For the first time in 63 years, both SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and the WGA (the Writers Guild of America) took to the streets of Los Angeles to demand higher pay, better working conditions, and an end to concerns about the use of artificial intelligence in production.
The unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents film studios, TV networks, and streaming services, were unable to reach an agreement.
Actors and writers claim that the streaming boom has severely impacted their residual pay, which is money earned from film and TV episode reruns – broadcast TV rates were significantly higher.
Series have become shorter, with longer pauses between seasons, and unions claim that while series expenditures are increasing, the proportion of money going to performers has not increased.
Actors perceive their jobs as particularly vulnerable to emerging technologies, with AI capable of accurately replicating facial emotions, body movement, and voice.
Members of both unions marched outside major studios including Warner Bros, Netflix and Disney. The 11,500 screenwriters belonging to WGA have been demonstrating since May.
Celebrities such as George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, and Halle Berry offered their support.
“This is an inflection point in our industry,” Clooney stated in a statement. “A large number of actors and writers have lost their ability to make a living.”
“That has to change for our industry to survive.” That road begins now for performers.”
Baldwin, who had all criminal charges against him dismissed 18 months after Halyna Hutchins was killed on a movie set, praised the union for launching the strike to protect its “rank and file” members.
“I don’t think anybody really wants a strike, but they don’t want to continue working under the unfair contracts that we’re working under now,” he stated.
“So congratulations to everybody and I hope this is over right after we get everything we want.”