AI Could Force SAG-AFTRA Strike

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

sag-aftra members send letter including jennifer lawrence meryl streep asking for strike against ai

Credit: ITM

SAG-AFTRA is inching closer to joining the WGA in a strike against studios by the day – while it looked like negotiations were progressing in the last few days, a letter sent to the union yesterday and signed by countless key players, including Glenn Close, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Ruffalo, and Meryl Streep seems to indicate that there is one key factor driving them forward.

Nobody wants a strike. Nobody. It disrupts work and creativity and can potentially kill whole projects and careers when not timed correctly. Everyone takes this seriously – but the fact is, when it seems like the losses in the long term would be greater than the losses in the short term, a strike is often the only way to stop it.

AI Is As Much A Problem for SAG-AFTRA As It Is for The WGA

Writers picket a studio
Credit: Variety

Related: Wil Wheaton Blasted Ken Jennings for Hosting ‘Jeopardy’ Through Writers Strike

The sticking point for those losses this time around, it seems, all comes back to AI. The letter warned of many points that they felt that SAG-AFTRA, headed by union president Fran Drescher, was too quick to compromise on, including streaming residuals, self-taped auditions, and minimum pay due to inflation – but AI use was the complaint that took up the most space.

Especially as regards Artificial Intelligence, we do not believe that SAG-AFTRA members can afford to make halfway gains in anticipation of that more will be coming in three years, and we think it is absolutely vital that this negotiation protects not just our likenesses, but makes sure we are well compensated when any of our work is used to train AI.

This echoes the sentiments of the WGA, who, aside from similar protests over streaming residuals and pay, are also striking until studios agree that they will not, now or in the future, utilize AI to create shows, scripts, or episode concepts, an act that could essentially throw writers out of their own writers’ rooms and leave the making of television and movies up to computers.

AI Renderings Could Replace Real Acting if SAG-AFTRA is Not Careful Now

samuel l jackson as nick fury
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Paramount Follows Disney, Guts New Streaming Content Amid Strike

Actors are in a similar situation – now that AI has become advanced enough to recreate actors likeness’ on-screen semi-reliably, it could feasibly steal work from them as well, especially if actors have contracts that allow their likeness to be used by the studio “in perpetuity” – which is incredibly common in the age of mega movie franchises like the MCU.

Because “every time you change costumes in a Marvel movie, they scan you,” some MCU actors had already begun worrying about using their faces in future films. Samuel L. Jackson was shocked to realize last week that others were just seeing the issue, and offered his fellow actors this advice about negotiating their contracts:

Future actors should do what I always do when I get a contract, and it has the words ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘known and unknown’ on it: I cross that sh** out. It’s my way of saying, ‘No, I do not approve of this.’

Studios have offered yearly meetings with both groups to discuss and negotiate advancements in technology and how they might be used. Still, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have been unwilling to budge on this important issue, knowing that the time to draw a line in the sand is before the technology has become more than a novelty.

The Future of Acting Is on the Line

sag-aftra authorization approved graphic
Credit: SAG-AFTRA

Related: Major Studio Embraces AI Amid Strikes and Controversies

The strikes this time are about preserving the careers of “writer” and “actor” as we know them. If AI is allowed to spread through the entertainment industry unchecked, studios will use any opportunity they can to save money, and audiences will end up being grateful for the two big blockbusters featuring actual actors we get per year as the rest slowly transform into algorithm-driven, robot-made attention-grabbers.

The letter concludes with a demand that SAG-AFTRA not move to compromise at this historic moment simply to get things up and running again:

This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us. We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it. If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines. For our union and its future, this is our moment. 

Do you think SAG-AFTRA should join the WGA in their strike? Do you think it could help them end faster? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

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