Striking actors and Hollywood studios have decided where to draw the line with AI


Hollywood, which has been crippled by an actor's strike for 118 days, is back in business.

The Screen Actors Guild the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative agreement, the union said yesterday (Nov. 8). The announcement comes after days of drama when talks collapsed and SAG-AFTRA rejected the studio chiefs’ last and final offer.

“We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers,” the guild said in a note to its members. “Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”

AMPTP said the deal gives SAG-AFTRA “the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union,” including massive minimum wage hikes, streaming residuals, and definitive lines around the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Actors have been worried that AI can create convincing simulations of them, potentially putting them out of work—it’s especially a concern for extras. During negotiations in July, SAG-AFTRA took issue with a term that stipulated background performers could be scanned, paid for the day, and then turned into digital characters that studios could use “for the rest of eternity.”

People behind the screens—musicians, visual effects artists, and more—are also facing a similar occupational existential crisis.

The exact details of the agreement, including how the two sides finessed AI guidelines—l, will stay under wraps till it is reviewed by the SAG-AFTRA National Board on Friday, Nov. 10, the Los Angeles Times reported. How fair the deal really is depends on the fine print in the contract.

A brief overview of SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP’s deal

🤑Minimum pay increases—apparently the biggest boost in the last 40 years

🤖 Consent and compensation to protect members from the threat of AI, like having their likeness replicated and replaced

💰 A streaming participation bonus—a first

📝 Pension and health caps substantially raised

💸 Pay raises for background performers

🤝 Contract provisions addressing the protection of diverse communities

Quotable: Of AI and the Oscars

“[If] AI becomes dominant in some way, and they decide to go in that direction, I’m a thousand percent confident—and I’d like to see the Academy make some remarks about this—AI films are not eligible for Oscars...You can’t have AI films eligible for Oscars. Movies that are eligible for Academy Awards should be movies that are produced by human beings, written by human beings, directed by human beings, scored by human beings, filmed by human beings, and acted by human beings.”

Actor Alec Baldwin in an Instagram video celebrating the end of the actors’ strike posted on Nov. 8

Hollywood strikes in 2023, by the digits

$1 billion+: The value of the actors guild’s new three-year contract includes

148: Days the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) was on strike before ratifying a deal with the AMPTP on Oct. 9

160,000: Number of SAG-AFTRA members, including actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, hosts, stunt performers, and other media professionals.

2%: Cut of streaming revenue SAG-AFTRA was demanding, which company executives deemed unrealistic

6 months: The duration of the longest SAG strike in history, which happened in 2000 over commercial actors’ residual pay for television and radio ads, and pre-dated the 2012 SAG-AFTRA merger.

63 years: How many years ago the last twin strikes—of writers and actors—took place in Hollywood, back in 1960

$6.5 billion: How much the writers and actors strike cost the California economy as of Nov. 7, according to a Deadline report.

45,000: Entertainment industry jobs lost between the start of the two strikes and the end of September, US federal data show

 Hollywood actors reached a tentative agreement with major studios on Wednesday to resolve the second of two strikes that rocked the entertainment industry as writers and performers demanded higher pay in the streaming TV era.

The 118-day work stoppage ended just after midnight, the SAG-AFTRA union said in a statement after its negotiating committee unanimously backed the deal with Walt Disney (DIS.N), Netflix (NFLX.O), and other companies.

Valued at more than $1 billion, the three-year contract includes increases in minimum salaries and a new bonus paid by streaming services, the union said.

The deal also provides protections against unauthorized use of images generated by artificial intelligence (AI), an area that had emerged as a major concern from performers who feared being replaced by "digital doubles."

"We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers," the union said in a note to members.

SAG-AFTRA President and "The Nanny" star Fran Drescher wrote on Instagram: "We did it!!!! The Billion+ $ Deal!"

Celebrations erupted across Los Angeles. The resolution of the actors' strike means Hollywood can ramp up to full production for the first time since May when film and TV writers walked off the job.

At one brewpub, a jubilant crowd of actors cheered, pumped their fists, and chanted "When we fight, we win!"

"It's just such a feeling of joy, and of triumph over adversity, and not quitting," said actor Evan Shafran.

Another SAG-AFTRA member, Jessica Brown, was still absorbing the news. "My brain is still just trying to catch up and process," she said. "Oh my god. We did it."

SAG-AFTRA's national board will consider the agreement on Friday, and the union said it would release further details after that meeting. A final ratification vote by members is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Shares of television and film production companies rallied in premarket action Thursday. Walt Disney shares were up 4.5%, Warner Bros Discovery gained 2.5%, and Paramount Global (PARA.O) gained 2.7%.


The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiated on behalf of the studios, said the agreement represented "a new paradigm" that gave the union its "biggest contract-on-contract gains" in its history.

SAG-AFTRA members walk the picket line during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles

SAG-AFTRA member Jim Kulick reacts as he and other SAG-AFTRA members walk the picket line on the 100th day of their ongoing strike, outside Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 20, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

The organization said it "looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories."

"I'm relieved," actor Fanny Grande said. "It's been really difficult for most people in the industry, especially people of color. As it is, we don't have as many opportunities. We aren't big celebrities that have money in the bank for months."

Word of a potential agreement had spread across Hollywood earlier on Wednesday, raising hopes among actors who had spent months picketing outside studio offices in New York and Los Angeles instead of working on sets.

"Preliminary chatter was that a vote was imminent," said Rati Gupta, best known as Anu in the CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory." "Hearts have been pounding for several hours today."

When SAG-AFTRA's bargaining team voted to support the deal, "there were definitely some tears, a lot of big smiles, a lot of hugs," chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said. "It is a really intense thing to be going through a strike that's this long and so challenging."

