The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is at a critical juncture as it negotiates for a new contract. With the current contract set to expire on June 30th, the guild’s president, Fran Drescher, has recently spoken out about the progress of the negotiations. In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Drescher highlighted the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the guild and its members in the ever-evolving entertainment industry.
According to Drescher, the negotiations are making headway in some areas but not in others. The guild has received unprecedented support from its members, with a staggering 98% voting in favor of authorizing a strike if the contract talks fail to reach an acceptable deal. This overwhelming support indicates the seriousness with which the members are approaching these negotiations.
Drescher and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the guild’s national executive director, have expressed optimism about the negotiations, stating that they have been “extremely productive”. However, more than 1,000 actors, including many prominent SAG-AFTRA members, have signed a letter to guild leaders expressing their preparedness to strike if necessary.
One of the primary concerns for SAG-AFTRA is economic fairness. The guild argues that outdated contract terms, coupled with the evolution of the media business, have made it increasingly difficult for members to maintain a middle-class lifestyle working as performers. This is in stark contrast to the immense profits and lavish executive compensations that studios are posting.
Another critical issue is residuals. As new business models emerge and SAG-AFTRA content is monetized globally, the guild believes that residual payments are not reflecting the economic value of this exhibition. SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring that residual payments reflect the economic value of members’ contributions and serve as a meaningful source of performer earnings.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is also a significant concern. AI has the potential to mimic members’ voices, likenesses, and performances, posing a threat to the work of guild members. SAG-AFTRA seeks agreements around acceptable uses, protections against misuse, and fair compensation for the use of members’ work to train AI systems and create new performances.
The guild has also raised concerns about self-taped auditions, which they believe are “unregulated and out of control”. The guild seeks reasonable rules and limitations, as well as access to other casting formats, to ensure fair access to work opportunities and protect performers against exploitation.
As the deadline looms, the stakes are high for SAG-AFTRA and its members. The entertainment industry has undergone significant changes, especially with the advent of the digital age and streaming services. The guild’s negotiations are not just about a new contract; they are about setting a precedent for the future of actors and performers in an ever-evolving industry. It remains to be seen whether SAG-AFTRA can secure a deal that reflects the current realities and adequately protects the interests of its members.
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