Strike while the AI is Hot!
By: Khyheem Finley
Introduction: The Return of Strikes in Hollywood
It appears that history is once again repeating itself as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are on strike again. They are striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the very entity that employs them. This clash between creators and the industry's giants reflects the ongoing struggle to adapt to the rapid evolution of technology in the entertainment world.
The Impact of Technological Advancements
As technology advances, so do businesses, technology, motor vehicles, and the everyday lives of people. As an avid consumer of it all, I appreciate the changes, but issues have arisen for the WGA in facing the reduction in working weeks. Writers used to work on a show for a month, but with streaming services, they now work for perhaps only two weeks before needing to find work again. This presents a significant problem for those who rely on paycheck-to-paycheck income. Furthermore, due to these short-term working conditions, writers are now working separately from the production and set. In interviews, writers have stated that this creates difficulties, as there is now a disconnect between actors, writers, and other crew members on set. This problem is also reflected in the quality of new shows and movies, which seem less captivating than before, with bland storylines and actors struggling to bring characters to life.
AI's Intrusion into the Entertainment Industry
Another pressing concern is the use of AI technology in the industry. With AI, it's possible to replicate the likeness of a person without compensating them for additional work days, cutting costs, or increasing the profits of AMPTP. AMPTP wants to push for the ability to scan background actors, pay them a one-time fee, and use their likenesses for as long as they want, raising ethical and legal concerns. I empathize with these actors because you should be paid whenever your voice, face, or any representation of you is used in any way, shape, or form, especially when it's done without their knowledge.
Transparency: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Transparency is another significant issue in the industry, particularly concerning streaming services. These platforms often don't share data such as sales numbers or TV ratings, making it challenging for talent to gauge the success of their work and negotiate fair compensation, as stated by some actors. This extends to the calculation of residuals for streaming services. Unlike traditional TV programs where residual checks were continuous, streaming services typically pay a fixed payment, regardless of how long the content stays on their platform. This has created uncertainty for writers and actors who rely on residuals for their income. Some actors took to social media to voice their frustrations and share with the public what they get as far as residuals from our favorite shows, and to be honest some of theses checks are ridiculous. Some stars from very popular shows like “Stranger Things” are making a couple hundred dollars. Even stars in other shows stated they received 10 cents!
The Disparity Between Industry Titans and Rising Stars
There is also a growing disconnect between high-paid producers and companies and the actors and writers who aren't A-listers. Negotiations of contracts between actors' unions and producers typically occur every three years, and these discussions can be contentious, often leaving the interests of the lesser-known talent underrepresented.
A Glimpse of Hope in Recent Negotiations
But to share some hope in a recent development, negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP reached a tentative agreement after multiple long, dragged-out days of talks. This allowed writers to cease striking and start working again, signaling a potential shift in the dynamics of the industry.
Conclusion: Navigating an Ever-Changing Industry
In conclusion, the entertainment industry is undergoing significant changes, driven by technology, AI, streaming services, and evolving labor dynamics. The issues raised by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes highlight the challenges faced by writers and actors in adapting to these changes while ensuring fair compensation and protection of their rights. The future of Hollywood may very well be shaped by how these issues are resolved in the coming years.