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Settle in, the Strikes Don’t Seem to Be Ending Any Time Soon

If you’re wondering why there hasn’t been more news about the SAG-AFTRA negotiating team meeting with the AMPTP team, it’s because they haven’t met in weeks. While some optimistic folks had originally hoped that the strike would be over by Labor Day weekend, the reality is that it’s clear the WGA deal has to get done first, before the actors come back to the table. With the writers and producers currently at an impasse, actors should get used to the picket lines. They’re going to be walking them for a while.

This week, some light was shed on the situation in an interview that appeared on the Above the Line website. Editor-in-chief Jeff Sneider spoke to a member of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating team who, for obvious reasons, chose to remain anonymous.

For one thing, the Negotiator (for lack of a better moniker) was surprised that the studios are willing to punt on the fall TV schedule and movie releases, as well as Oscar season, which is one of the industry’s biggest annual moneymakers. Considering that no negotiations have occurred with the actors for weeks, and with the sides so far apart — and more about that below — the feeling is that January is probably the earliest any of this might be settled.

Again, the writers’ deal will have to occur first, and those two sides are still very far apart. As the Negotiator explains, “logic dictates that they’d have to paper up the writers first, for a couple of reasons. One, because people tend to write before [actors] act, and two, while we obviously have some Venn diagram crossover in some of our minutiae, and also macro [issues] — from AI to a certain number of percentages on streaming residual formula — the truth of the matter is that our contract is far more complex than the WGA.”

Once the writers have a deal, whenever that might happen, there’s still the issue of that distance between what the union wants and what the AMPTP is willing to offer. “I mean, we’re not close on things that aren’t even discussed in the media because they’re too complex to discuss,” the Negotiator says.

The obvious issues like AI and streaming transparency are only part of it. There’s also less publicized stuff like ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), and a self tape mechanical casting issue that is “too convoluted for the general public to understand,” but which remains a pretty huge point. The short version is that the union is demanding the option to allow people to audition in person again, rather than solely on self tape, which is something the AMPTP seems either unable or unwilling to understand.

On the other hand, the Negotiator believes that SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and lead negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland are both doing an “outstanding” job, and also firmly believes that the AMPTP companies “have made a massive miscalculation,” both with the actors and the writers. There is simply too much at stake, and both creative unions are so dug in for the long haul, that the concept of “waiting out” the unions until their members go broke or, as one exec infamously said, “are homeless,” isn’t going to work out too well for them.

Perhaps because of that, the Negotiator says, “I would be stunned to see it go past January, in terms of going back to work, but I don’t even say that from our chair, I say that from their chair.”

That doesn’t help anyone short term, of course, but it does offer some potential light at the end of the tunnel.

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