Things are getting out of hand. The WGA is still on strike, and it is likely to continue for quite some time because now SAG-AFTRA has also voted to strike. In the midst of these two contracts there was a negotiation between the DGA and the AMPTP where a settlement was struck but, all in all, most of the entertainment unions are showing strong support for each other, all knowing that one cannot exist without the others and that the AMPTP is being wildly unrealistic with their desires to use AI/Chat GPT technology to replace jobs as well as their seemingly unshakeable desire to not pay people a reasonable wage.
You’ll see the famous faces like Matt Damon out on the picket lines and think to yourself, “but he’s a multi-millionaire he doesn’t need more.” And then you’ll realize that Matt Damon’s net worth is $170 million while Bob Iger’s is about $350 million. You’ll also realize that the reality of most “working actors” is not the reality of the Matt Damon’s of the world. Most “working actors” make between 50 and 75k, which, depending on where they live (arguably most in NYC and LA) is really not much. Most working writers in Hollywood and TV land are making about 100 times less than the top executives of their companies. All of this is happening while the CEO’s are not only raking in record profits but, according to some quotes, having a real laugh at the writers’ and actors’ expenses. The AFL-CIO tweeted a portion of an article last week:
"The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it a “cruel but necessary evil."
In the case of SAG-AFTRA one of the items on the table was allegedly a “groundbreaking AI proposal” from the AMPTP. According to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national exec director and chief negotiator, “they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.” The AMPTP refutes that claim, of course, stating that the proposal “…would restrict the use of the digital replica to the motion picture for which the background actor is employed.” My guess is that AMPTP is lying more than Mr. Crabtree-Ireland but even if they are being completely honest, in many cases a background actor earns about $150 per day so instead of earning (let’s estimate that a background actor is only needed in 2 scenes and they shoot over one week) $750 before taxes they earn $150 total despite the possibility of appearing in more than just that one scene. The film executives could take that person’s likeness and use it throughout the (generally 5-8 weeks) of filming and the actor would receive no additional pay.
Bob Iger (Disney CEO, net worth $350 million) thinks that the writers and actors are being “unrealistic.” While at the party of insane wealth that is the ‘Sun Valley Conference” Iger told Vanityfair that the [WGA andSAG-AFTRA] must “be realistic about the business environment, and what this business can deliver.” Similar to back in May when David Zaslav (CEO of Warner Brothers, Discoery. and one of the criminal masterminds behind the success of the Duggar family) was sipping champagne at Cannes while bemoaning the lack of mega-yachts in the harbor, all the while both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA members need to earn a minimum amount to keep their health coverage. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the writers and actors who are being unrealistic, Bob.
Absolute delight and President of SAG-AFTRA Fran Drescher, made the same point I’ve been making here for the last few posts, at the same press conference that Crabtree-Ireland spoke at. She said, much more eloquently than I could have:
The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital,AI. This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don’t standtall right now, we are all going tobe in trouble. [cont. later] We are all goingto be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business, who caresmore about Wall Street than you and your family. Most Americans don’t have morethan $500 in an emergency. This is a very big deal, and weighed heavy on us.But at some point, you have to say, ‘No we’re not going to take this anymore.You people are crazy! What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’
She went on to make an excellent point about “moving furniture around on the Titanic”, but I digress, and our angel Fran is right. These type of moves and expectations by the executives and studios are going put an enormous amount of people out of work. It will be MUCH more than writers and actors. Consider the caterers, the drivers, set designers, security guards, stage hands, hair and make-up personnel, wardrobe employees, I could go on and on. There is an entire economy of people you don’t realize work to make art happen and many of them are not in the high-profile jobs you think of when you think of the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Most people, are just getting by, just like everyone else.
And if you think none of this matters because the arts aren’t a basic human necessity and you’re more concerned with survival or math, let me leave you with this quote from one of the great American writers of our lifetime, Aaron Sorkin, performed by one of the great American actors of our lifetime, Richard Schiff, from ‘Gone Quiet’ episode seven, season 3 of The West Wing:
There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age ofLorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare.
Art matters. No, it may not be housing, or food, or security, but it matters a great deal in a well-rounded society. We may live, but we don’t live WELL without the arts. It is not a shock to me that this is all happening when we are in the midst of a fractured society; but it is proof that we have to do more to beat back the Neros of the world, who are happy to sit back and watch Rome burn.
You can help WGA and SAG-AFTRA. Don't cross picket lines! You can also send funds Business Insider lists three sources here.
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