Like the striking writers, the leaders of the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, have harshly described the labor unrest, calling it an “existential” moment for its members.
And, like the writers, they argue that the situation is rapidly approaching crisis as streaming entertainment has exploded over the past decade.
“We want to make sure that acting can be a sustainable career choice, not just for the 100 most famous celebrities in the world, but for the entire large population of our members.” said Duncan Crabtree, Ireland’s chief negotiator. The union said in a recent interview: “They should be able to make a living and be able to pay their mortgages and pay their rent like everyone else.”
Actors have raised a number of complaints, including restrictions on self-tape auditions that have resulted in a decline in live casting sessions due to the pandemic phenomenon.
But the central issue was about rewards and the use of artificial intelligence. The union claims that actor compensation, especially residual income, a form of royalty, has been “significantly undermined” in recent years. In the old system, if a TV series was a hit, actors could expect large balance checks to land in their bank accounts for years afterward. In the streaming age, the pies are getting smaller, the actors argue, as are the checks.
“We are basically interested in ensuring that our members share in the success of the projects they create,” Crabtree Ireland said.
Actors also have serious concerns about artificial intelligence and how the technology will be used to recreate their performances using past productions without being paid or consulted. ing.
Tara Cole, an attorney at the entertainment law firm Johnson-Shapiro Slewett & Cole, which represents actors such as Emma Watson and Ashley Judd, said in an interview that the potential use of artificial intelligence for actors is “terrifying”. said to be a thing.
“I think it’s gotten out of hand,” Cole says. “It feels existential, but people don’t get it. It’s new. It’s scary. It’s not like suddenly you’re in a sequel to a movie and you’re not getting paid for that work.” Everyone is worried about that.”
Chief negotiator Crabtree Ireland said of AI: it must be done now. ”
The Motion Picture and Television Producers Coalition, which is negotiating on behalf of the studios, said in a statement early Thursday morning that it offered “historic wage and residual increases” and “groundbreaking” AI proposals that “keep actors safe”. said. Digital quality. ”
“Rather than continue negotiations, SAG-AFTRA has steered us toward further exacerbating the financial hardships of thousands of people who depend on the industry for their livelihoods,” the studio said. .