Friday, July 21, 2023

Convention Do's and Don'ts During WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strike

It’s that time of year again when geek-culture conventions are on my mind… and, really, at the forefront of the thoughts of many. San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is happening as we speak, continuing through July 23rd. Here in Louisiana, we have Geek’d Con happening August 18th - 23rd. Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA runs from August 31st through September 4th (Labor Day weekend). New York Comic-Con isn’t too far behind running October 12th to 15th.

These gatherings celebrate fandoms and give the average fan a chance to meet some of their favorite actors, artists, and costumers while also getting the opportunity to shop for souvenirs in the process. I have long been a fan of these conventions where we can all let our geek flags fly proudly amongst our fellow geeky peers. I adore pulling in friends that may not realize how much fun they can have at these events and watching them have a blast geeking out too. I enjoy volunteering at the conventions I attend to help them run smoothly and give everyone a great experience. I used to work as volunteer staff at Dragon Con for several years, however, travel expenses have curtailed that long ago and I now stay closer to home working with Geek’d Con.

2023 is going to be significantly different from previous years, however. 

The WGA (Writers Guild of America) and SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) are on strike in order to push the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) to contract with fair wages and updated rights that take into consideration this new digital age. This means members of the 2 striking organizations are limited in what they can and are willing to participate in without “crossing picket lines.”

SDCC’s Hall H is going to feel a bit empty this year without all of the A-list appearances, panels, sneak peeks, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that everything related to meet-and-greet and celebrity interactions are off the table. Union members simply aren’t able to participate in anything that promotes or is organized by the studios and production companies that are on the other side of the strike. 

A common question pops up: What does that mean for convention attendees? What can we do or should we not do when we see our favorite celebrities at events or “in the wild.” 
Here’s a helpful guide for navigating this convention season. 

  • DO purchase tickets and attend events where celebrities are still appearing. Even if you want to show solidarity with the strike, these events still help support the writers and actors. If they are there, you can bet that they’ve worked with their agents and other representatives extensively to ensure they’re in compliance with the strike rules. Your attendance shows your support! Their primary job is on hold, so these appearances are important to them as if a part-time job while they are laid-off. 

  • DO remember to bring with you any article you wish to have signed that might come from any current in-theater work or other projects that are affected by the strike. The convention guests will be able to sign something YOU provide them, but they won’t have merchandise or photos at their booths or panels reflecting any of the work that is affected by the strike. (Keep in mind that anything from struck-work is up to the discretion of the individual celebrity whether or not they’re willing to sign an item - but the SAG rules allow it as long as THEY don’t provide the item themselves.)

  • DON’T get upset if the guest you are seeking an autograph from doesn’t have a photo or merchandise available from your favorite project, if it was covered under “struck-work” or if they don’t want to sign the item you have brought with you. Some members of the WGA or SAG-AFTRA might feel like it is an ethical stand to avoid ALL dealings with the productions that are involved with the strike. The strike rules leave it up to their discretion so they are able to decline if they choose. Save it for another future date after all of this is resolved. Maybe ask their agent or handler if there is an address you can send an item to at a later date after the strike is resolved - though, this is a long-shot and they may not be willing to accept the liability for your item.

  • DO feel free to ask your burning questions about general topics “such as about [their] process, why [they] wanted to be an actor, what [they] like/dislike about working in the industry, and the like..” (Direct quote from SAG-AFTRA strike appearances FAQ)

  • DON’T ask about topics that cover “struck-work” (or at least try to avoid doing so) - i.e. any production made/produced by any of the companies involved in the strike. I know this might be harder to remember in the moment, but it helps avoid an awkward moment where the guest has to either decline to answer your question or has to dance around the topic. (i.e. movies or TV shows currently In-Production, soon to be or currently in theaters, etc. like Deadpool 3 or Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse, and so on.)

  • For Cosplayers - if you are wanting to show solidarity with the strike, DON’T dress up as a character from any of the struck-work. If you’ve been working all year on a theme or costume, it’s absolutely acceptable to continue with your plans to wear it - however, if you have an optional back-up costume that is from a non-struck concept, then consider that costume instead. Cosplay as a character from a struck-work (i.e. Deadpool, Spider-Man, Superman, any Marvel character, etc.) is technically considered promotion of that work. The SAG-AFTRA strike FAQ does allow for this contingency regarding photo-ops etc. so you’re not going to get anyone in trouble if you wear a struck-work related costume. 

  • DO feel free to discuss the strike with an open mind and with information from trusted sources if celebrities/guests are willing. Keep in mind that the big companies that the strike affects own some of the big-name media outlets that provide news content regarding the strike. Make sure your sources are neutral or are directly from the WGA or SAG-AFTRA sites. Actors, writers, and artists may be willing to discuss the strike to broaden the reach of its message - just remember to keep things civil. 

  • DON’T complain about the strike and the rich celebrities in the picket lines around celebrity guests. Remember that the strike isn’t about the A-List actors and ultra-famous writers, etc. The strike is about fairness for everyone else behind the scenes of the productions. It’s for the actors that get paid practically nothing for a single recording session and then have their likeness and voice used in EVERY episode of a long-running TV show without any further compensation - and situations like that.

All that being said, you might be wondering which studios and production companies are involved in the strike, and thus how to determine what is “struck work” and what isn’t. has put together a useful list that outlines the organizations within the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). You can find that here.

I am looking forward to August and my annual Geek’d Con experience and I am wishing the best to all convention attendees this year. The best advice I can give for the unusual circumstances resulting from the strike is to simply go with the flow, and lets support the creative souls that bring us our favorite shows, comics, books, movies, and art!

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