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
What is this crossover episode? Photo by Dana Cloud.

Interview with Frank Gallegos

Dana Cloud: What is your job? What do you do?

Frank Gallegos: I’m an actor. I’ve been in SAG since 1999, I definitely have seen the industry change and I’ve been kind of a part of what everyone’s talking about.

DC: Tell me about those changes and how they’re affecting you.

FG: When I started, if you booked four or five shows in a season, you were good. You could actually pay your bills. You could rent a better apartment. You could even think about buying a car, not a great car, but you could live. I think that as things have gone on, the residual checks have just gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. We’re in a situation where, if you shoot five or six episodes in a year, that’s not enough. You’re going to get paid the minimum, the residuals are gonna be paltry, and you gotta keep hustling. It just makes it harder and harder.

And then, you see these big buildings going up in Hollywood. That wasn’t there twenty years ago. That brand new Netflix building. Somebody paid for it. That’s kind of why we’re here.

DC: So tell me about these residuals. Why are they going down?

FG: Everything is so secretive because you don’t know how well the show does, because, before–everyone remembers the Nielsen ratings and people remember SoundScan. If you sold an album they’d count it. You sold a million records. You sold two million records, and there was an independent company confirming that. Now there’s nobody. I have to trust Netflix to tell me how many people watch my show. They could say whatever numbers about what your show did, whether anybody likes you or loves you. The union can’t even check. So you just have to take their word for it. But you know what? Trust but verify, right? If it’s true, well then, let us see it.

DC: So how much money are we talking about in these checks?

FG: In the late nineties, I would get residual checks that could be like $1,200, $1,800, $3,500, about which I was so happy. And you’re not rich on that. No. You’re living in LA. I mean, you’re not rich. But you’re hanging in there. You’re paying your rent.

And now literally twenty years later, I’ll get a check for $400, $380. So my income has been cut significantly, not even adjusted for inflation. The number on the check has gotten lower and lower. I’ve gotten more work. I work more, and I’m doing better than I was, as far as getting work, back in the nineties. I’m working more, but I’m actually making less money. This is arguably the best time in my career, but my income has dropped. How is that possible that the better you do, the less you make? That seems counterintuitive.

DC: Can I ask you what shows you’ve been in?

FG: I worked for Netflix a couple of times. I just was on a show called Unstable with Rob Lowe and his son, and everyone was wonderful when we shot it. Everything was great. But I know that I’m not going to make any residual money on that. It’s just for the joy of doing it. I got paid my salary and I agreed to it, and it’s all good, but on the back end I’m not gonna get anything.

DC: Meanwhile, Netflix is making how much, I mean, it seems like they’re doing pretty well.

FG: I don’t think the CEO of Netflix is begging for money. I think he’s doing fine. I think their stock is doing fine. Someone’s getting rich, but it ain’t me and it ain’t anybody here.

DC: How are the executives responding to the strike?

FG: From what I hear, how they’re responding is how they always respond, literally. I’ve been around a while. When VCRs came out, they said, oh, these VCRs. They’re a passing fad. We have no idea how that’s gonna work. So we’re not gonna get residual. Cable television, that’s a new fad, that’s an unproven business model. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And then, guess what? They never go back and fix it. And now with streaming, they’re like, well, I don’t know. This streaming wackiness is not making any money. Who knows what’s gonna happen?

That’s not what they’re telling their investors. They’re telling them that the future is streaming and they can expect record profits. That’s what they’re telling them on Wall Street. But here on Sunset Boulevard, they’re telling us just the opposite. It’s the same people. It’s the same reality. And they’re making a gazillion dollars.

a woman in yellow in bright sunshine is smiling and holding a picket sign reading SAG AFTRA and WGA on strike!
Photo by Dana Cloud.

DC: There’s a concern over the use of AI, also. Is that something that you’re concerned about and why?

FG: I am. What I think is that it’s gonna creep in slowly. It’s gonna creep in. I did a movie, and I’m not gonna say what it is, but I did a movie where I got scanned. No one said,  and it was not, we’re gonna scan you so we can add your face into something later. You think, that’s fine.

But I’m like, wait a minute. They could just add me to the other stuff. And I don’t get paid for those days, because I got paid my salary. But if they can use my face in something else, two or three more days, another week’s worth of shooting, I don’t get paid anymore.

They probably already do it as best they can. The technology’s not there, but certainly they can. It will end up being, take my voice, if they want my character to say something else. That’s not what I said on the day. What if they want me to say some racist joke? What if they want me to say some sexist, horrible thing that I didn’t agree to, but they just change it?

Because they can match my voice perfectly. I don’t want that. That’s my face. It’s my voice and my face. And people don’t differentiate: Hey, you’re that guy that said that horrible thing. You’re hilarious! I’m like, no, I never said that.

DC: Do you think that AI will infringe further upon what actors are able to make and your survivability?

FG: Oh, sure. Starting with background actors. A lot of actors start off doing background because it’s a way to learn. Some actors do that their whole career and they’re happy with it. But if they can just use you once, they could scan you and then they could stick you into any crowd scene. Forever. And you never see a penny and you’re always that same age and you’re always that. They prefer that they don’t have to feed you; they don’t have to give you water; they don’t have to provide anything. From a dollars point of view, it absolutely makes sense that a corporation would do that if they could. Because that’s what they do.

