The strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has entered its 91st day, with no sign of a resolution in sight. The actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have failed to reach an agreement on a new contract, despite several rounds of negotiations. The main issues of contention are streaming residuals, self-tape auditions, and artificial intelligence.
One of the key demands of SAG-AFTRA is to increase the residual payments for actors who work on streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. Residuals are royalties that actors receive when their work is rerun or reused on different media. SAG-AFTRA argues that the current formula for streaming residuals is outdated and unfair, as it does not reflect the popularity and profitability of streaming services.
According to SAG-AFTRA, streaming residuals account for only 3% of the total residuals paid to actors, while streaming platforms generate more than 60% of the industry’s revenue. The union wants to change the formula to a revenue-based model, similar to what the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) have negotiated with the AMPTP.
The AMPTP, however, has rejected this proposal, claiming that it would be too costly and complicated to implement. The studios also argue that streaming residuals are not comparable to traditional residuals, as streaming services offer different subscription plans and viewing options to consumers. The AMPTP has offered to increase the streaming residuals by 26%, which is the same percentage that the WGA and the DGA accepted in their contracts3.
Another point of dispute is the regulation of self-tape auditions, which are auditions that actors record and submit online. SAG-AFTRA wants to limit the number and duration of self-tape auditions that studios can request from actors, as well as ensure that actors are compensated for their time and expenses. The union also wants to protect the privacy and ownership rights of actors over their self-tape auditions, and prevent studios from using them for purposes other than casting.
The AMPTP, on the other hand, has resisted these demands, arguing that self-tape auditions are a convenient and efficient way of finding talent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The studios also claim that self-tape auditions are voluntary and optional, and that actors are free to decline them if they wish. The AMPTP has offered to provide some guidelines and best practices for self-tape auditions, but not to impose any restrictions or obligations on them.
A third issue that has emerged in the negotiations is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to scan actors’ faces and generate digital performances. SAG-AFTRA is concerned that this technology could replace or manipulate actors’ work without their consent or compensation. The union wants to ban the use of AI for creating new performances or altering existing ones, unless the actor agrees and is paid accordingly. The union also wants to ensure that actors have the right to approve or reject any use of their likeness or voice by AI5\.
The AMPTP, however, has dismissed these concerns, stating that AI is not a threat but an opportunity for actors. The studios assert that AI is a creative tool that can enhance actors’ performances and expand their possibilities. The AMPTP has offered to consult with SAG-AFTRA on any use of AI that involves actors’ work, but not to grant them any veto power or additional compensation.
The talks between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have been suspended since October 11, 2023, after nine days of negotiations. Both sides have accused each other of being unreasonable and inflexible. SAG-AFTRA has vowed to continue its strike until it achieves a fair contract that reflects the changing landscape of the industry. The AMPTP has urged SAG-AFTRA to accept its offer, which it claims is generous and consistent with what other unions have agreed to.
The strike has had a significant impact on the film and television production in Hollywood, causing delays, cancellations, and losses for both actors and studios. It has also affected other workers in the industry, such as writers, directors, crew members, and service providers. The strike has also drawn support from other unions, celebrities, politicians, and fans.
It is unclear when the talks will resume or what it will take to break the impasse. As the strike enters its fourth month, many observers wonder if it will end soon or drag on indefinitely.