The board members of the actors union in Hollywood voted on Friday to accept the agreement with studios that ended their strike, which lasted almost four months. The union’s leaders highlighted the progress achieved through weeks of careful negotiations.
At a press conference held in the afternoon, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director and chief negotiator for the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, announced that the tentative agreement received an 86% approval rate in the vote.
The union’s members, who spent the summer and early fall on picket lines instead of working on film and television sets, will now vote on the three-year contract agreement. The voting period will start on Tuesday and run through December.
According to Crabtree-Ireland, this agreement will ensure the viability of the film industry as a career for actors from working-class backgrounds.
Fran Drescher, the President of SAG-AFTRA, stated that the studios thought they could wait over two months before starting negotiations in order to outlast the actors.
“What were they up to? Were they attempting to force us out with smoke?” she asked. “Well, dear, I gave up smoking a while back.”
Crabtree-Ireland and Drescher did not disclose the individuals who objected to the agreement and their reasons. The board vote was weighted, making it difficult to determine the exact number of votes against approval.
Overall, the happy scene at SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles headquarters was as different as can be from the defiant, angry tone of a news conference in the same room in July, when guild leaders announced that actors would join writers in a historic strike that shook the industry.
The board, consisting of Billy Porter, Jennifer Beals, Sean Astin, and Sharon Stone, had a successful vote that was not surprising given that many of the same people were involved in the negotiations. The tension of the situation was lessened by union leaders declaring the end of the strike immediately after reaching a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Wednesday, instead of waiting for final approval.
However, it remained a crucial milestone in the return to normalcy in the Hollywood industry, if such a concept even exists.
Actors do not have to wait for ratification before resuming their acting roles – “in fact, some of them have already done so,” stated Crabtree-Ireland.
The final points of contention in the agreement were related to the control of artificial intelligence.
“AI was a dealbreaker,” Drescher said. “If we didn’t get that package, then what are we doing to protect our members?”
On Friday, union leaders provided an overview of the contract gains, including those mentioned above. They mentioned that a more comprehensive breakdown of the terms will be released next week.
It is necessary for productions to obtain the consent of actors whose digital copies are utilized. This requires a detailed explanation of how an actor’s image will be utilized, as a generic statement will not be sufficient. This also applies to background actors used in crowd scenes or other simulated situations.
The guild stated that when an actor’s digital likeness is used in a movie or show they are already working on, they will be paid the same as if they had actually performed the actions. In order to use a likeness in a new project, companies must negotiate new permission.
According to Drescher in an interview with The Associated Press, the consent is limited to only one job. If it is to be used for another purpose, the individual must return and obtain consent again. This is a significant consideration.
If an image used on a show features an actor who is not actively performing, the holders of the license have the right to negotiate a fee.
SAG-AFTRA announced that they have secured a significant provision on the last day of negotiations. This provision states that if generative AI is utilized to produce a synthetic character using features from multiple performers, such as using Denzel Washington’s eyes or Margot Robbie’s hair, consent must be obtained from all individuals involved. Additionally, the union has the right to negotiate compensation for each performer used in this process.
The agreement involves establishing a new fund to compensate artists for future streaming of their content, in addition to the standard residuals received for the airing of films or TV shows. This disagreement caused negotiations to come to a halt for over a week last month, but studios eventually resumed discussions.
According to Drescher, the individuals were open to the idea that a new source of income needed to be created, hence they were willing to take a risk.
Effective immediately, there will be a 7% increase in general wages, followed by a 4% increase in July and another 3.5% increase one year later.
Starting immediately, background actors will see an 11% raise, followed by additional increases of 4% and 3.5% in the following years.
There will also be additional funding available for actors who must relocate in order to participate in TV series.
In order to film scenes that include nudity or simulated sex, productions will now need to employ intimacy coordinators. This has become a more frequent occurrence in the industry, but was not previously required.
Performers who are asked to both dance and sing will be fully compensated for both skills, rather than productions receiving a two-for-one deal when performers take on multiple roles.
All performers who require hair and makeup must have access to suitable artists, who are able to cater to their specific ethnicities and appearances.
The agreement also provides additional safeguards and resources for recording auditions independently.
Krysta Fauria, a journalist from the Associated Press, provided reporting for this article.