Disney princesses. Marvel villains. Boy wizards. Perhaps a certain doll dressed in pink. All are off-limits to the actors and creatives taking part in the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes that have ground Hollywood to a halt this year, with stars urged not to give studios any free promotion while negotiations are ongoing.
Halloween is traditionally a period when celebrities go viral for their outfits, with parties held by the likes of popstar Taylor Swift and supermodel Heidi Klum drawing global attention.
However, with the holiday fast approaching, SAG-AFTRA wants to ensure none of its high-profile members inadvertently promote certain content by dressing up as characters Hollywood studios own the rights to.
Members of the union are currently prohibited from promoting any new movies or TV shows, which has led to stars boycotting or walking out of premiers of their latest blockbusters.
In a ‘Halloween Guidance’ post published by SAG-AFTRA this week, the union said: “This Halloween, we wanted to make sure our members don’t inadvertently break strike rules, and have put together some quick tips on the dos and don’ts for costumes.”
Members were encouraged to “choose costumes inspired by generalized characters
and figures (ghost, zombie, spider, etc.)”—meaning that dressing up as a spider gets the green light, but going as Sony-owned Spiderman probably won’t.
“Dress up as characters from non-struck content, like an animated TV show,” the guidance continued.
If members really couldn’t resist dressing up as characters from major studio-backed films or television series, SAG-AFTRA instructed them not to post any photos of their costumes to social media.
“Let’s use our collective power to send a loud and clear message to our struck employers that we will not promote their content without a fair contract,” the guidance said.
Actors’ strike continues
Tensions between talent and studios began with the Hollywood Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) going on strike in May. Screenwriters refused to work for five months until they secured a three-year contract securing their pay, terms of streaming agreements, and assurances around the use of AI.
During that time SAG-AFTRA also announced its members would be striking, with famous faces including Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, Breaking Bad lead Bryan Cranston and Academy Award-winner Jessica Chastain joining the picket lines.
Actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has around 160,000 members, is striking over similar issues to its writer peers: pay, working conditions, and concerns relating to the use of AI in the film industry. Actor Aaron Paul revealed that despite Breaking Bad’s huge success on Netflix, he doesn’t see a penny of the revenue.
Negotiations between the guild and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are still ongoing, with A-listers including George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Scarlett Johansson reportedly making a $150 million offer this week to help bring the strike to an end.
A ‘generous concept’
A spokesperson for Clooney confirmed to Reuters that the $150 million offer—to be spread over three years—would be used to fund improved health benefits for SAG-AFTRA members.
However, although SAG-AFTRA labeled it a “generous concept … worthy of consideration,” it suggested the plan would not address the fundamental disagreement between the parties.
“It is in no way related to and would have no bearing on this present contract or even as a subject of collective bargaining,” the organization said in a statement on Thursday. “It is, in fact, prohibited by Federal labor law.”
Contract talks between the Hollywood union and studios broke down last week.
AMPTP, which represents Netflix and Disney as well as a host of other major studios, said in a statement on Oct. 11: “After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction.”
A week later, SAG-AFTRA accused AMPTP of attempting to “sow division” among members by “misrepresenting our proposals and trying to manipulate public sentiment.”
“Our call is simple. AMPTP, it’s time to negotiate genuinely, valuing our contributions and solidifying an industry that champions everyone within it,” the union said. “We subsidized the growth of the streaming model with reduced rates and low to non-existent residuals. It’s time to share in the success we’ve helped build.”