On November 9, after 118 days, the SAG-AFTRA strike finally came to an end, at least tentatively—the proposal is still awaiting ratification from its members. Over the course of its duration, SAG members across the country held demonstrations and pickets where they advocated for fair wages, better working conditions and improved health care benefits. The strike, which initially commenced due to stalled negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), evolved into a movement that brought together actors, directors and other industry professionals.
Amidst the sea of voices during the strike, the experiences of Jewish actors added its own dimension to the narrative. Many Jewish actors actively participated in the demonstrations not only as part of the broader movement, but also in solidarity with their fellow performers.
Teaneck’s Elliot Schiff was one such voice. Schiff is an actor and producer known for his work in both television and film. He also works extensively in voiceover and as an audio description narrator, providing essential narration for audiences with visual impairments. He has credits on shows including “Succession,” “The White Lotus” and “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.”
“The strike was important for a number of reasons,” Schiff shared with The Jewish Link. “It’s not just about securing better contracts and conditions for ourselves. It’s about standing up for the principles of fairness and equity in the entertainment industry as a whole. When we come together as a unified force, we can make a significant impact on the future of our profession.”
While on strike, Schiff had to find new avenues of income to support his family. He taught voiceover courses, took SAG-approved jobs, and joined the picket lines when possible. As he explains, there were many layers involved in the strike.
“One of the big things we were striking over was the regulation of artificial intelligence in the industry,” Schiff continued. “There are three big Cs when it comes to this topic: Consent, control, and compensation. The studios wanted to be able to make scans of background actors and then use their likeness in perpetuity without compensation or even needing to consult with the original actor. That’s a major problem, for a number of obvious reasons.”
Now that the strike is tentatively over, Schiff is eager to get back to work.
“It’s been tough these past few months,” he said. “I’m hopeful that the tentative agreement we’ve reached is a step in the right direction. However, the challenges we faced during the strike also revealed the need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration within our industry. We can’t afford to become complacent; there’s still work to be done to address the issues that affect performers at every level.”
Sophie and Dalya Knapp are child actors—and siblings—from Teaneck who both took active roles in the strike. They joined the picket lines and attended rallies alongside their fellow actors. Sophie, at 15, and Dalya, at 13, may be young, but they share a deep passion for the strike and what it stood for.
“It was pretty crazy,” Sophie, who has been active on Broadway along with TV and film, shared. “We love acting, and we want it to be a positive experience for everyone, not just for us but for all the actors who come after us. It’s about making sure that everyone, regardless of who they are, has the same opportunities and is treated with the respect they deserve.”
Dalya is a series regular on “Evil,” a CBS supernatural series, and she also appeared in the acclaimed film “She Said,” along with guest-starring on “Law & Order,” and “FBI’s Most Wanted.” She was preparing to begin shooting when she was informed about the strike.
“I was actually at hair and makeup when the picketers showed up,” she said. “Soon after that everything shut down and the whole cast and crew went home. We all felt sad, but we also knew the strike was important, and my sister and I knew we wanted to show our support on the picket lines. Now that the strike is hopefully over, I can’t wait to get back to set and finish the season we were in the middle of shooting.”
If you would like to learn more about Schiff and his work, you can visit his website, elliotschiff.com. You can also follow him on Instagram, @elliot.schiff. To keep up with Sophie and Dalya, you can follow their respective Instagrams, @sophieknapp6 and @dalyaknapp.
Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.