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Most SAG Actors Don’t Even Make A Living Wage. Here Are Their Stories – GooPdf News

Most SAG Actors Don’t Even Make A Living Wage. Here Are Their Stories – GooPdf News

When David Allen Singletary isn’t at a casting call or on set for a TV series, he’s pushing a cart of snacks down the aisle of a Southwest Airlines plane, asking passengers for their trash and identifying the emergency exits. He became a flight attendant on Valentine’s Day last year as TV studios halted production following the outbreak of Covid variant Omicron. L.A.-based actress Iris Liu makes ends meet by selling clothes on e-commerce site Depop. Every month is an adventure, says Chicago-based actor Al’Jaleel McGhee, who just wrapped up a Broadway tour — and is considering moving in with his family in Charlotte.

“It’s either sink or swim, but the vast majority of us are sinking,” Singletary says.

To many actors, picking up a side hustle is key to survival, but with declining residual checks from streaming services, limited gigs and unstable healthcare, SAG-AFTRA union members have resorted to a work stoppage. The 160,000-strong actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, joined the Writers Guild of America in the fight for a fair deal on July 14, the first time both unions have been on strike simultaneously since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was SAG president. And after three months on strike, the writers’ union may resume negotiations with Hollywood studios after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) requested a meeting this Friday. The potential summit could provide hope for SAG members looking for a bigger share of streaming revenue, AI protections, and minimum salary increases with the AMPTP.

Only 7% of SAG-AFTRA actors and performers earn $80,000 or more a year, and 14% of SAG-AFTRA members make at least $26,470 annually to qualify for SAG-AFTRA health plan coverage, SAG-AFTRA chief economist David Viviano informed Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone spoke with an additional 10 union members who have largely struggled to afford health insurance and dispelled the misconception that most striking actors are household names.

J. Nicole Brooks, a SAG-AFTRA member since 2003, says she has qualified once for health insurance since 2016. Since she has the autoimmune disease Scleroderma, she must rely on grants from the Mellon Foundation for treatment.

“I have had so many periods of food insecurity and no health insurance, and that’s really hard when you have a chronic disease or chronic illness like I do,” Brooks says.

Members of SAG-AFTRA and WGA go on strike at Netflix, Sunset Gower and Paramount Studios on July 21, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. MOMODU MANSARAY/GETTY IMAGES

Brooks and other actors have also watched their residual checks, or payments for reruns of shows and films after their initial release, diminish. As a recurring guest star on FX’s Fargo, Brooks received a check upwards of $100, but earned just pennies for her role in The Chi, which streams on Showtime.

“People are streaming this as I speak, right now, and we’re getting one cent,” she says.

Sara Sevigny, who has been a SAG-AFTRA actor since 2016 and has worked on Max’s South Side and a Hulu series, made $8,000 in residuals which allowed her to qualify for health insurance in 2022, but this year her total residuals dropped to $1,600. “It’s bananas that we’re constantly having to hustle to get jobs as it is,” Sevigny says.

With 160,000 actors, dancers, stunt performers and voiceover artists on strike, the Entertainment Community Fund has reported an uptick in TV and film workers requesting financial assistance. At the start of the year, the actors’ fund distributed $75,000 each week compared to $400,000 to $500,000 each week since the start of the writers’ and actors’ strike. The fund’s chief operating officer, Barbara Davis, says the work stoppage poses a challenge for both cast and crew members and that they provide $1,500 to $3,000 grants based on household size, need, and eligibility.

“This is certainly not going to take care of people’s bills,” Davis explains. “It may provide help with one month’s rent or mortgage or food and utilities, but most people are looking for work outside of the industry.”

Striking SAG-AFTRA members picket with striking WGA workers near a billboard for the ‘Barbie’ movie outside Warner Bros. Studio on July 17, 2023, in Burbank, California.  MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES

Since May 1, the actors’ fund has raised $6.3 million with the help of donors like Shonda Rhimes, Steven Spielberg and Greg Berlanti, but Davis says she worries that the funds may run out as requests increase amid the strike. “We want to do as much as we possibly can,” she says. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation has raised $15 million since mid-July and also provides eligible members with grants for housing, food, utility bills or healthcare costs.

After SAG-AFTRA held one of its biggest rallies in New York last week, with stars like Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, Jessica Chastain and Brendan Fraser in attendance, concerns about diminishing residuals and the use of AI to create digital replicas of background actors remain a top priority. Although SAG member Iris Liu has worked for FX and CW networks, and streamers like Apple TV+ and Paramount+, it was her commercial work that allowed her to qualify for health coverage this year.

As a SAG-AFTRA member since 2022, she lands about 100 auditions a year, and following the record number of Asian actors awarded at the 2023 Oscars, Liu says she hoped the shift in representation would have a positive impact on her career. As she rallies in front of L.A.’s Paramount Pictures Studio daily, chanting SAG slogans and even snapping a selfie with Seth Rogen, she says she feels determined to win.

“While it is really disheartening to see the studios and the executives and the AMPTP threatening to make us homeless, there’s no way they can do that,” Liu says. “We have chosen the hard path. All artists, all freelancers, everyone in Hollywood, we’ve all chosen the tough path and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s time for us to rise up.”

From Rolling Stone US.

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