Actors union strikes deal for pay increase and intimacy co-ordinators

A deal between actors and Hollywood studios includes increased pay, safeguarding against artificial intelligence, and intimacy co-ordinators on sets.

Actors’ union Sag-Aftra had been engaged in a “very serious fight” against executives over protections against the threat of artificial intelligence (AI). It saw actors walk out for a total of 118 days.

The industrial action ended on Thursday when 86% of the union’s national board voted to approve a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP).

“We hold in our hands a record-breaking contract,” Sag-Aftra president Fran Drescher told a press conference in Los Angeles.

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The package is worth more than $1 billion – around £818 million – and includes “informed consent and fair compensation” for the creation and use of digital replicas of Sag-Aftra members. Drescher described this as a “deal-breaker” when negotiating.

Chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said: “Up until the very end we were engaged in a very serious fight with these companies over what was going to happen in respect to the use of generative AI to create what we call synthetic fake performers.”

The AI deal specifies compensation has to equate to the amount of work an actor would have done. It says companies also have to get consent from performers to use their facial features as part of a creation.

Crabtree-Ireland, who described the deal over AI as “robust and comprehensive”, said: “That was the piece that ultimately came together on the very last day, day 118 of the strike. It allows the industry to go forward, it does not block AI, but it makes sure that performers are protected, their rights to consent are protected, their right to compensation and the rights to employment are protected.”

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The deal includes an 11% wage increase for background actors and a 7% general increase. Both are effective immediately and breaks a “so-called industry pattern,” said Crabtree-Ireland.

He said the deal includes “new and very meaningful protections” for the self-tape audition process, for the first time a requirement to engage with intimacy co-ordinators for scenes of nudity or simulated sex and double pay for “singers who dance and dancers who sing”.

The ratification vote for members begins on Tuesday with ballots cast during a 21-day time frame, the press conference was told. Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland were joined at the press conference by members of the TV and theatrical negotiating committee who were involved in achieving the deal.

The strike began on July 14 with disputes over pay and the threat of artificial intelligence at the forefront of concerns, causing major disruption to Hollywood productions. It came at the same time as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike which was resolved in September as the union agreed to a deal with studio bosses after 146 days on the picket line.

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