Hollywood and the wider global film and television industry has been waiting with bated breath to see whether the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (“AMPTP”) and Screen Actors’ Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (“SAG-AFTRA”) would come to the negotiating table following the successful settling of the Writers’ Guild of America (“WGA”) strike. The WGA negotiation was hard won (after 148 days of striking – we reported on the WGA strike here. As the SAG-AFTRA strike reached its 100th day on 21 October, the Union announced that executives representing AMPTP had asked them to restart negotiations, which began in earnest on 24 October. 

Whilst both sides continued to negotiate over the weekend hinting that there may be some movement by the parties, there is currently very little information about these refreshed negotiations. There was a similar media blackout when the WGA was negotiating, so we are unlikely to have clarification until this round comes to a close. We know that the previous round concluded on 11 October without any movement on either side, with SAG-AFTRA putting out a strong statement against AMPTP’s approach at that time. The latest update from SAG-AFTRA was published on 26 October confirming that negotiations remain ongoing. It has been reported that discussions around improved artist participation in streaming revenues are proving to be particularly contentious.

What does SAG-AFTRA want?

Much like the WGA, SAG-AFTRA are proposing a raft of changes to the current series of basic agreements between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP (“TV/Theatrical Contracts”) to grant greater protection for its members. These include wage increases in line with inflation, proper participation in streaming revenue, protections for background actors and changes to rules about working in production hiatuses, amongst many others. 

SAG-AFTRA is also fighting for protections for artists when it comes to AI; they want to establish a comprehensive set of provisions which ensure that actors are able to give informed consent and receive fair compensation for any “digital replica” made of them (i.e. an AI-generated copy of the actor which can then be manipulated like other computer-generated content), as well as in circumstances when their voice, likeness or performance is used to train AI designed to create new material. 

What does this mean for actors in the US?

SAG-AFTRA specifies that actors who are SAG-AFTRA members cannot act, sing, dance, perform stunts, pilot on-camera aircraft, puppeteer or do performance capture and motion capture work in front of the camera, plus they can’t attend promotional events during the strike or even dress up in Halloween costumes that might promote struck work. There are many struck productions (because they are contracted under the TV/Theatrical Contracts) which are hoping for positive news from the negotiations. Blockbuster movies and hit TV shows alike have been forced to stop production without any way of planning to start up again.

What does this mean for the industry in the UK?

UK actors, creatives and crew have been affected by the strike; some are waiting for struck productions to return to set and others are struggling to find work while much of the industry has ground to a halt. UK productions, which are unaffected by the strikes as they are outside SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdiction, are ongoing and the UK’s trade union laws mean that actors would not be protected if they were to go on strike in solidarity with their US counterparts. Therefore, Equity, SAG-AFTRA’s UK equivalent, advise UK actors working under Equity contracts to continue working as normal (if filming is ongoing). 

Like many in the entertainment industry around the globe, we await the outcome of the next round of negotiations to see if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP can come to a compromise over the TV/Theatrical Contracts. Success in negotiating improved terms for actors in the United States may well have a powerful effect on similar agreements in other jurisdictions, as the position of the American producers will inform the direction of travel for producers elsewhere in the industry.