How Do These Actors Strike Agreements Work So Some Stars Can Keep Working Anyway? Jessica Chastain Explains

 Jessica Chastain in The 355.
Jessica Chastain in The 355.

The writers and actors strike is still ongoing and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon. It’s certainly rough for all those who are on strike, who are not working as they normally would. However, not everybody in Hollywood has completely stopped working. A few actors here and there are still working on individual projects, and then promoting them. So just what’s going on?

Jessica Chastain is one of those actors who is currently working. She attended the Venice Film Festival on behalf of her new film Memory (not to be confused with last year's Liam Neeson action flick of the same name). This is something she is allowed to do because the independent studios that produced the movie signed an interim agreement with SAG in which theory agreed to everything SAG-AFTRA is asking for during the current strike. She spoke to etalk and posted the conversation, explaining it this way…

I’m going to explain it to you in baseball terms. You got the Major Leagues. You got Derek Jeter, all the guys, and they’re like, ‘We’re not happy with their contracts, we’re going to strike.’ The Minor Leagues show up [independent productions] and say, ‘Hey, guess what? We’re going to give you the contract you want! So the players go, ‘You know what? We’re not going to work for the Major Leagues, we’re going to go work for the Minor Leagues.’ Who do you think the audience goes to see? And now all of a sudden, the Major Leagues don’t have any power.

The primary organization that SAG-AFTRA is negotiating with is the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, but the members of that group are all major studios, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony, Netflix, Apple, and WB Discovery. Even if the union and the AMPTP came to a deal, the union would still need to negotiate with independent studios. But in this case, they have and in several cases, the studios are willing to give the actors what they want.

As Chastain says, the move has potentially powerful repercussions. If actors want to work, they’ll go where the work is, which means smaller studios who are willing to provide what the union wants could actually end up benefitting from the strike. We could get to a point where those are the only movies coming out if the strike goes on long enough. And if smaller studios are able to give actors what they want, it might put pressure on the larger ones to do the same. That's certainly the hope. Adam Driver has also recently promoted a film under the same sort of agreement.

Still, even among smaller studio projects, these deals are the exception more than the rule. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, and it certainly doesn’t look like the larger studios are in a hurry to make a deal with actors because a few of these interim agreements are in place.

The strike shirts everybody in the industry/ It's one of the reasons those who can have donated millions to support the strike, so that money is available to those that need it. Nobody wants the strike to continue, but actors and writers clearly feel their grievances are worthy of being addressed. Some smaller studios apparently agree.