Social media stars don’t need Hollywood to get famous, but they still have to play by some of the industry’s rules.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is encouraging digital content creators — even those who aren’t part of the labor union — to avoid promoting films and TV series in solidarity with the union’s strike against the industry’s top studios.
The union shared its influencer-specific guidelines amid confusion among digital content creators online over how they could support those on strike while still honoring some of their existing contracts.
Some influencers are members of SAG-AFTRA, but even those who aren’t are still beholden to the rules of the strike. They risk being blacklisted from the union if they “scab,” a term for someone who continues to work while unionized workers strike.
Many content creators said they plan to strike alongside union members, pausing content creation about movies and television until the strike is resolved. Others drew backlash after they initially said they would continue to work with targeted studios.
When Ellen Orsi, a digital creator who focuses on pop culture content, got a $5,000 offer to promote a large superhero franchise, she knew she wouldn’t take the deal because of the strikes.
“While it is a lot of money right now, I just don’t want to cross the line and make a quick buck now and potentially burn the bridge with wonderful creators of all types, in multiple platforms, in the future," Orsi said.
She said it would feel wrong to take such opportunities, even if they seem tempting in the short term, when the majority of strikers don’t make enough to qualify for health care within the union.
“If there’s this type of budget to reach out to influencers, then there’s definitely budget to pay workers and meet the demands of the strike,” she said. “And so I just wanted to be in solidarity within that industry.”
SAG-AFTRA, whose 160,000 members include some of the most famous faces in the entertainment industry, began striking Thursday after high-stakes negotiations between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a trade association representing the entertainment industry’s top studios, broke down.
As actors took to the picket lines, singer and actor Ellysa Rose was among the many weighing in on what to do — and what not to do — on social media.
Rose, a member of SAG-AFTRA, warned content creators that if they have “any creative goals where you would be required to join a union,” don’t “cross a picket line, even a digital one.”
“Studios are going to start reaching out to influencers,” Rose, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, said in a TikTok video. “And now here’s the thing: There’s going to be big numbers thrown at you, especially small influencers, because a lot of the big influencers are already in SAG.”
Much of the discourse surrounding proper protocol for influencers during the strike began after Juju Green, who goes by Straw_Hat_Goofy on TikTok, posted a video saying that because he was nonunion, he intended to fulfill his contract and implied that union rules didn’t apply to him.
“Here’s how the strike will be affecting my content. The answer is: very little,” Green, who has 3.4 million followers, said in a TikTok video. “I am not an actor, nor am I a writer. Therefore my job doesn’t overlap with those that the writers and actors can’t do during the strike.”
Green, who is known for posting content about film and TV, also shared a skit about continuing to post during the strike, which some called insensitive. He later removed the video and apologized.
In an email statement, Green said that the post was in poor taste and that there was limited information from both SAG and WGA when he made the videos.
“I removed that skit and apologized for any hurt it caused. Once clear official information was released from SAG, I complied with all regulations and will not be taking any new work from struck companies until the strike is resolved and the union gets a fair deal,” Green said. “I stand with SAGAFTRA.”
But Green’s content struck a nerve with creators, particularly those who are in the union.
“You’re correct there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the strike,” said Franchesca Ramsey, a creator and SAG-AFTRA member whose response to Green went viral. “Which is why it probably would’ve been a good idea to do more research or at the very least wait for a response from SAG before making 3 videos about the strike filled with your opinions & not facts.”
Ramsey declined to comment.
In its guidelines, SAG-AFTRA said influencers who had already signed contracts to promote struck projects should “fulfill their work obligation” but shouldn’t otherwise accept new work from struck companies. Influencers are discouraged from promoting films and shows, even if it’s as a fan and not as a sponsored partner.
The guidelines acknowledge that there will still be cross-promotional work with influencer partners that falls into a gray area. For those circumstances, the union suggests reaching out to a strike captain or the union itself.
Still, the union emphasized: “Any non-member seeking future membership in SAG-AFTRA who performs covered work or services for a struck company during the strike will not be admitted into membership in SAG-AFTRA.”
It’s unclear when exactly SAG-AFTRA’s influencer-specific FAQ page went live. The union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
If I’m being honest, I think I was looking for excuses not to disrupt my own life while still showing support. But that’s selfish.
— TikTok creator Kit Lazer
Many creators said they support the cause — even if it means their own brands will take a hit.
Kit Lazer, who makes film and television content for his 462,000 TikTok followers, said in a video over the weekend that he was “going on strike” with SAG and WGA, “if you can call it that.”
“I don’t know a way to make ethical content about viewing these new movies and TV shows that isn’t also promoting the studios’ work,” Lazer said.
He added that he wished people “had been kinder, because a lot of this is new,” remarking that in the 1980s, when the last SAG strike happened, social media, podcasts and other technology didn’t exist. Now content creators are trying to catch up.
“If I’m being honest, I think I was looking for excuses not to disrupt my own life while still showing support,” Lazer said. “But that’s selfish.”
Lazer declined to comment.
Other creators said they will follow SAG-AFTRA’s guidelines partly because they hope to join a union one day.
Reece Feldman, a nonunion creator known for interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, announced in a TikTok video that he will no longer accept new contracts to work on or promote titles for struck studios.
Feldman, who was unavailable for an interview, said in the video that he supports the joint strike as someone who hopes to join WGA in the future.
“At its core, I realize this issue is much more important than myself,” he said. “And it does genuinely take a group effort to make sure that studios understand how important this is.”