Like the striking writers, leaders of SAG-AFTRA, the workers’ union, described their labor dispute in harsh terms, calling the current moment “existential” for their members.
And like the writers, they argued that this was fast approaching a crisis because of how streaming entertainment has exploded over the last decade.
“We are looking to ensure that acting can be a viable career choice for people, not just the 100 most famous celebrities in the world, but for the whole large population of our membership,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, said in a recent interview. “They should be able to make ends meet and you know, pay a mortgage or pay rent like everybody else.”
The actors raised a number of complaints, including the regulations on self-taped auditions, a pandemic phenomenon that has resulted in fewer live casting sessions.
But the core issues were about compensation, as well as the use of artificial intelligence. The union argued that actor compensation – especially residuals, a type of royalty payment – has been “severely eroded” in recent years. In the old system, if a television series was a runaway success, actors could expect significant residual checks to hit their bank account for years afterward. In the streaming era, the actors argue, the pie has shrunk, as have the checks.
“We are fundamentally interested in making sure our members share in the success of projects they create,” Mr Crabtree-Ireland said.
The actors also have serious concerns about artificial intelligence, and how the technology could be used to replicate their performances using their previous work without them being compensated or consulted.
Tara Kole, a lawyer at the entertainment law firm Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole, which represents actors such as Emma Watson and Ashley Judd, said in an interview that the potential use of artificial intelligence was “terrifying” to actors.
“I think that has become the intractable issue,” Ms. Kole said. “It feels existential and people don’t understand it. It is new. It’s scary. Everyone’s worried that all of a sudden they’re going to be in a movie sequel and they’re not getting paid for their work.”
Mr Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator, said of AI, “We have a real vested interest in making sure that something significant is done about this so that we’re not trying to fix it retroactively three years from now. It needs to be done now.”
In a statement, the Alliance of Film and Television Producers, which is bargaining on behalf of the studios, said early Thursday morning that they had offered “historic pay and residual increases,” and proposed a “groundbreaking” AI proposal that “protects the actors.” digital likeness.”
“Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has set us on a course that will deepen the financial hardships for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods,” the studios said.