It's a common assumption outside New York and Hollywood. That if you're an actor, you're probably rich. Alas. The majority of actors do not make enough money to survive on acting alone.
Almost every performer I know now has a day job, or side gigs, or other sources of income. (Why do you think so many of us are on Cameo?)
Many don’t talk about it, because they want folks (and the industry) to see them as successful actors.
But in truth, only 5-15% of SAG members now earn the required $26,470 from acting each year to quality for the union’s health plan!
So it’s particularly galling to hear Disney’s Bob Iger (who makes $31 million a year plus perks) claim that SAG’s demand for an 11% raise is unrealistic (since we haven't had one since the 5% increase that came from the 1980 actors' strike).
Let’s review the five-year incomes of some other Hollywood bigwigs who think SAG & WGA are being greedy:
While most of us struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, pay for top execs skyrocketed, climbing to $1.43 billion.
And this isn’t just happening in show business. According to reports, CEO salaries in America have increased 940-1322% since 1978. No, that’s not a typo. 940-1322%
Actors aren’t the only ones at risk of being replaced on the job by AI and forced to live in a “gig economy.” The working class continue to make less and less, especially when you factor in the higher cost of ... well, just about everything these day.
That’s why SAG president Fran Drescher rightly declares this strike is a fight for all of us. That’s why she instantly became a heroine for organized labor across the nation. America's working class knows it's true. And that it's time for a change.
And while I still hate The Nanny, I now love The Franny.
Of course, this isn’t the first time AMPTP has cried poverty. They once claimed cable TV would never become profitable; then they said the same about home video. And now, they’d like us to believe it about the streamers.
It is beyond insulting that Netflix, with revenues of $21.6 billion in 2022, claims it can’t afford to give an inch in negotiations.
If AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) is actually losing money (and it’s not), it isn’t the fault of actors and writers. It’s due to the “magical thinking” of its greedy CEOs and other high-ranking, overpaid execs.
So no. Unless you’re on the A-List, it’s increasingly impossible to make a living as an actor in today’s streaming environment.
Hell, it was hard enough to pull off back in the “good old days,” when network shows ran for 22 episodes a season, and paid residuals for reruns.
But now, series on streamers produce only 8-10 episodes per season, and don't pay residuals for “repeat viewing.”
There’s no longer much of a syndication market. Nowadays, when series on other platforms end, the "reruns" are picked up by those streamers, not your local TV stations.
So actors can no longer rely on those TV residuals from repeat viewers. And since the streamers won’t reveal viewer numbers anyway, it's not like you can calculate residuals anyway. And that must change.
It’s time to overhaul the old contracts into something that reflects what today’s show business has become.
(It’s no better for writers. Back in 2013, only 33% of writers were paid union minimum. Today, over half the writers only make union scale. And because of those shorter seasons, series only need a few writers, instead of a full “writer’s room.”)
It’s time for AMPTP to pay up. It’s time for streamers to come clean and share the numbers. It’s time for producers to stop dreaming of replacing actors with AI. It’s time for common-sense regulations on “self-tape” auditions.
But don’t hold your breath.
Based on AMPTP’s refusal to even entertain many of SAG’s demands, the strikes aren’t ending soon. Reports suggest producers plan to hold out until the new year, in hopes of actually breaking the unions. Or at least making the writers and actors turn against their unions.
But despite a few ingrates (like Stephen Amell, whining that he can’t promote his new series, and Sarah Silverman, who called actors working in SAG-approved interim agreements “scabs”), the majority of us are standing tall, proud, and strong with our union, and with WGA.
The Franny states that SAG will call AMPTP’s bluff and stick it out as long as it takes.
And it appears the majority of Americans support our demands.
Well, with no auditions on the horizon, I now have time to not only promote my new book, but to start writing the next one as well!
But all kidding aside, what the CEOs are doing to the industry is a disgrace.
After two blockbuster weekends at the cinemas, thanks to the one-two punch of Barbie and Oppenheimer, Hollywood finally seemed posed to move past the challenges posed by COVID starting back in 2020. People are going to movies again! It’s feeling like an old-fashioned summer-movie season!
But that recovery is now doomed to be short-lived. With productions shut down, and no new films in the pipeline, theatres will soon be empty all over again. Theatre owners will again face tough financial times if not bankruptcy – all while Iger et al. lounge on their yachts and call us the greedy ones.
AMPTP will try to make you think the writers and actors are to blame in the weeks and months to come. But they only have themselves, and their greed, to blame.
And it won’t end until they come to their senses and return to the bargaining table with some realistic counter-offers!
Burgeoning curmudgeon (or is that queer-mudgeon?) Leon Acord takes on current events (MAGA, cancel culture), modern-day life (precocious parents, technology), pop culture (theatre critics, closeted actors), and more in Expletives Not Deleted, his new collection of bitchy yet bubbly essays, all written in the same acerbic voice that made his memoir SUB-LEBRITY a five-star Amazon bestseller.
Buy it HERE