UNITED STATES PARKOUR ASSOCIATION
The SAG-AFTRA Strikes and Parkour Stunt Professionals
2023 AUGUST 14TH
The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike on July 14, 2023, after failing to reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new three-year contract. The strike is the first time that SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have been unable to reach an agreement since 2008.
The negotiations have been centered around equal treatment, fair pay, and safe practices for SAG-AFTRA members. Notable trailblazer for Tempest Freerunning and female freerunner in the stunt industry, Luci Romberg shares, “SAG is fighting hard to make sure we are not left behind. There is a lot at stake right now with AI so if we don’t stand up now, it will be too late. It’s a very scary time for our industry! Hopefully, the producers will put their greed aside and do what’s right!” The labor union is seeking increased pay for its members, especially for those who work in streaming productions. The strikes are also calling for better residuals for actors, as streaming services have led to a decline in traditional residuals. Additionally, SAG-AFTRA is concerned about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in film and television production and is seeking guarantees that AI will not be used to replace actors.
SAG-AFTRA represents over 160,000 media professionals across the United States and Canada. Members include a wide variety of workers including actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, program hosts, recording artists, singers, voice-over actors, and stunt performers. In the past fifteen years, parkour has become increasingly popular in the film and television industry. Stunt performers utilize physical parkour skills to perform realistic, exciting stunts that would be too dangerous for actors to perform.
Many parkour athletes support the strikes, believing that they are necessary to protect the rights of stunt performers that are often left exploited or underpaid. The media industry is no stranger to parkour athletes carving out a path for stardom through performing stunts. The earliest and most recognized moment for parkour came from Casino Royale’s opening scene featuring Yamakasi and parkour godfather Sebastian Foucan as he’s chased by James Bond through a construction site. “When it comes to the SAG-AFTRA strike, it boils down to fairness for all the hardworking performers in the industry. We train relentlessly, push our bodies to the limit, and strive to create those jaw-dropping moments on screen. Year after year, we contribute to the success of the projects, making producers millions upon millions of dollars in revenue. It’s only fair that we receive our fair share of that success,” says Paul ‘Diddy’ Darnell, an early founder of Tempest Freerunning and former USPK board member known for his roles in hit shows like The Mandalorian. Across the aisle of parkour, William Spencer, an experimental skateboarder, says, “This is a long time coming that people need to make new deals…. I think that it is only fair that people continue to get compensated in a way that is equal.”
The strike has had a significant impact on Hollywood, as it has shut down production on many films and television shows. It is unclear how long the strike will last, but it is likely to have a major impact on the industry. Allison Lahikanen affirms, “I am in full support of SAG and the WGA. As I’m primarily a background actor, the AMPTP’s push for digital recreation of our images without compensation or associated rights sounds like the first step in eliminating us all together. Every avalanche starts off as a snowflake. If we back down, we could see this snowball into other sectors of the industry such as stunts. This strike is our chance to stand up for those people who aren’t always fully recognized and respected by the people in power.”
Here are some of the specific demands that SAG-AFTRA is making in the strike:
- Increased pay: SAG-AFTRA is seeking a 3% wage increase for all members, and a 5% wage increase for low-paid members.
- Better residuals: SAG-AFTRA is seeking a guarantee that actors will receive residuals for streaming productions, and that the residuals will be comparable to those paid for traditional television and film productions.
- Safe practices: SAG-AFTRA is seeking guarantees that actors will be protected from on-set injuries, and that they will have access to proper healthcare.
- AI: SAG-AFTRA is seeking guarantees that AI will not be used to replace actors, and that actors will have a say in how AI is used in film and television production.
Stuntwoman, traceuse, and Kiskeya owner Lorena Abreu on the the strike, “This is just a microcosm of what’s happening in every industry across the world – greed is corrupting people and it is not unique to the film industry, this is a global labor.” Parkour stunt performers are seeing the strikes as an opportunity for workers to improve their working conditions and secure their future in the industry. It remains to be seen how long the strike will last, but it is clear that SAG-AFTRA is determined to achieve its goals. Jesse La Flair, professional freerunner and YouTuber, looks forward to overcoming the strikes, “let this obstacle be seen as an opportunity for the talented and dedicated few who have made their passions a career, because I truly believe we should all be able to live off of what we love.”
Thanks to our article contributors and professionals across the industry: Lorena Abreu (@lorenaparkour), Paul Darnell (@diddydarnell), Jesse La Flair (@jesselaflair), Allison Lahikainen (@alli_lahikainen), Luci Romberg (@luciromberg), and William Spencer (@iwilliamspencer).