July 18, 2023
Hello Actor Artist Creative Collaborators!
I wanted to send a message about the SAG Strike and offer up any inspiration and insight I can.
I know these are challenging times (especially so recently emerging out of Covid) and for many, perhaps finally feeling like you had found your footing again, only to experience the opposite.
I know when events that are out of our control throw things into confusion, disarray and fear, I have found that one of the best ways to manage the anxiety around uncertainty is to stay present and to keep things in context.
This morning I was striking at Netflix (AKA The Death Star!) and I ran into an old actor friend of mine and he reminded me that we used to walk the picket lines together 23 years ago (!) when we went on strike for a better SAG Commercial Contract. (OMG. Attached photos below! I was not smoking but I was banging on a stainless steel bowl!)
This was in 2000. (Before many of you were born! Jesus!)
And we were up against the American Association of Advertising Agencies who wouldn’t budge in increasing our base salary. (Basically, back then, commercial actors made around 1% of the total commercial budget, if I remember correctly.)
The Agencies were big ones. They made a shit-ton of money. Some are still around today. Saatchi & Saatchi, Deutsch NY, Ogilvy – and their estimated worldwide revenues were in the multi-millions. They basically sourced and created the commercials for other billionaire companies like Target, Ford, Pepsi, Coca Cola, McDonald’s (you know, the ones destroying our planet) and every other big company you can think of.
Basically, they were what the Streamers are today. They hated us, or at the very least, had contempt for us, and what we were striking for, and felt commercial actors were expendable.
We struck for 5 months. We got through it. Ultimately, it was rough and I’m not convinced it established a better contract for us in the end – and gave way to what we see now with a lot of big corporate companies saving money by going non-union.
But we got through it.
This too shall pass.
It’s necessary we strike. It’s necessary corporations don’t take the Artist and their contributions for granted. We live in a world that is unkind (and unjust) to the Artist. The world is being held together by Art – but most of that goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. What most economists, corporations, banks, Wall Street believe is that Capitalism is what keeps everything running.
We know better.
The world is a failed experiment without Art, and the Artist’s constant forging to find a way to uplift, educate and inspire humanity.
We are doomed without it. But in a world that is hostile to our offerings and minimizes the healing, joyous and life-saving attributes that all forms of Art brings – we will always have to fight. It has always been this way.
We are, at least, the Brave Ones, to choose not to live afraid of our Self-Expression and Feeling Selves. And what is the purpose of even being here experiencing these moments-in-time if it isn’t to aspire to be the best versions of ourselves that Art requires?
Art is everywhere. Art is Us.
A writer wrote a poem that then becomes a song that the head of a Streamer listens to on his drive to work. In a car, no less, designed by an engineer with an eye for aesthetic and function.
An architect created the building that the executives use to crunch data-driven analytics and try to quantify Art and replicate it by using AI. They loudly proclaim their shows are #1 as if Art is a soccer game and they won the match – and fail to remember that it is filled with actors who make audiences laugh and cry and think about the world in a new way.
As long as they’re #1 and they can report back to their corporate shareholders – the artistic aspect is commodified into a data sheet, a ledger, a replicable formula to be re-purposed over and over.
Repeat. Recycle. Reboot.
It’s all taken for granted until a strike happens. Or a pandemic. Or a global climate catastrophe. Then the publicly-traded companies realize that maybe, just maybe art matters. Artists matter. Humans matter. That we all need each other in some weirdly, cosmic dysfunctional co-dependent way.
But it isn’t until we break those toxic chains and stop equating success only as a Netflix #1, can we actually value the true meaning of who we are as Artists and why we strike.
In the interim, there are other ways to stay engaged and thinking positively. I know our acting studios everywhere are there to help people! If you are facing financial duress – email your local studio manager and we will figure something out so you can stay connected to inspiration and community and friends and great teachers.
Also, some work is available during this TV/Film Strike period if you are a SAG member.
SAG Commercials (what we fought so hard for 23 years ago!) are not breaking SAG rules. Some TV Digital jobs. There are SAG-approved micro budget films. There are student films, Independent New Media projects, some SAG-E jobs. And for those of you who always dreamt of being the new Soap Star – get yourself a Daytime TV Soap audition! You’re not strike breaking! And you could get yourself on the cover of Soap Opera Digest!
Read the fine print of SAG-eligible jobs that are available to you during the strike by going to the SAG website.
I personally am here offering up my Worldwide On-Camera Intensive as a Pay- What-You-Can Class. Email Cassie for help!
And if we’re all feeling really creative… maybe we can put on a Variety Show and donate the proceeds to the SAG Fund. (We did this for the devastating Bush Fires in Australia 2 years ago and raised a lot of money and I was blown away by the talent that participated!)
Keep Calm and Carry On! Don’t let Fear be your go-to (actually a great reminder for all things, really). We will get through this. We will get through this!
Onwards & Upwards, Love Tony