It’s been a few years since Bill Adams has worked as an extra. At 85, he doesn’t get called as much as he used to.
But for the last three months, he has commuted to the picket lines from his home in Long Beach about once a week.
“I’m just tired of the multinational greed,” he said, on a break from walking outside the Overland gate at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City on Friday. “That almost goes without saying. That’s what it comes down to.”
The SAG-AFTRA strike is now in its 85th day. The issues remain the same as they were on Day 1 — streaming residuals, the use of artificial intelligence, and increases in minimum rates to keep pace with inflation — among dozens of lesser known concerns.
The heads of four studios have met three times this week at SAG-AFTRA headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard — the first negotiations since the strike began in July. Talks are set to resume on Monday, and both sides appear motivated to get a deal.
“Since we’ve actually finally been invited back to the table, we’ve had a bit more energy,” said Tyler Barnhardt, a strike captain at Amazon.
Barnhardt noted that members of the Writers Guild of America, which ended its 148-day strike last week, continue to turn out in support of the actors.
“Every blue shirt you see is a person who got a deal,” he said. “And yet they still are coming out and supporting us. So that feels really, really good.”
Matt Billingsly, a writer who has been a regular at the Sony picket, was back out there on Friday. He said he would do some writing later in the day, but had a couple free hours in the morning to picket.
He said it was somewhat challenging to return to work after the strike, and said that joining the SAG-AFTRA lines was helpful.
“It’s a big change,” Billingsly said. “And it’s taken me a while to process. It helps to be able to actually be out here and it’s helping me kind of let it go.”
He said that his father had served in Vietnam, and had said that one reason veterans were traumatized was that they had no time to process their experience before returning home.
“When the war was over, you got on an airplane and 12 hours later you touched down in the States,” he said. “And that was it… It can make your head spin.”
Veterans of World War II, meanwhile, had a three-week journey on a troop ship to decompress with their fellow soldiers.
“This is my — ‘I’m on the troop ship,’” Billingsly said. “I’ve never had so much community as I’ve had the past five months. It has definitely been the silver lining.”
Actors on the picket lines had a range of guesses as to how much longer their strike will last. Some were optimistic that a deal could come next week, while others think it could take as long as a month.
“My hope is that we get back to work,” said Joseph Makkar, an actor picketing at Sony, who said the studios seemed to have underestimated public support for labor. “I did not think the writers would get the deal that they were expecting so soon… And so I do believe we’ll be piggybacking on the success that the writers have gotten.”
Adams, meanwhile, said he was most concerned about artificial intelligence being used to scan background actors. He said he was confident in the SAG-AFTRA leadership, particularly union president Fran Drescher, to get a good deal.
“I try to keep a very positive attitude and I’m always hopeful,” he said. “I believe in our negotiating team. I think you’re doing the best that they can.”