LOS ANGELES – Talks between Hollywood actors and studios over an ongoing strike have collapsed, in a blow to hopes for a swift end to a crisis that has crippled the entertainment industry.
Heads of studios such as Disney and Netflix had been meeting regularly since last week with negotiators for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), whose members walked off film and TV sets in July.
In a statement late Wednesday, the studios said talks would be suspended, describing the gap between the two sides’ positions as “too great,” with talks “no longer moving us in a productive direction.”
Hours later, SAG-AFTRA hit back by accusing the studios of using “bully tactics” and “putting out misleading information” about the negotiations.
Last month the studios struck a deal with Hollywood writers, ending that union’s separate stoppage.
Given that deal, and overlaps between SAG-AFTRA’s demands and those of the writers, optimism had been growing that a bargain with the actors could also be forged soon.
That hope has now dimmed, with SAG-AFTRA accusing the studios of not making realistic offers and misrepresenting proposals made during negotiations.
“We have negotiated with them in good faith, despite the fact that last week they presented an offer that was, shockingly, worth less than they proposed before the strike began,” the actors’ union said.
“The companies are using the same failed strategy they tried to inflict on the (writers’ union) –- putting out misleading information in an attempt to fool our members into abandoning our solidarity and putting pressure on our negotiators.”
Even with writers now back to work, most film and TV production cannot restart until the demands of SAG-AFTRA are resolved, costing the entertainment industry and its workers millions of dollars each day.
Like the writers, actors have called for improved pay, greater transparency over profits from hit streaming shows, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.
But the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), now accuse actors of making excessive demands — including wanting a share of revenues from streaming shows that “would cost more than $800 million per year.”
At an industry summit in Los Angeles on Thursday, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said the actors’ demands for a “a certain amount of money for every subscriber” to a streaming platform were “a bridge too far.”
SAG-AFTRA insists the true cost of its proposal would amount to “less than 57 (US cents) per subscriber each year,” accusing the studios of exaggerating the actors’ demands.
– ‘Stonewalling and greed’ –
Despite the back-and-forth, the actors’ union said it remains “ready to negotiate today, tomorrow, and every day.”
The studios added: “We hope that SAG-AFTRA will reconsider and return to productive negotiations soon.”
AI has proved a major sticking point in the negotiations. Actors fear that the technology could be used to clone their voices and likenesses, allowing them to be reused in perpetuity without compensation or consent.
Studios say they have offered to create strict protections such as requiring actors’ “advance consent,” and limits on repeated use of a performer’s “replica” unless they agree and are paid.
But SAG-AFTRA said the proposal regarding AI was “continuing to demand ‘consent’ on the first day of employment for use of a performer’s digital replica for an entire cinematic universe (or any franchise project).”
“We have sacrificed too much to capitulate to their stonewalling and greed,” SAG-AFTRA said.