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by Mick the Ram
After almost 4 months of strikes, US actors are expected to resume work on Friday 10 November after their union agreed a provisional deal with Hollywood studios.
Sag-Aftra said a unanimous vote had secured the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP) to end the dispute in which actors had been pushing for improved pay structures, as well insisting some safeguards be put in place in relation to the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) and its usage in the industry.
It is understood that the deal was valued at more than $1bn and includes increases in minimum salaries, a new “streaming participation” bonus, and more protections against their images and voices being replicated by AI.
The union represents around 160,000 members and has been on strike since July 14, causing major disruption, not only in the US, but also in other countries such as the UK.
High-profile celebrities have played their part in the strike action, with several spotted at various stages giving their support on picket lines, including the likes of Jennifer Anniston and George Clooney.
Stars align in search of better deal
Hollywood has been at a virtual standstill since the actors’ union and writers’ union both voted to strike concurrently for the first time in 63 years. On top of holding up film production, stars have also not been attending events such as premieres, going on chat shows to promote movies, or carrying out publicity projects.
Indeed, at the start of the action saw the cast of blockbuster Oppenheimer walk out on the premiere to the film, which really pushed the message home. Major stars of course are paid huge sums of money, but many lesser-known performers often struggle to get by and often rely on the income from a second, or even third job.
Billions of dollars lost
The shutdown paralysed the entertainment industry and is thought to have cost the California economy a staggering $6.5bn, with more to come as things will not immediately return to normal. Awards ceremonies had to be moved from their normal slots, with the Emmys pushed back to January next year, from its usual slot of September.
Statement from union
A statement from the union announced that a “tentative agreement” had been reached and as of 12:01am PT on November 9, the strike would be officially suspended and all picket locations closed. It went on to say how “thrilled and proud” they were to tell the members that there had been a unanimous vote of approval for the deal offered to them.
It will bring “extraordinary scope” and can be “valued at over one billion dollars”. The statement continued: “We have arrived at a contract that will enable Sag-Aftra members from every category to build sustainable careers, many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”
Largest wage increase in 4 decades
The deal is predicted to bring the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last 40 years. Also, it provides a brand new residual for streaming programmes; extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of AI; plus significant contract increases.
Joy and relief
Reaction has unsurprisingly been one of elation. Zac Efron describied it as “incredible”, while Oscar winner Octavia Spencer wrote on her social media: “Who else is dancing right now??? Ready to work now that the strike is over! Congratulations and thank you to our @sagaftra negotiating committee!”
Jamie Lee Curtis praised the union saying: “Perseverance pays off” and Mandy Moore sounded relieved when she wrote: “Let’s get back to work, friends!” before adding: “Thank you @sagaftra negotiators and leadership for getting us over the finish line! Gratitude is the attitude!”
The president of Sag-Aftra, Fran Drescher posted a message: “We did it!!!!” before thanking all members for “hanging in and holding out for this historic deal!”
Blockbusters massively delayed
The strikes have impacted on the making of some huge films. Disney/Marvel’s Blade; Dune: Part Two; Fantastic Four; James Cameron’s Avatar series; and Paddington in Peru have all been seriously delayed.
The release of the latest instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise has been put back a full year to May 2025, the same month that the Sponge Bob Square Pants adventure should have come out, but that will now be December of that year, at the earliest.
Worth all the pain
The full terms and details are not to be released until the union’s National Board reviews them. Nevertheless, with Sag-Aftra mentioning that the new contract is valued at over one billion dollars, that would comfortably treble the content of the previous agreement. It looks like from an actors viewpoint, their stance has been worthwhile.