(Los Angeles) Striking actors and Hollywood studio bosses interrupted their negotiations on Wednesday, both camps announced, compromising hopes of a rapid resumption of film and series production, after long months of strike .
The bosses of studios and platforms like Disney and Netflix have been talking since last week with representatives of the SAG-AFTRA union, which defends the interests of 160,000 actors, stuntmen, dancers and other professionals from the small and big screens, whose members have deserted the film sets since July.
But in a statement late Wednesday, the studios, represented by the Association of Cinema and Television Producers (AMPTP), announced that this discussion had stopped and was for the moment suspended.
“After serious discussions, it has become clear that the gap between the positions of AMPTP and those of SAG-AFTRA is too great, and these discussions no longer move us forward in a fruitful manner,” the studios said.
The AMPTP thus accused the actors of making excessive demands, including a sharing of revenues from the distribution of works on streaming platforms which “alone would cost more than $800 million per year”.
For the studios this is an “unsustainable financial burden”. They also accused the SAG-AFTRA union of rejecting the pay increases accepted by the screenwriters.
“We hope that SAG-AFTRA will review its positions and return to productive negotiations quickly,” Hollywood studios said.
Denouncing “intimidation tactics”, the actors’ union immediately accused the studios of “disseminating misleading information” on the proposal put forward during negotiations, by exaggerating its cost by 60%.
“We’ve made significant progress on our end, completely transforming our revenue sharing proposition: it would cost businesses less than $0.57 per subscriber each year. They rejected our proposals,” SAG-AFTRA said in its statement.
The actors’ union claims Wednesday to have “negotiated in good faith” with producers and platforms, “although they made us a shocking offer last week, lower than what they offered even before the start of the strike.”
“They are using the same failed strategy (as with the scriptwriters): circulating misleading information to mislead our members, end our solidarity and put pressure on our negotiators,” he said in his statement.
The actors’ union said it was ready to “negotiate today, tomorrow and every day.”
Last month, Hollywood studios and platforms reached a salary agreement with another corporation, that of Hollywood screenwriters, which ended a strike lasting almost five months.
Given the similarity between the actors’ demands and those of the screenwriters, optimism about the possibility of a rapid agreement seemed appropriate, until this turnaround.
Although writers have returned to work, most productions will not be able to resume as long as the actors’ strike, which began in July, continues, costing the industry millions of dollars every day.
Like the screenwriters, the actors stopped work to request in particular an increase in their remuneration, at half mast in the era of streaming, and protection measures against artificial intelligence (AI).
In theory, the agreement between studios and screenwriters should help actors imitate them, analysts say.
But the salary demands made by SAG-AFTRA as well as the demand for guarantees in the face of AI go further than those of their fellow screenwriters.
They are demanding in particular a greater increase in salaries and to receive a real percentage of profits when a series is successful, instead of a simple bonus.
In addition, actors fear that AI (artificial intelligence) will be used to clone their voice and image, without their consent and without remuneration.
The talks also cover other topics specific to actors, such as remote auditions. A practice born during the pandemic and widely denounced by actors.
Some film and television productions from small Hollywood studios have already resumed, thanks to temporary exemptions.