SAG-AFTRA and the major studios remain at loggerheads over several issues, with movie and TV producers striking Friday for the first time since 1980.
According to sources on both sides, the main result is the demand of the union that 2% of the income from the show. The two sides are also far apart in terms of growth rates, with the studios offering 5%, 4% and 3.5% over the three years of the contract, while the contract is seeking 11%, 4% and 4%.
But that only scratches the surface. The parties are at odds on many issues, few of which have been made public.
Sometimes, the two parties do not even agree on the issue of the dispute. They took part in the latest public debate on Thursday using artificial intelligence to simulate actors.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief executive, said the studios wanted to pay for a day’s worth of work to be changed, and use it forever. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers strongly objected to this, saying that its proposal prohibited the reuse of a project for which the extension was written.
Here’s a breakdown of the imbalances — big and small — that cause strokes.
SAG-AFTRA requires 2% of the revenue generated by each show for the advertising platform to be given to the performers. The partnership can use Content Valuation, a measurement tool introduced last fall by Parrot Analytics, to determine how much each display is suitable for the platform.
Parrot Analytics uses Google search, social media mentions, and other data sources to measure the relevance of each show. The metric is not a measure of viewership, but rather what each show earns in the industry. To estimate this, it uses quarterly revenue and other segments – including subscriptions and advertising – for each show on the platform.
SAG-AFTRA – led by union president Fran Drescher – says it’s important to pay actors to perform well. The agreement states that it is not married to Parrot Analytics, but that the studios are not affiliated with any other performance measurement method. The studio reportedly explained early and often that the whole idea was not feasible due to difficulties in measuring success.
Drescher was the “inspiration” behind the request, according to Crabtree-Ireland. Discussing the issue in the room, he told AMPTP panelists that his father, Morty, is a systems engineer, and he “sees systems.” He also made it clear that this contract matter is the most important thing for him.
AMPTP has provided the same financial statement to SAG-AFTRA that was approved by the Directors Guild of America. This includes a 5% increase to the minimum wage in the first year of the contract, followed by increases of 4% and 3.5%. SAG-AFTRA says it is not keeping pace with inflation, and has demanded 11%, 4% and 4%.
AMPTP also provided increases in other categories of actors: 11% for background actors and 58% for guest stars in commercials. (In the latter case, SAG-AFTRA approved the increase.)
SAG-AFTRA is also seeking a 230% increase in foreign residuals, according to a studio source. AMPTP offers the same increase as that given to DGA: 76%.
SAG-AFTRA does not want to ban AI, but it does want to ensure that the use of an actor’s likeness to create new work is done with compensation and permission. AMPTP says it has agreed to this, but Crabtree-Ireland said the devil is in the details.
“It’s a very well-designed idea that the average person looking at it can’t see all the holes in it,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities to drive a Mack truck.”
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The contract requires the actor to agree to use their services to train the AI system. AMPTP may agree that AI training is used to modify or recreate the performer’s appearance. But according to Crabtree-Ireland, AMPTP will give studios carte blanche to train AI systems to create “creative” musicians, or other purposes.
SAG-AFTRA is also demanding that the studios obtain a collective agreement for their own use of AI, which the studios have refused to grant. There is also a debate about the defenders.
SAG-AFTRA wants to reduce the use of self-recorded auditions, which have become an industry standard due to the epidemic. The organization wants these auditions to be no more than five pages. AMPTP has given a limit of eight pages. The two sides are also working on the changeover time and the system can explain that no special lighting or equipment is needed.
- Pension and health benefits
Manufacturers contribute to pension and health plans based on players’ earnings up to a certain level. For a half-hour session, the cap is $15,000; for one hour is $24,500. SAG-AFTRA wants to increase the ceiling to $45,000 and $75,000, respectively, to account for 40 years of inflation. AMPTP has agreed to increase the ceiling to $20,000 and $30,000.
Actors Access is a website dedicated to information sharing. Players can sign up and upload their bios and review tools and be connected to a job. The site has a free section and a beginner section, and there is a fee to upload reels. SAG-AFTRA says that those who pay the premium receive special treatment. The agreement will stipulate that people seeking employment under the agreement do not have to pay to find a job.
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Gary Marsh, who runs the company, said actors don’t have to pay to ship props. He said he did not know how his company was affected by the negotiations. The AMPTP has argued that it will not agree with the content targeting someone who is not part of the discussion.
- Time selection for TV players
During the promotional period, actors were forced to wait longer and longer to hear if their show was rescheduled. This is one of the primary ways in which changes in the game affect player wages. SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with Netflix last year that restricts selections up to 18 months after the start of production on a season. The union would like to find the same agreement with all other companies represented by AMPTP. The studio says it has agreed to do so for actors who earn less than $65,000 a share for half-hour shows and less than $70,000 a share for one-hour shows.
- Backstage players outside of Los Angeles and New York
The SAG-AFTRA union affects actors in a handful of locations across the country — specifically, New York and Los Angeles. The union would like to represent the additions to the US AMPTP argued that it cannot use the union negotiations to expand its authority, and this is an unacceptable issue of negotiation. SAG-AFTRA withdrew the proposal.
SAG-AFTRA also says that its union must cover taped practices. The recording is not clearly defined, although much of it is done by contract. As with the case of the actors, AMPTP has said that the union is misusing the negotiations to increase its power.
(Photo: SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher)