Striking actors and writers, however, don’t translate one for one into payrolls. For one thing, many of SAG-AFTRA’s members work for television news stations and aren’t on strike. Those who do act in movies and TV shows usually sign contracts, sometimes for a day or a week, rather than entering into a continuing employment relationship.
Between intermittent gigs, they’re used to taking second jobs, like waiting on tables or designing websites. During the strike, they’re also allowed to work in theater and commercials, as well as on a handful of independent projects that have agreed to abide by the union’s demands.
Even with no work, most earn at least some money through residuals — although that revenue has shrunk with the rise of streaming, and will fade as the months drag on.
“We’re used to being freelancers, and just being able to go along,” said Jodi Long, president of SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles local. “For now, what’s really going to affect the job market is the people on set — the hair and makeup people, the gaffers and the grips and the people in production.”
Ms. Long is right: The support services required to make movies and shows have largely shut down. Some serve other industries as well, but many have grown up around the needs of film production. Even if the industry becomes very busy when the strike ends as studios restock their pipelines, months of income will be hard to replace.