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Hollywood actors join screenwriters and go on strike: they demand higher salaries and pensions, mechanisms to protect against unauthorized use of their image through artificial intelligence systems and protection against the exploitation of their works on the major streaming platforms . So decided the board of directors of the union that represents them, the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), after the failure of negotiations with that of the producers, the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which includes – among others – Disney, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and NBCUniversal. The strike begins at midnight on July 13th.
A strike that seems inevitable
The final decision was announced at a press conference of the SAG-AFTRA board of directors. The last actors’ strike dates back to 1980 and the last time actors and screenwriters crossed arms at the same time was in 1960. Last June 30, SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP agreed to extend until July 12 the last contract they had signed in 2020, with the prospect of finding new agreements by that date. Now that the deadline has expired again without a new contract, there is the risk of paralysis of the whole industry, counting on the fact that the screenwriters’ strike has already been going on since May 2nd.
The failure of the negotiations
Even before the final decision, in a joint statement by the president of SAG-AFTRA Fran Drescher and the national executive director (also in charge of negotiations with producers) Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union wrote that “after more than four weeks of negotiations”, the AMPTP “remains opposed to offering a fair compromise” on the “key points” demanded by the actors. In the last 10 years, the note continues, salaries have been “severely eroded” by the “growth of the streaming ecosystem”, a problem to which has been added “the existential threat posed by artificial intelligence to creative professions”. Hence, the main request: all actors and all performers “deserve a contract that protects them from the exploitation of their identity and their talent without consent”. According to the union, however, the AMPTP has “refused to recognize that huge changes in the industry and the economy have had a deleterious impact on those who work for the studios”. Fran Drescher called the “responses” received from the producers’ union to the requests made “offensive and disrespectful”.
The declarations of SAG-AFTRA were immediately followed by those of the AMPTP. The producers said they were “deeply sorry” that the actors’ union had decided to walk away from the negotiating table, despite their offer of a historic increase in the minimum wage and royalties, much higher caps on pension and health contributions and revolutionary protection from artificial intelligence. “Rather than continuing to negotiate, the union puts us all in a situation that will aggravate the economic hardships of those who work in the entertainment industry and depend on it for their livelihoods.”
The case of the London premiere of Oppenheimer
Among the big names in Hollywood who have spoken about the strike in recent days there is for example Matt Damon, who defined the reasons put forward by SAG-AFTRA as “incredibly important”. At the European premiere of Barbie, staged yesterday 12 July, Margot Robbie said she was “absolutely” ready to support a possible decision to strike. And the excitement is palpable. Universal moved the premiere of by an hour forward today Oppenheimer in London, so as to allow the cast to participate even in the event of a positive vote by the union board on the actors’ strike (which finally came a few hours later). The red carpet was scheduled to begin at 5.45pm local time. Instead, it was brought forward to 4.45pm with the hope that in those 60 minutes a union decision would not come to prevent the actors – including Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh – from posing for photographers and give interviews without violating union strike rules.