Skip to main content

How will conventions work with actors during the strike? Sean Astin and LA Comic Con set an example

Can striking actors attend conventions? Well, yes, but they have to follow some guidelines.

Photograph of the interior of the Los Angeles Convention Center during LA Comic Con 2021
Image credit: Jim Donnelly - LA Comic Con

Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements from PopCon (no affiliation, despite our similar names) and ReedPop. Popverse is a division of ReedPop - a multimedia company known for its comic conventions including New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comic Con, and C2E2.

SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July 14, 2023, and there have been a lot of questions about what impact the strike might have on convention appearances. These questions were soon cleared up by new SAG-AFTRA guidelines regarding conventions. However, due to the close proximity between the declaring of the strike and San Diego Comic Con, we didn’t really see the impact of those guidelines on appearances that week.

How will the actors strike impact conventions?

Image credit: Steve Prue

Two weeks ago, Fan Expo shared in a statement that the company does not expect the strike to impact Fan Expo events, but it was hard for many to imagine how striking actors could appear at conventions without promoting any of their present or past struck work.

As to that concern, pop culture event company ReedPop (Popverse's parent company) shared about their upcoming shows, "Our celebrity guests will still be appearing at New York Comic Con, MCM London Comic Con and MCM Birmingham Comic Con. What may be affected is what they’re able to discuss during our panels, as SAG-AFTRA does restrict their members from participating in the promotion of their work. They may not be able to talk about past, current, or upcoming projects, but they’ll be able to talk about their backgrounds, hobbies and work outside of their film/tv careers. It just means we’ll have to get a little creative in the questions that are asked during the panel 😉 "

As the strike continues and begins to impact conventions, it's time to start seeing these changes in practice, beginning with the recent GalaxyCon Raleigh and then today's announcement from Los Angeles Comic Con that their convention will feature actors Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Amy Jo Johnson, David Yost, and Tom Kenny this year.

In a statement released by LA Comic Con, Sean Astin (who is also a member of SAG-AFTRA’s Negotiating Committee) wrote about his appearance: “We work under many contracts, and must determine if a company we wish to work for is a 'struck' company. As of now, the union has worked hard to carve our rules for participating in regional fan conventions. At this time, L.A. Comic Con, a permissible 'non-struck company' has pledged its support for the union and its commitment to abiding by the guidelines.”

Shared with the statement was a quote from LA Comic Con CEO Chris DeMoulin that read, “Every year we work to bring back aspects that fans loved from prior years, while adding new guests and fandoms to the show to make our Con a truly diverse celebration of pop culture,” said Chris DeMoulin, CEO/GM of Los Angeles Comic Con parent company CEI. “In this time of strike in Hollywood, we want to emphasize that we support unions and union members, and their right to strike for better working conditions. We are working with the talent and their representatives to make sure that all of our booking, panels and promotion this year fully conform with SAG-AFTRA guidelines for conventions."

And still there is yet another perspective to this whole situation, one that focuses on striking actors' livelihood, as shared by PopCon COO Carl Doninger, "Events like PopCon are more important than ever during the respective strikes, as many of our celebrity guests' annual income rely on fan conventions. Now without their standard working income, if one wants to support these writers and actors, attendance at our events will make a direct impact on their livelihood.”

But what exactly will these during-strike conventions look like? And what are the guidelines that conventions will have to abide by? Let’s break them down.

Interior photograph of La Convention center during LA Comic Con
Image credit: Popverse

How will actors appear at conventions without breaking the strike?

This has been a question on a lot of people's minds, especially as conventions begin to announce actor guests. According to the SAG-AFTRA FAQ relating to conventions, striking actors can participate in independent conventions (i.e. conventions not run by or affiliated with struck companies, like Disney's D23 Expo and Star Wars Celebration), as long as they do so in a way that doesn’t promote their work on struck projects.

For one, actors are allowed to participate in conventions to promote work that isn’t struck, for example, television animation or video game work. In other words, Sean Astin would not be able to answer questions about Lord of the Rings or Stranger Things, but could answer questions about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated show and Bunnicula, as they are television animation and thus, not struck work.

Or, actors can simply avoid talking about their specific work altogether. As for what can be discussed along these lines, according to the FAQ, “General topics are fine, such as about your process, why you wanted to be an actor, what you like/dislike about the industry, and the like are fine. You should avoid discussing characters you played on struck work or your work for struck companies.”

Can striking actors sign autographs at conventions?

Autographs are a huge part of shows like LA Comic Con. Regarding autographs, the SAG-AFTRA FAQ reads, “You should plan to sign headshots or similar photos of you during your autograph signing. You cannot offer photos of you as a character from struck work. If a fan asks you to sign your photo with your character name or a quote from struck work it is up to your discretion whether to comply with the fan’s request.” However, Actors can sign photos/posters and such related to their struck projects as long as they do not provide them themselves.

Read Sean Astin’s full statement about Los Angeles Comic Con below:

“Hello Fans and Friends,

I’m excited to be returning to the iconic L.A. Comic Con. As I write this note, members of SAG-AFTRA, the labor union that represents your favorite performers, is on strike. As a member of the Negotiating Committee and on behalf of our 160,000 members, we want to thank each and everyone of you who have supported us in our effort.

We work under many contracts, and must determine if a company we wish to work for is a “struck” company. As of now, the union has worked hard to carve our rules for participating in regional fan conventions.

At this time, L.A. Comic Con, a permissible “non-struck company” has pledged its support for the union and its commitment to abiding by the guidelines.

I am therefore relieved and excited to return!

Thank you all, Sean Astin”

Los Angeles Comic Con tickets (3-Day and VIP) are now for sale at LACC’s website.

Comic conventions: a comprehensive guide to all of the major upcoming comic cons

Featured events