Sarah Silverman thinks actors working on SAG-waivered indie movies are ‘scabs’

Every SAG-AFTRA union member is not on strike. Some of them are working on independent films right now. SAG-AFTRA let it be known that producers could apply for special SAG-AFTRA waivers, and the union has granted those waivers to a few dozen productions which signed on to the union’s interim terms. The waivers have exclusively gone to filmmakers/producers who are independent of the AMPTP as well. Meaning, independent filmmakers and production companies have found ways to comply with SAG-AFTRA’s terms and get people back to work, all while the psychopath studio CEOs are trying to make every writer and actor lose their homes. Who has a problem with the union waivers? Pissy studio executives engaging in whataboutism. And Sarah Silverman.

Sarah Silverman has seen the so-called SAG waivers — and she’s not a fan. In a recent video posted to Instagram, the comedian slash actor slammed fellow Hollywood stars for continuing to film independent, SAG-AFTRA-approved projects under interim agreements as actors and writers remain on strike.

“Can somebody explain to me what I’m not understanding? Because I feel f–king pissed off. And I know I just must not be understanding something,” Silverman said at the start of her video posted Thursday night.

In her nearly three-minute long spiel, Silverman expressed her anger towards SAG-AFTRA members for shooting indie movies, despite those titles having received permission from the union itself which allow selected independent films to continue production.

Silverman argued that while they are being produced by independent companies, the films will eventually head to streaming where big streamers will reap the benefits. “I got offered an indie movie, I f–king said no, and so did a bunch of my friends,” she continued. “And now some of my friends are saying yes, I’m really pissed.”

“It’s called union strong, where we are all together,” added Silverman, whose last major role was voicing Vanellope von Schweetz in the 2018 Disney animated film “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

“We should see every movie star out there striking along because you have insurance because of your union,” she said. “And you get residuals because of your union. All these things that you get because of your union, and you can’t stand with your union?”

She ended the video by saying: “So, I don’t know if I’m mad at these movie stars that are making these indie movies that are obviously going to go to streaming, or am I mad at SAG for making this interim deal for these indie movies?”

Fellow actors were quick to respond to Silverman’s rant underneath her post. “Call me an idealist but my HOPE is that there is a big mid-range indie movie renaissance that goes into theatres that are NOT waiting to be ‘sold’ [to] streamers,” wrote Juliette Lewis in a comment. “My brother, who is a laborer — I would love him to work on an independent production. Bunch of my friend’s in other states have had their unemployment checks run out, so if there’s movie productions that are not going to streamers — I’m for it for my crew and family.”

In another comment, Zooey Deschanel wrote, “I think we are striking certain particular contractual agreements with the amptp — not all work,” while Amy Sedaris gave Silverman a “Right on” and Ike Barinholtz chimed in with an “Amen sis.”

[From Variety]

When I saw the headline, I thought Silverman was just being a chaotic a–hole, but now that I’ve read her comments in context, I sort of understand her argument – while the indie films are in full compliance with the unions’ interim terms, somewhere down the line, that waiver’d film will go to Sundance and perhaps get sold to Netflix or Hulu or Apple, and then what’s the point? BUT… I still think it’s smart for SAG-AFTRA to give waivers, honestly, and I don’t think those actors are scabs whatsoever. It’s important for the union to show that they’re amenable to make a deal, and that they want their union members to get back to work in fair conditions and terms.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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16 Responses to “Sarah Silverman thinks actors working on SAG-waivered indie movies are ‘scabs’”

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  1. PPP says:

    It just seems like continuing to make indie movies will put pressure on the struck companies, and demonstrates how easy it is to meet the union terms.

    And it allows actors to keep the strike going, since they are getting money.
    It’s easy for Silverman to talk, she’s got the money to strike for a while.

    It’s also an opportunity for a re-emergence of artful films, given that cinema is so dominated by blockbuster films and franchises.

  2. MrsBanjo says:

    Viola Davis said essentially the same thing when she talked about not filming G20.

