Sunday, November 5th 2023, 11:43 am
A deal to resolve film and television actors’ 113-day strike could be near as the union representing them said it is reviewing Hollywood and TV studios’ final offer.
The heads of the major studios met virtually with the Actors’ Guild negotiating committee on Saturday to discuss the latest offer.
The negotiating committee for the SAG-AFTRA union said it received a “last, best, and final offer” from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, whose members include Disney, Netflix, NBCUniversal, and Warner Bros. Discovery.
Even if a deal is reached soon, it would not necessarily end the strike. The deal would still need to be ratified by members of the 160,000 union before it goes into effect.
Actors union group SAG-AFTRA has been on strike over an ongoing labor dispute since July. Here is everything you need to know about the union and what is going on.
What is SAG-AFTRA?
SAG-AFTRA stands for The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The group is an American labor union that was formed in 2012 when the two labor unions, SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), merged to become one. Both unions were founded in the 1930s as the Great Depression took a toll on the economy.
SAG was formed in 1933 after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced motion picture salary cuts of 50 percent for studio employees, including actors. At first, the group did not consist of any well-known public figures, but they set out to form a self-governing organization of film actors. At this point, the studios were in charge of pay, contracts, and working conditions. The group caused a shift in the power structure and no longer required individual actors to negotiate basic contract provisions. Studios would sign contracts with the union, and any members of the union would work under the already agreed-upon conditions. Later in the year, major stars started to join the group and take on positions on the Board of Directors, which gave the group more credibility. Throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st, SAG served as a way to secure the protection, fair treatment, and minimum pay for actors. Actors who are members of SAG agree not to accept any work that is not covered by the union. The actors' union represents about 160,000 performers, which includes everyone from well-known stars to background actors and extras.
AFTRA was created (as AFRA) in August 1937 to represent professional actors, journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, and disc jockeys from numerous media industries. The union began with locations in Los Angeles and New York, and by the end of the year, they had over 2,000 members, including 70% of all radio artists, and began adding locations to other cities such as Chicago. In 1952, AFRA merged with the Television Authority to create AFTRA, and in 2012 merged with SAG to create SAG-AFTRA.
To become a member of the group, one must “work in a position covered by a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement, provided that any person qualifying through work as a background actor must have completed three days of work as a background actor under a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement. Membership is also available to those who work one day of employment in a principal or speaking role (actor/performer) or as a Recording Artist in a SAG-AFTRA-covered production,” according to their website.
Who is involved in the strike?
The most well-known player in the strike is Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA and actor known for her role on the 1990s CBS sitcom “The Nanny.” Drescher has served as president since 2021 and has taken a public stand in the strike by giving speeches encouraging members of SAG-AFTRA to take a stand.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is the national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA. He is leading the team to either make the deal to return to work or decide to continue striking. He began as a staff attorney for SAG-AFTRA in 2000 after working for several years as a criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles.
Carol Lombardini has been president and chief negotiator of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the conglomeration of studios, streaming services, and production companies that create contracts with unions. She leads negotiations for studios in contract talks with all of Hollywood’s unions and guilds. She has served as head opposition in both the writers' and actors' strikes this year.
They oppose the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which represents a coalition of more than 350 companies, but three leaders have come to embody the group: Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav, and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.
The trio, along with NBCUniversal chair and chief content officer Donna Langley, have taken a direct role in strike negotiations.
Why are they striking?
Their demands include general wage increases, protections against the use of actor images through artificial intelligence, boosts in compensation for successful streaming programs, and improvements in health and retirement benefits.
In the past, when an actor appeared on a popular television show, they could count on royalty checks to supplement their income, even when they weren’t working. The streaming model has changed how that income works, with residual payments untethered from a show or movie’s popularity. Actors want a long-term share of the revenue that popular shows bring in, even after they have gone off the air and are used on streaming services.
How will this affect me?
Due to union rules, many shows will be delayed, some even indefinitely, for the next couple of years. Many movie releases will also be pushed back.
The rules of the Union say actors are not allowed to do any part of their jobs, which go far beyond actually shooting films and TV shows.
They can not make appearances or promote their work on podcasts or at premieres. They are also not allowed to do any production work, including auditions, readings, rehearsals, voiceovers or wardrobe fittings.
Some of the productions that have been affected by the strike include TV shows like Yellowstone, Euphoria, Stranger Things, and Law and Order and movies such as Wicked, It Ends With Us, Deadpool 3, Avatar 3 and 4, and more.
How long will it last?
The most recent actor’s strike was in 1980 and lasted three months. It is unknown how long negotiations will last this time around.
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