In a dramatic turn of events, Hollywood actors have confirmed that they are going on strike, as revealed during today’s press conference by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator. What’s even more shocking is the proposal from Hollywood studios, which seems like it was taken straight out of a mind-bending episode of Black Mirror.
In a statement about the strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced their groundbreaking AI proposal that aims to protect actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members. However, Crabtree-Ireland dismisses this proposal, saying, “If you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”
During the press conference, Crabtree-Ireland further elaborated on the proposal, stating that background performers would be scanned, receive only one day’s pay, and have their image and likeness owned by the companies indefinitely. These companies would then have the freedom to use these scans on any project without consent or compensation. It’s clear that this proposal is far from groundbreaking, as Crabtree-Ireland points out.
In response to SAG-AFTRA’s claims, AMPTP spokesperson Scott Rowe denies the allegations, stating that the digital replicas of background actors can only be used in the specific motion picture for which they were employed. Any other use would require the background actor’s consent and negotiation for compensation.
The use of generative AI has been a major point of contention in the negotiations between the two sides, and it’s not just limited to actors. The writers strike is also fueled by concerns over AI and its impact on the industry. SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher warns that if they don’t take a stand now, they risk being replaced by machines.
With the strike officially commencing at midnight tonight, the future of Hollywood hangs in the balance. Will the actors’ demands be met, or will the industry be forever changed?
The Verge‘s editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.
Update July 14th, 10:25AM ET: Added a statement from the AMPTP.
In an ever-evolving artificial intelligence (AI) landscape, Hollywood studios have begun to use AI as a way to create high-quality digital renditions of human actors. This technology, called “synthetic actors,” allows a studio to essentially create unlimited copies of an actor that can be used to fill various roles in a production.
However, what many actors have found concerning about this technology is that studios want them to provide their likenesses for free, and permanently. In other words, studios are asking actors to provide their likenesses for free, forever, meaning the studios retain the rights to use them indefinitely, and the actors receive no royalties.
Though not every studio has adopted this policy, it has been reported that some have been asking actors to provide their likenesses in exchange for future projects. But actors have argued that they should receive compensation for their likenesses, just as they do for their performances.
The head of the Screen Actors Guild, Gabrielle Carteris, said in a statement: “Actors are concerned that their likenesses could be used to create digital stars who might not be attributed to them, and that they would not receive compensation for the use of their images. We must ensure that actors are compensated fairly for the use of their image and that their legacy is protected.”
As synthetic actors become more widely used, it will be interesting to see how Hollywood and actors find a way to balance the studios’ need for digital avatars with the actors’ objective of fair compensation. It will be crucial that studios and actors develop a system that respects both parties, allowing studios to access the high-quality representations they need while providing actors fair compensation and keeping their rights secure.