Over the weekend, AMPTP launched their “last, best, and final” offer to SAG-AFTRA, but the actors’ side was quick to clarify one of the major hurdles after weeks of negotiating between the guild and the AMPTP.
Unsurprisingly, it’s coming down to AI protections for actors. In that “last, best, final” offer, AMPTP allegedly—because all reporting is second-hand sourcing—included language that would require studios to pay for digital scans of “schedule F” performers, but not, apparently, pay them for subsequent use of those scans or even seek consent to use their scans (AMPTP has denied this language, we’ll see what comes out in the final contract).
Actors are divided into “schedules” on a pay scale laid out in their minimum bargaining agreement, and the schedule F actors are those who make more than the guild minimum for TV series regulars and/or feature film actors. The minimum for features is currently $60,000, so schedule F includes the “that guy” class of actors and the absolute highest-paid stars working.
This is notable because an unnamed “union-side” source told THR that “Every A-, B-, C-, D- and E-lister — all the higher-paid performers — who think this is a minimum wage strike, they must know they are in this fight. […] This is their strike now when they realize what’s on the line. The people who launched the campaign to take a deal — they’d be f—ked if we took this deal with that in there.”
We’ll see what the AI guidelines end up being when the deal is done, which may be very soon. SAG countered the “last, best, final” offer, and the studios are adjusting the language. Negotiations resumed late Tuesday, which has to be a sign that they’re getting down to brass tacks. So, in the meantime, let’s focus on that quote from the SAG source.
“The people who launched the campaign to take a deal…”
They have to be referring to the meeting between A-listers and SAG leadership. Giving the highest profile members of the union some grace, they could have been earnestly trying to help move the needle in a moment when things seemed stuck between the guild and AMPTP. But based on that quote, it’s clear at least some people within SAG-AFTRA feel that was a concerted effort to pressure the leadership to end the strike. And now they’re talking about the AI usage for schedule F performers as a way of reminding the A-listers—who, let’s be honest, won’t be affected by a new wage scale—that they DO have a horse in this race, and its name is Artificial Intelligence.
Of course, two things can be true. Some of the A-listers involved in that meeting might have thought it was a good faith effort to brainstorm options to jumpstart negotiations, without understanding or knowing about any agenda other people might have. But it increasingly looks like the very tippy-top tier of actors, the ones who get $20 million—or more—upfront, many of whom have lucrative development deals at studios belonging to AMPTP, and many of whom also signed nine-figure deals with streamers in the last few years, the ones who bagged fortunes at a time when their workaday peers were increasingly struggling to make ends meet, it sure looks like those people tried to undercut their own union during a strike. When this is all over, I wonder if we’ll see any hint of ill will between those actors and everyone else.