What it means for the writers’ strike

Writers demonstrate in front of Netflix on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California during the Writers Guild of America strike on May 2, 2023.

Frederic J Brown | Afp | Getty Images

Hollywood producers have reached a tentative agreement with film and TV directors, but that doesn’t mean we should expect a sudden resolution of the writers’ strike or talks with the actors’ union.

On Sunday, the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers tentatively agreed on a three-year deal that would give the 19,000-member union salary and benefit increases, increases in global streaming balances and protections against the use of films artificial Intelligence.

The DGA contract expires on June 30th. The guild will present the proposal to its members on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America enters the second month of its strike. Likewise, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are close to authorizing a possible strike if negotiations fail. Those talks begin on Wednesday.

The WGA has been on strike since May 2 and has halted dozens of television and film productions as talks with producers stalled.

Already Netflix has postponed the start of production of the fifth and final season of “Stranger Things” Warner Brothers’ discoveries Game of Thrones prequel A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: Night of the Hedgehogs has closed its writer’s room, and Disney and Marvel’s Thunderbolts and Blade have paused production.

During the last writers’ strike in 2007 and 2008, which lasted 100 days, a studio deal with the DGA prompted writers to return to the negotiating table. This time, however, that may not be the case.

“We congratulate the DGA negotiating committee on a deal that it will recommend to its national board for approval and then presumably forward to its members for ratification,” the WGA negotiating committee wrote in a memo to members Sunday.

The committee said it would not comment on the contract terms of DGA’s new contract, noting that its negotiating positions remain the same.

“Last week we sent an email saying that the AMPTP divide and conquer strategy won’t work this time,” the memo reads. “The AMPTP will not be able to negotiate a deal for writers with anyone but us.”

The committee also said it stood in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA, which is finalizing its vote on Monday to authorize the strike.

SAG-AFTRA officials did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The WGA memo echoes comments by WGA negotiator Chris Keyser on Friday when he was providing a public update via YouTube a month after the strike began.

“Any deal that gets this town back to work goes right through the WGA, and there’s no getting around that,” he said.

Keyser also expressed that the WGA strike had already “inflicted highly effective pain” on companies, noting that the refusal to work combined with public picketing showed the union’s determination to “get the contract we deserve.” “.

The AI ​​fight

In DGA’s agreement, directors secured wage increases starting at 5% in the first year, an increase in balances from streaming, and a guarantee that artificial intelligence could not replace the duties performed by members.

AI has been a major problem for both writers’ and actors’ guilds, who find their jobs particularly vulnerable to this new technology.

In their negotiations, both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are striving for protection against the use of AI and an increase in remuneration for streamed content. The WGA also calls for minimum staffing levels for television writers’ rooms and more competitive minimum wages for the work.

The WGA is less concerned about being replaced by AI systems and more concerned that production companies will use these technological tools to drive down writers’ salaries.

SAG-AFTRA has recognized that AI technology can have its benefits in the industry, but wants to ensure that any use of AI to replicate an actor or create a new performance is done with the actor’s consent and payment. The Guild has similar guard rails when it comes to capturing computer generated imagery.

Some artists, such as James Earl Jones, have already agreed to have their voices cloned for use after their death. 91-year-old Jones embodied the famous voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars series and tried to step away from the role. Jones was compensated and the technology was used to bring Vader’s iconic voice to Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Actors Guild has also made it clear that its bargaining benefits all of its members, not just the big stars. For tens of thousands of professionals, health insurance, compensation and final payments are top priorities.

The SAG-AFTRA vote on strike authorization closes Monday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is a member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

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