SAG-AFTRA Head Fran Drescher

SAG Works Out

The Summer of Strikes hit Hollywood with a loud bang on Friday. The entertainment industry stopped. Following Writers Guild of America, the actors union, SAG-AFTRA ordered work stoppages around the country. This means not reporting to sets additionally, no promotional work including red carpets or press junkets.

In an emotional speech from Los Angeles SAG-AFTRA head Fran Drescher made the call to her 160.000 members. There is a misunderstanding about Hollywood. A list actors get to go to the big parties around but most actors earn a regular living paying a mortgage taking their kids to school. The minimum an actor needs to earn to qualify for insurance is $26.000 a year. That is getting harder and harder with the new media content models. But their is a bigger question. Why should you have to earn money to deserve health care coverage?

“The jig is up”, “The Nanny” star said on Thursday. The business model has changed by streaming and AI. The old agreements no longer works. Before streamers, a series order was twenty episodes, today that is now eight to ten. Performers earn less money in a production season. The other battle with streaming services is financial transparency and residuals. Residual checks in the past were based on viewer counts and ads, on streamers it is based on subscriber numbers. My advice to SAG, “Good luck trying to get real numbers from a technology company.”

AI is a big bone of contention as productions could soon replace actors with artificial performers or their likeness. Reusing the image in different films, shows or commercials without paying the actor. Would a studio exploit talent too such a level? Ask the decedents of the Three Stooges about their relationship to Columbia Pictures.

It Got Nasty Fast

A war of attrition is now being fought. Studios on one side and talent on the other. The new media moguls are just as imperial as their predecessors. Disney honcho Bob Iger told CNBC the union demands are not realistic. Meanwhile, the corporate head got a $4 million annual raise to $27 million with additional options, not bad if you can get it. Of course he gets to use the corporate jet.

Make no mistake, a lot is at stake, an industry coming to terms in a new reality. Workers are tired of being exploited. Corporations under pressure from Wall Street to pay dividends. Throw in new technologies that could swallow them all. These elements could be a Hollywood Blockbuster script.