The Hollywood strikes left creators with a difficult choice: solidarity or salary?
Permele Doyle, president and founder of Billion Dollar Boy, explores the stick or twist choice creators had during the ‘Hollywood Strike’ - particularly as the potential payday rose.
The Hollywood production line was on hold since mid-July following a dual strike by The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) performers’ union in a protest over pay and the use of AI in the industry. But now, the cameras are poised to start rolling again; the strike appears to be over.
Screenwriters have reached a historic agreement with studio bosses to end a strike that’s lasted nearly five months, affecting the production of the biggest TV shows and films, including Stranger Things and the Last of Us.
It raises hopes that SAG-AFTRA can also reach a deal, bringing the curtain down on one of the longest strikes to affect Hollywood in decades.
What the strikes mean for the creator economy
For now, though, actors remain firmly on strike.
Just last week, Drew Barrymore was forced into a tearful apology after resuming production on her talk show during the strikes. This prolonged absence of actors has led to a shortage of original content. As a result, brands have sought collaborations elsewhere, creating opportunities for creators.
Amid the ongoing strikes, creator marketing is forecast to grow 3.5 times faster than conventional social spending in 2023. But despite the growing brand investment, creators have mainly shown solidarity with actors.
The entertainment industry is deeply intertwined with the creator economy. They recognize that they face similar challenges and mutually operate in creative industries that experience financial insecurity and are often poorly represented - creators don’t have a union, for example.
Additionally, technology threatens to disrupt both actors and creators. For example, AI can potentially steal actors’ IP, and virtual influencers absorb brand spending otherwise reserved for traditional influencers.
Equally, some creators were conscious of agreeing on brand deals during the strikes because they may have participated in acting roles already or had aspirations to do so. Should they want to pursue a career in acting - even if not full-time - they will likely need to become a SAG-AFTRA member if they aren’t already. Doing so would preclude them from promoting screenings and content produced by companies like the studios and streamers affected by the strikes. The union clearly states that any influencer seeking future membership in SAG-AFTRA but breaking these rules during the strike was not eligible to join.
Yet the longer the Hollywood strikes go on, the more likely brand investment in the creator economy would increase. And the more the potential investment pot grew, the more creators’ solidarity with actors was being tested - significantly ahead of the busy Autumn and winter season for film releases.
Of course, the opportunities in the short term are lucrative. However, it could have damaged the relationship between actors and creators in the creative industries for a long time.
What the future holds after the strikes
With renewed hope that actors may follow in the footsteps of writers and strike a deal, creators would be wise to approach this question with a long-term view rather than a short-term, financially focused one.
Directly benefiting from the strikes could damage consumers’ and actors’ perceptions of creators, reducing that creator’s future earnings potential or excluding them from other future deals.
Likewise, brands aspiring to work with actors in the future should handle such a highly charged and political situation sensitively.
However, there’s no doubt that the Hollywood strikes have revealed creators’ growing power and ability to integrate into mainstream media successfully. Not to replace actors but to supplement and support them and offer brands new partnership opportunities.
They’re accelerating the diversification of platforms and revenue streams, increasingly blurring the acting and creator-marketing professions and leading to more TV-like content and creator-owned media.