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‘Barbenheimer’ Cast End Press Runs Early in Support of Strikes — What Lies Ahead for Hollywood?


Who are SAG-AFTRA and what are they fighting for?

On Thursday, July 13, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), an organization representing actors in the USA, held a press conference where they announced a unanimous vote to recommend strike action.

SAG-AFTRA is the guild responsible for safeguarding the rights of actors in the American film, television, and radio industries. Their decision to strike came after rejecting a proposed deal from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The deal would have mandated digital scanning of background actors in major productions, even for one day, with the scanned images being used indefinitely.

SAG-AFTRA claims that some actors were not given the choice to refuse to be scanned, and only receive one day’s pay while granting forever usage rights. To reiterate, this means using this scan again for other projects without additional pay or consent.


Why are actors going on strike?

Since May 2, 2023, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been on strike, involving around 11,500 screenwriters. This strike marks the largest disruption to American television since the Covid pandemic. The writers are protesting the issue of residuals from streaming media and the promotion of AI tools, like chatGPT, as aids for script ideas rather than replacements for human creativity.

Now, SAG-AFTRA is joining the picket line with the WGA. With celebrities like Jane Fonda on the streets striking with members, to Matt Damon speaking for the strikes on the carpet—and now, the cast of Oppenheimer walking out of the film’s London premiere in what is now a viral moment.

An example highlighting the use of this technology occurred in the recent DC film, The Flash, where a simulation of the late Christopher Reeve’s version of Superman was portrayed. Despite the actor having passed away years before production began, his likeness was used through digital means.

In another case reported by The New York Times earlier this year, a voice actor was offered a contract with Netflix that granted the studio the right to use a simulation of the actor’s voice. The AMPTP could argue, with a legal basis, that by signing the contract, the actor provided consent for the perpetual usage of their voice.


What was AMPTP’s Proposal?

While not all the details have been disclosed, the AMPTP released a statement in response to the strike declaration. They stated that they “presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses.”

Just this week, a report from Deadline revealed that the AMPTP is waiting to resume negotiations with the WGA until picketing writers begin experiencing significant financial difficulties, potentially leading to them losing their homes due to a lack of income.


What does this look like for Hollywood from hereon?

This marks the first time since 1960 that both actors and writers have simultaneously initiated a labor dispute. This joint strike will significantly disrupt not only the film industry, but also the economy. According to Kevin Klowden, chief global strategist for the Milken Institute, the strike could result in damages of up to $4 billion — or more, CNN reports.

Major productions like the final season of Stranger Things and Wicked have already halted their activities due to the conflict. The strikes also entail that American stars won’t be able to promote their work at events like the Venice or Toronto film festivals, and the Emmys, among other large scale events.

As a result of the strike, actors will be unable to participate in movie or TV shoots, and they won’t be involved in promoting released films. For example, what just happened with Oppenheimer’s premiere being moved an hour early with cast walking out the moment it hit 12pm US time. It may be time to say goodbye to all future Margot Robbie Barbie-inspired outfits you’ve loved and enjoyed so far.

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