What's in the Hollywood studios and actors' union deal, from streaming bonus to use of AI?

Strikes have halted production of films and TV shows since May, costing billions to the economy

Sag-Aftra members celebrate after a deal was reached between the actors' union and Hollywood studios. Reuters
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Months after two overlapping strikes in the US entertainment industry halted production of films and TV shows, a tentative contract agreement between actors and Hollywood studios is now headed to the actors' union for a final vote.

The strikes, which began in May, have cost the Californian economy more than $6 billion.

While a strike by writers was settled earlier, the Sag-Aftra actors' union said voting was expected to end in early December.

The agreement was made between Sag-Aftra, which represents actors, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which includes Netflix, Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery among others.

What's in the contract?

Sag-Aftra President Fran Drescher said the union had partly achieved its goal of getting streaming services to share more revenue with actors.

Streaming services will pay bonuses of roughly $40 million per year as part of the tentative labour agreement. The proposed three-year contract, which the union said was valued at more than $1 billion over three years, was endorsed by 86 per cent of Sag-Aftra's national board.

“We opened a new revenue stream,” Drescher said at a press conference. “We got into another pocket.”

Under terms of the deal, 75 per cent of the $40 million pool will go to actors on the most popular streaming shows. The remaining 25 per cent will go to a fund that will be distributed to actors on other streaming shows.

The AMPTP said it was pleased that the Sag-Aftra board had endorsed the deal.

“We are also grateful that the entire industry has enthusiastically returned to work,” the group said in a statement.

Use of artificial intelligence

Aside from the new bonus payment from streaming services, the agreement increases minimum salaries for rank-and-file actors and sets guardrails around the use of artificial intelligence in filmmaking.

Studios must obtain an actor's consent before using their image to create a digital replica, and provide a specific description, he said. The actor would receive payment equivalent to the type of work the digital replica is performing on screen.

The contract also protects background performers from the use of their digital replicas without consent.

Under the contract, companies must obtain the consent of performers whose facial features are used to create a synthetic performer, even if it is more than one performer.

The studios must give the union notice anytime they plan to use generative AI to create a synthetic performer, and the union won the right to negotiate for compensation on behalf of the actor whose features were used in the creation of that digital performer.

Other deals

Productions will be required to hire intimacy coordinators for any scenes involving nudity or simulated sex. While this has become an increasingly common practice in recent years, it had not been mandatory.

Dancers asked to sing or singers asked to dance will be fully compensated for both skills, rather than productions getting a two-for-one when performers do double duty.

Sets must have proper hair and make-up artists for all performers who need them, and those artists must be able to properly serve the particular ethnicities and appearances of the performers.

The agreement also includes more protections and funding for the self-taping of auditions.

The Writers Guild of America strike, began in May and lasted 148 days. Sag-Aftra joined the strike in July and ended its strike this week after 118 days.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: November 12, 2023, 7:44 AM