On a normal week, the news that SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the video game industry would be the top story. With nearly 35,000 members voting, a very convincing 98.32% were in favor of a potential strike.
But that news was dwarfed by the huge announcement that the WGA and AMPTP came to a tentative deal late Sunday night. After walking the picket lines for nearly 150 days, the writers and studios seem to have agreed to bring it to a close.
In a message to its members, the WGA negotiating committee said, “We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language. We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
Apparently, the last sticking point was the use of AI, something that is a major issue to the SAG-AFTRA demands as well, but while full details will not be known for a few days as the wording is codified and all language is finalized, the understanding is that the deal accomplishes the writers’ goal of not allowing the studios to use artificial intelligence to take work away from the guild’s human members.
Other guilds celebrated the proposed deal — which still needs to be approved by WGA leadership, potentially today, and then its full membership, later this week — with the DGA saying, “Now it’s time for the AMPTP to get back to the table with SAG-AFTRA and address the needs of performers,” and SAG-AFTRA offered the statement which read, in part, “SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency, and solidarity on the picket lines.”
Now, with the general assumption that the writers’ strike will officially come to a close this week or next, what does that mean for the actors?
For starters, no conversations between union membership and the AMPTP have occurred since the strike began on July 14th, so new talks must be scheduled. Don’t expect that to happen until at least next week, and perhaps the week after. Yes, the studios have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue since the WGA strike began on May 2nd, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to just hand over the store whenever negotiations do in fact reconvene.
A SAG executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the situation, said on Monday evening, “This is great news, and it gives me hope that we’ll be able to settle this whole thing within the next few weeks. But that said, I’m already warning people not to expect it to just get wrapped up without any trouble. Our deal is way more complicated than the writers’ deal, and while the residuals and AI stuff is a great template off which to work for our deal, there’s still a ton of work to be done. I don’t want people to lose sight of that. This thing could end in the first half of October, but I think it’s likelier after Halloween. There’s urgency, for sure, but it’s not a fait accompli, as the saying goes.”
What’s more complex about the deal? Things like auditions, self taping and likeness usage are involved, as well as higher residuals than what the writers sought, and other items that go with being in front of the camera, rather than behind it. All of it is on the table.
“While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members,” SAG-AFTRA leadership announced in its full statement after the tentative WGA deal was announced. “Since the day the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA members have stood alongside the writers on the picket lines. We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”
Stay tuned for when, not if, that return is scheduled.
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