Fran Drescher, President of SAG on Strike
For the first time in 7 decades the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) has joined the Writer’s Guild (WGA) in striking the major studios and streamers. SAG represents the 160,000 actors in film, television, video games, theater, commercials and more. Even the A-list stars are on strike.
Both the SAG and WGA strike were called after months of fruitless negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The business group represents all the major media giants including Amazon, Disney, Apple, Sony, Universal, Paramount, etc. They don’t represent small, independent producers.
Contracts in the entertainment industry are very complex and specific to that industry, so it’s not easy to explain all the issues. Basically, the writers and actors are asking for fair compensation from streaming, safe work conditions, and protection of their jobs from being replaced by AI. The Directors Guild already secured some of these same terms in their recent negotiations. However, the AMPTP is always more deferential to the director’s clout than writers or actors.
The streaming issue has been building for over ten years. The studios originally claimed that streaming was “new media” and therefore should not be considered a significant source of revenue. And they continue to make that same claim even though they raked in almost a trillion dollars from streaming last year. Instead, they are offering a only a few percentage points increase in compensation.
The threat represented by the rampant misuse and abuse of artificial intelligence (AI) is a new issue, but the rapid development of the technology made it a central part of the negotiations. Writers and actors are asking that the studios not replace anyone with AI and to not allow their image, performance, words etc., to be used to train AI. The studios offered to pay actors for one day in exchange for having rights to their image and performance in perpetuity1. This is actually better than what they offered the writers, which was nothing at all. The studios refused to even discuss AI with writers. (more from George RR Martin)
SAG-AFTRA voluntarily extended the negotiating deadline and worked with federal mediators to come to an agreement. Fran Drescher, the President of the Screen Actors Guild, termed the studio’s final offer “Insulting.”
The actors voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike. The SAG strike was officially called on July 13th as a “last resort.” The SAG strike is comprehensive, stopping all work on camera, behind the scenes, scanning, promotion, conventions, publicity of any kind. This covers past present and future projects until an agreement is reached.
The writers strike already stopped production of new shows, but allowed shows that already had scripts to continue shooting. Now that has stopped also.
All of the major Hollywood unions, including the DGA, just released a combined statement of solidarity. Even those that already have a contract will not cross picket lines.
Everyone’s determination was taken up another notch when an executive slipped in an interview and said “It’s been agreed for months that we [studios] want to break the guilds … drag the process out until they are losing their homes.”
So the strike has become an existential issue: save the professions of Writing and Acting, to have content created by humans and not faked by technology, and for the actual humans doing the actual creative work to be paid a fair wage.
We can expect the strikes to continue for months. Until then, you can maybe catch up on TV shows and movies from from the past hundred years that you haven’t seen yet. Or listen to new music. And if you go to a convention and see an actor signing autographs for a role they did long ago, well, that’s how they’re earning their living. Be kind. Tip well.
Recently released are guidelines for what actors can and cannot work on. It is noteworthy that convention appearances are specifically lined out as things actors may not do while the strike is on, which means that Creation Entertainment’s upcoming Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in August is pretty much screwed, as is the rest of their lineup for the year. Not a single actor can show up for the convention, because if they do, they run the risk of being sanctioned by the Screen Actor’s Guild. Unsurprisingly, Creation Con has issued a statement to the contrary, stating that their conventions “will continue as planned, and do not fall under strike restrictions.” SAG-AFTRA, on the other hand, says that convention appearances are expressly prohibited. Creation Entertainment would appear to be trying to do an end run around SAG-AFTRA by calling their conventions “special events”, rather than “conventions”.
We stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA. It is time for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to recognize that their world is built on the labors of the creatives, not the musical-chairs-style replaceable CEO’s of media companies. Refusing to recognize this simple fact flies in the face of not only logic, but basic human decency.
Special thanks to the people who help with the strike fund and bringing food and water to the writers and actors standing in 100° heat trying to save their livelihoods, and give us the best shows possible.
1 Sign away the rights to your own face, forever, for a single day’s wages? Why would anybody agree to that? Somebody explain to me how any of that makes sense. – ed.
David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.