SAG votes “yes” on new contract, but at what cost?

The new SAG contract may erase the very thing they were trying to protect.
Although the SAG strike eventually brought about an agreement between the studios, screenwriters and actors, it ultimately failed to provide full reassurance from the horrifying onset of AI into the movie industry.
Although the SAG strike eventually brought about an agreement between the studios, screenwriters and actors, it ultimately failed to provide full reassurance from the horrifying onset of AI into the movie industry.
THE MIRROR | DAIMLER KOCH (COURTESY CNN)

The summer may have seemed hot with new movies and high temperatures, but this year, the entertainment industry was frozen solid. 

United against the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers, or the AMPTP, SAG actors traveled to major studios in L.A., picketing with passion, leading with love and fighting for the future of their industry. 

A SAG actor myself, I went to Warner Brothers Studios during the strike to picket. 

As both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA labor unions went on strike, with major concerns over the use of AI technology and the way actors are paid on streaming services in their minds, Hollywood came to a screeching halt in the late spring. 

So, with great fanfare, on Nov. 8, SAG and the AMPTP made a tentative deal over a new contract after 118 days of a shutdown, making history as the longest strike known to SAG. 

Even greater fanfare was received as the actors voted “yes” on the new contract, ending the strike for good.

However, even though the contract still passed, these “united SAG actors” didn’t seem so united anymore, as many began to speculate if the new contract was really as promising as everyone kept saying it was. Many are torn; for every victory, there seems to be a loss. And these losses  may develop into something brutal in the long term. 

Hollywood is no stranger to developing technology. Cameras, microphones and special effects are changing and being updated every year. The creation of the camera, a new technology, was what gave birth to Hollywood as a whole. The development of sound gave the silent movie something to talk about. The 2000s saw a huge revolution in CGI technology, and while it was rocky at first, CGI is now integrated into almost every feature in theaters.

The difference with using AI in creating films, however, is that instead of it being used as a tool to make a better movie, AI can be used recklessly by studios and production companies to  replace the heart of the film, the actors, in order to save money and turn a giant profit.

The SAG contract contains extensive sections regarding AI. However, instead of outright prohibiting this technology, the contract only protects actors regarding compensation and consent for their image. This differs from the WGA contract, which stated that, because AI is not a person, it cannot be a “professional writer” or “writer.” The SAG contract should have regarded “actor” as a person as well. 

For actors, AI is not banned, just restrained, and only to a certain extent. 

Technically, this is a step in the right direction – any boundary is better than no boundaries. But many, including myself, are concerned that the language set forth in the contract is too vague to actually protect against anything.

SAG voters were not able to initially access the actual entire contract to review before casting their ballot, as they were only provided a 20 page summary posted on the SAG website. In addition, only 38 percent of SAG members actually voted on the contract. So even though there was a 78 percent majority of “yes,” it does not mean that the entire union is jumping for joy over the news. 

Many SAG members have brought up confusing language found in the contract. Although actors are now to be “compensated” for a producer using their image without their consent, the contract never specifically mentions that the production has to remove the generated image from their project. 

In some cases, if the image has been altered a bit, the actor, not the studio, will have to prove that it is their image.

Also, actors can now be turned away from projects if they don’t agree to consent to AI scanning. Actors and their agents can actively choose to participate in projects that don’t require AI scanning, but many young, new or struggling actors don’t have that luxury, limiting their opportunities for work significantly.  

Someone pursuing an acting career may feel tempted to sign their image away purely for the fact that they have rent due and need to eat. If AI becomes insanely popular, aspiring actors won’t have a choice. 

The effects of movies and television on our society is an age-old conversation that has existed as old as language itself, from the first mythology passed down through storytelling. But overall, movies are meant to be an expression of the human experience, or at least an experience written by humans, that is relatable or intriguing. The human element of art has allowed the industry to become as influential as it has become.

By creating movies with AI, it defeats the entire point of the art form. 

There are some positives to the contract, like streaming bonuses, overall wage increases and relocation bonuses. 

But, what’s the point in protecting how much we get paid if we aren’t the ones acting anymore?

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About the Contributor
Adrianna Bean
Adrianna Bean, Staff
Swiftie and first year Journalism writer Adrianna Bean can be found screaming the lyrics to whatever album she’s obsessed with right now (it’s always different). From animation and art, performing in plays and musicals, writing about topics she cares about, to re-reading her favorite books, Adrianna loves a good story, fiction and nonfiction. Story of Us? Love Story? Long Story Short? “The story starts when it was hot and it was summer and…?” She loves them all!
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  • M

    Mike DuganDec 17, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    With only 39 % of members voting. IT SHOWS HOW MUCH OF A FK. THE MEMBERS CARE, SLAP IN THE FACE TO US THAT DO

    Reply
  • A

    Alan RaffertyDec 17, 2023 at 9:58 am

    You were insulted about your article on the facebook group NewEnglandActorsNetwork

    Reply
  • W

    William RiccioDec 17, 2023 at 7:51 am

    This was an unprofessional way of handling any contract. The writers union stabbed us in the back, and our union sold us out with this unprofessional contract. Sag is done, give us our money back because the Sag officials are not helping us with their poor decisions.

    Reply