On November 8, it was announced that SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP had reached a tentative agreement, ending the 118 day strike. With Hollywood back to work, maybe it’s finally happened–your big break! And while a big break is a big deal, there are a few things to know first about the new and improved collective bargaining agreements with the WGA (writer’s guild) and SAG (actor’s guild) and also about the general state of Hollywood.
You Actually May Get a Little Break if You Stay Non-Union
With union rules ticking up the costs of labor and making work rules more rigid, there will inevitably be an uptick of non-union productions. These are usually low budget features or even shorter pieces of content that may just live in a digital distribution landscape but these titles could break out and reach a bigger audience and get recognition–picture the original Blair Witch grossing $248 million against a $60,000 budget off of early viral marketing and word-of-mouth, but in 2023.
There is also an uptick and Hollywood disruptor in influencer monetization and content creation. The former conventional notion of a ‘big break’ is changing right before us. Where one generally waited for a studio or network to pluck an aspiring actor out of obscurity and make them into a star, now it may be about a compelling young woman building a million followers on TikTok and then a studio is clamoring for her presence on a film where the influencer can cross promote. The Future Of Influencer Marketing And The Expanding Creator Economy (forbes.com)
Strike Resolutions Are Not Permanent
You may get your big break but mark your calendar because WGA is up again May 1, 2026 and SAG is up June 30, 2026. That does not mean a strike is inevitable but this year was a clear indication of the strife between the AMPTP and the unions.
Over the next two years, guilds are expecting transparency and data particularly about streaming performance (that was not available before these strike resolutions). Meanwhile the AMPTP is doing major consolidation and reorg (this year alone we are dealing with the ramifications where Warner Studios is now Discovery shark week, Hulu is now being swallowed whole by Disney Disneys Buys Hulu: House Of Mouse To Acquire Remaining Comcast Share (forbes.com) and MGM is now a subsidiary content strategy to Amazon
When we come up from that data dump and restructure, it will be a small miracle for the parties to just look at each other and nod with marginal improvements when the contracts are up in 2026. While we all hope for the best, make sure to stash away your big break wins because you may have a major work stoppage in 2026 again!
AI Use Is Covered Under the New Agreement But Is It Really Protecting You?
AI was a hot topic with WGA and SAG but the resolutions were a solution for today. Yes the WGA was victorious that AI cannot be credited with source material or take credit away from a WGA writer on the same work. But what happens when the studios start announcing their uptick in AI optimization where the writer of a script becomes obsolete – basically the movie script is written by AI and only AI then the WGA loses all jurisdiction.
And SAG does require better paths to consent for AI use of images; however, there are loopholes even when an actor is engaged under a schedule F contact which pays a bit more. The resolutions were not well received by all members and this pushback is an indication that this is the beginning of the push pull between AI and humans when it comes to content creation. Here’s Why Some Actors Oppose The SAG-AFTRA Artificial Intelligence Deal (forbes.com)
In the meantime, you should make sure to avoid any waiver or grant in your big break deal that can modify your name and likeness into a nameless shameless database where you lose your image forever.
Get a Lawyer and Beware of the Fine Print
The unions give you a solid baseline but this is your big break so get a fancy agent, a strategic manager and one heck of a talent entertainment lawyer and protect yourself (PS that full powerhouse package of reps will cost you about 20-30% of your income but at least you are not giving up something that may be worse; full disclosure, I am an entertainment attorney and run my own law firm).
Unless you are a rare combination of trained agent, experienced hardened manager and sophisticated talent attorney, it is impossible to understand the full spectrum of points in which the studio, network or producer will be shamelessly grabby (completely legally) in their agreements. They will try to keep you exclusive as long as it suits them (in a way where you may not be able to take on work while you sit around and do nothing), offset and apply all residual payments or fees against other earnings (instead of giving you the actual benefits of additional compensation for more work time or back end that should be separate and apart from residuals).
And then there are all the fun things you should get but won’t unless your strong set of reps insist, and that list of demands can range from first class to a hired chef to a single trailer to guaranteed travel and accommodations to the premiere (and that is just the start of it). So lawyer up!
These are just a few tips if you are in a position to have a big break, but not to be a downer, is there such a thing as a big break anymore? It may be that your big break is not to be a ‘movie star’ or a ‘hot shot writer’ or on the next ‘Friends’ but to be whatever the next version that our current generation of content consumers will care about – maybe AI model or TikTok Influencer.