    I think it’s important that indie studios who can agree to the terms the Unions are setting continue to film as it demonstrates that the terms are reasonable. But I also understand actors and writers feeling uncomfortable with that as it can feel like they’d be scabbing.

    • lgt says:

      If I read correctly, the G20 project Viola Davis is/was involved in already has a distribution plan in its contract with Amazon Prime. I believe that is why she stepped back from working it, so not a blanket statement like Sarah’s, who seemed to refer to all the interim agreement projects, at least at first.
      As a striking member of SAG/AFTRA, I am learning a lot…this is all a game of chess. I just hope we (SAG/AFTRA) are able to truly stand our ground.

      • MrsBanjo says:

        For sure, but it would be unlikely that those other indie movies wouldn’t also be sold to struck streamers for distribution. It’s effectively the same problem. And while I think these waivers are good, especially for the majority of the workers who don’t have their money, I can understand why they’d be worried about seemingly scabbing even if they technically aren’t.

  3. pottymouthpup says:

    The explanation I’ve seen is that if those Indy movies are sold to streamers, the terms of deal with the streamers must remain consistent with the terms of the indy studio’s agreement with SAG (the indy studios have agreed to the terms that SAG offered AMPTP that AMPTP rejected.

    That said, I haven’t seen anything about the indy studios agreeing to terms with the writer’s guild. If they aren’t getting similar waivers from the writer’s guild, Silverman is right to criticize

    • Ponsby says:

      That’s my understanding as well, that if these indie films are sold to streamers down the road they have to adhere to those provisions agreed upon, which, in my mind, does meaningfully address Silverman’s concerns. I agree that these waivers are vital in showing how relatively easy it really is for these productions to comply – it shows in real time how reasonable and totally functional these requests are. For context, I get that Silverman is taking a LOT on her own shoulders with her own lawsuits, and effectively trying to take on the jurisprudential future of these AI problems on herself, and I hugely admire that, and I hugely admire her belief in staying union strong, and admonishing any and all scabbing. This is an instance where many things are true at once: It’s true that she has a ton of financial privilege. It’s also true that lacking that financial privilege doesn’t make scabbing acceptable. It’s also true that working on a project that was issued a waiver is NOT scabbing. And it’s also true that, as you say, if the WGA and their concerns weren’t addressed in these waivers then that presents a host of problems that reopens the door to what scabbing means and wether it’s happening here.

    • MrsBanjo says:

      That’s a good point. Are there similar waivers with the WGA? If not, that’s a problem.

  4. Shawna says:

    It seems like her regret saying no to indies and her FOMO about her friends making other decisions is clouding her judgment. But I totally get that when I see other people around me I respect going against some “pure” standard… I start to resent having to continue being “good” when others find loopholes.

    Lewis’s response was great!

  5. Striking for so long says:

    I’m a member of the WGA and SAG and a lot of us agree with Sarah. Writers have been on strike for 3 months and haven’t given any waivers. The point of the strike is to hurt the studios by messing up their pipeline and movies starring movie stars getting waivers that will 100 percent end up on streamers just isn’t helpful to getting the strike to end.

    Viola Davis is a queen though and even though her movie (that was set to be distributed by Amazon lol) got a waiver she said she wouldn’t film during the strike. Love her!

  6. Torttu says:

    Now would be the time for “big names” to get together with “little names” and students to write and act and produce something silly, almost like an improv show or series, and screen it only in an indie movie theater and raise funds. Or pay per view on the internet. Cut out the middleman! Or perform live theater in the park and raise money. People who already have millions could donate their work, and those needing money could get a small salary.

    • paddingtonjr says:

      I love this idea! Celebrities frequently do smaller, indie projects to raise money for various causes. This is something that would really help their fellow union members.

    • SarahCS says:

      They gave us Imagine for free during the pandemic so this would be a much better way to use their profile.

  7. Rea says:

    It’s wrong & she is right. It should be a united stand because now a loophole has been exposed to the unity. It’s going to create factions and divide the unity.