Actors had similar concerns to film and television writers, who argued that compensation for working-class cast members had dwindled as streaming took hold, making it hard to earn a living wage. TV series on streaming have not offered the same residual payments that actors enjoyed during the heyday of broadcast TV.

Performers also became alarmed by recent advances in artificial intelligence, which they feared could lead to studios manipulating their likenesses without permission or replacing human actors with digital images.

George Clooney and other A-list stars voiced solidarity with lower-level actors and had urged union leadership to reach a resolution.

Many film and TV sets shut down when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) called a strike in the spring. While WGA members returned to penning scripts in late September, the ongoing SAG-AFTRA work stoppage left many productions dark.

The disruptions cost California more than $6 billion in lost output, according to a Milken Institute estimate.

With little work available, many prop masters, costume designers, and other crew members struggled to make ends meet. FilmLA, the group that approves filming permits, reported scripted production during the week of Oct. 29 had fallen 77% from the same time a year earlier.

The Hollywood strikes came during a year of other high-profile job actions. The United Auto Workers recently ended six weeks of walkouts at Detroit carmakers. Teachers, nurses, and healthcare workers also walked off the job.

Hollywood's work stoppages forced broadcast networks to fill their fall lineups with re-runs, game shows, and reality shows. It also led movie studios to delay big releases such as "Dune: Part 2" because striking actors could not promote them.

Other major films, including the latest installment of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise and Disney's live-action remake of animated classic "Snow White," were postponed until 2025.

The longest strike in history by actors against film and TV studios has finally ended.

As of Thursday morning, actors are free to work again now that their union — SAG-AFTRA — has a tentative deal in hand. It still needs to be ratified, but it includes pay bumps, protections against artificial intelligence, and streaming bonuses.

So far, studio heads have not responded to NPR's request for interviews. In a statement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers called the tentative agreement "a new paradigm" and said it "looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories."

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher spoke to All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang on Thursday about the deal.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Ailsa Chang: I should note first that NPR News staffers are also members of SAG-AFTRA, but we are under a different contract. We were not on strike. We've been working this whole time. Now you guys get to work as well. So tell me, Fran, after almost four months of actors striking, what was the breakthrough that led to this deal, you think?

Fran Drescher: Well, we were making strides throughout the time that we were on strike, except, of course, from when the AMPTP decided they were either going to walk out or they themselves were deliberating taking time before they came back with a counterproposal. So, you know, the time was usually productive. And once we really got to a place where not only did they really fully grasp the idea that this is a new dawn, that this is new leadership, that this is a historic time and this calls for a seminal negotiation — then whatever it was that we were talking about, whatever it was we felt that we needed, they decided to put their thinking caps on and group together to come up with their own solution version.

Chang: Let me talk about that new dawn, as you refer. Do you think the protections for artificial intelligence in this contract are broad enough to keep up with this quickly evolving technology? Or do you think, Fran, you're going to have to renegotiate this AI issue all over again in three years when this contract is up?

Drescher: Well, I think that it's going to be an ongoing discussion and potentially an ongoing battle, because in the world of AI, three months is equivalent to a year. So we got whatever we thought we could possibly get to protect our members for the duration of this contract. But we also requested that we all meet together to just take the pulse of where technology is twice a year.

Chang: I think the understanding is that you would revisit the AI issue.

Drescher: We would be talking about it because we're going to have to come together on the same side for federal regulation and also to protect both of us from piracy. So, you know, there is a lot there that we have to really start working together on. And now there's language in the contract to protect my members. In three years, it may be a whole different situation with new problems that need to be unpacked discussed and argued, and negotiated. And I think it's going to be this way for a very long time. And that's OK.

Chang: Let's talk about the streaming participation bonus. I mean, I know that you had to push really hard to get the AMPTP to agree to this bonus, which basically means that actors will now get paid more if a show that's on a streaming platform is a hit. But there are a lot of shows on streaming platforms that aren't hits, right? Like, Bloomberg found that fewer than 5% of original programs on Netflix last year would be considered popular enough to result in performance bonuses. So what do you make of that?

Drescher: Well, actually, the mechanism by which we determine the amount of money put into the fund is determined by the shows that receive 20% of the viewers, which is basically a thimble size.

Chang: Right. You're saying that if a particular show gets 20% of the platform's subscribers to be an audience that's considered a hit, and then a fund gets some of the bonus, if you will.

Drescher: Yeah. Then the bonus money will go into the fund based off of that mechanism. And then part of the bonus money will go to the performers that are actually on those shows because those shows would, you know, be definitely in syndication where they are on linear television.

Canadian Tire (CTCa.TO) said on Thursday it had laid off 3% of its full-time employees, in an effort to lower costs amid slowing demand due to persisting inflation.

The Toronto-based retailer joins a list of companies that have been reducing their workforce over the past year as they battle higher interest rates as well as costs linked to labor and supply chain.

Canadian Tire said it expects an annualized run-rate savings of about C$50 million ($36.31 million) as a result of the headcount reduction. But it also expects to take a charge of between C$20.0 million and C$25.0 million in the fourth quarter in relation to these actions.

The job cuts amount to a reduction of roughly 200 employees, the company said.

It also reported a 1.6% drop in consolidated comparable sales as customers continued to shift to essentials and cut back on purchasing discretionary items such as athletic footwear and clothing.

Canadian Tire, whose shares were down 2% in afternoon trading, reported an adjusted profit of C$2.96 per share, below LSEG estimates of C$3.29 per share.

It, however, beat third-quarter revenue expectations, as well as announced an additional C$200.0 million share repurchase program.

Late in October, Canadian Tire had said it was reviewing alternatives for its financial services arm and had bought back Scotiabank's (BNS.TO) 20% stake in the unit in a cash transaction valued at C$895 million.

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