DC: Tell me about your experience of the strike. Did you say it was your first picket?

FG: My first day.

DC: Have you ever picketed with SAG-AFTRA before?

FG: I’ve picketed but I’ve never picketed with SAG-AFTRA. My sister’s a union organizer for the service industry. I marched with her, with the janitors. She works with the LA Unified School District for the janitors and the kids. She’s been doing that her whole life. Marched with the farm workers back in the day. It’s in our family.

A group of picketers with signs from various unions.
Signs show cross-union solidarity. Photo by Gary Holloway.

DC: SAG-AFTRA hasn’t struck for a very long time.

FG: 1960 was the last united strike. Then there was a commercial actors strike in the late 1990s, early 2000s. This is the biggest one for sure.

DC: How are the studios reacting?

FG: They’re being real cynical. They’re saying, well, you actors and writers, once you lose your homes, once they repossess your cars, once your bank accounts are zero, then you’ll come crawling back. That’s what management always says to every union.

But what they don’t know is that we’re actors–we’re already broke. Like we’re gonna lose our house. I don’t have a house. Who the hell has a house? Or like, you’re gonna lose your car. I’m gonna lose my 20-year-old car that I paid for years ago. They don’t understand that we’re in it for the long haul, because that’s how this business is.

We’re not asking to be elevated to some position. Just pay us something reasonable. I think that we’re gonna last longer than that because they have to answer to their shareholders. Why is there nothing coming out in September? How come we paid all this advertising money for new content?

You’ve got that same reality show that they just slapped together at the last minute. The shareholders are going to demand answers. They’re going to ask, “Hey, what are we talking about here? Give them a little something, give him something, man. Let’s get this going.” That’s what I’m banking on and that’s what makes me optimistic.

DC: You’re pleased with what the union’s doing so far?

FG: Absolutely. They’re taking a strong line. They were clear and I think that they negotiated in good faith, from what I understand, And I think that we’re tough.

DC: So lasting power is the thing.

FG: We’re actors; we’re always at the edge of something. We are always living on the edge. You don’t live up to your means. You live below them, so you can save that money. You never know what’s gonna happen. Every actor I know has got rainy day funds. You’ve got something socked away. You’re not renting the nicest place you could afford. You go below that. You don’t buy the nicest car you could afford. You go below that because you never know.

DC: How much do you like your work when you’re working?

FG: I love it. I mean, it’s my identity. It’s why I chose to do this when I was a young man. When I was 22 years old, I looked at the screen and thought, I want to do that, and I don’t regret it. Even today I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t change any of it.

DC: I really am excited about the strike and hopefully you all will get what you deserve. What do you think about Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda being here?

FG: Being out here’s great. I mean, they’re legends not only of acting, but also of social organizing, I mean, Jane Fonda, forget it, you know? Since back in the day. So I think it’s great and it draws attention to us to have people who are well known here.

DC: This is amazing. What do you foresee? How do you think the union’s doing? How do you think the strike is going?

FG: I think we’re getting off to a good start. People are fired up. The thing with any strike is sustainability. It’s gonna be who can last the longest.

Interview with Adam Gelfman, actor

Nina Lozano: What is your relationship to the strike?

Austin Gelfman: I’m an actor out here and I also write.  I’m a jack of all trades for the most part.

NL: What are your demands?

AG: My demands are just fair pay at this point, and not to get replaced by AI.

That’s the biggest thing for me. We have simple demands. It’s a matter of being able to live and work and do the things that I like to do.

NL: I’ve heard that there’s also some concern about residuals from streaming.

AG: That’s been a problem. We saw what HBO Max did. Netflix is probably the front-runner for a lot of that stuff.

We’re just asking to be paid a fair wage for services rendered. You’re a big part of the production process, and it wouldn’t exist without you. It’s the same with the writers, you know? It’s an infuriating experience that we have to be out here.

Interview with S.A. Griffin, actor

Nina Lozano: Why are you out here and are your demands?

S.A.  Griffin: Ultimately we are fighting for our humanity. It’s streaming and it’s AI and all those other things, but ultimately it’s our humanity, our ability to just live a good life and a fair and equitable wage, which, in unions in America, have been under attack for decades. We’re out here for our pennies on streaming as those platforms multiply exponentially.

And AI.  It happened in 2000 when we got the Internet. This is really bigger than that, because the advent of artificial intelligence is Promethean.

This isn’t about ourselves. What we represent is the same thing everyone’s gonna be facing.

Featured image credits: Dana Cloud and Public Domain Pictures; modified by Tempest.

We want to hear what you think. Contact us at
And if you've enjoyed what you've read, please consider donating to support our work:


Dana Cloud and Nina Lozano View All

Dana Cloud is a queer, neurodivergent socialist and member of the Tempest Collective. An adjunct professor at California State University, Fullerton, she teaches and researches the rhetoric of social movements, Marxist theory, and critical cultural studies. 
Nina Lozano is a Queer Phat Communist Chicanx Mad Crip and a member of the Tempest Collective. They are a professor of communication studies at Loyola Marymount University, where they teach and conduct research in disability justice, Chicanx feminism, and the social movement against femicide on the U.S./Mexico border.