SAG-AFTRA Board Approves New Contract

SAG-AFTRA’s national board has approved the tentative agreement between the actors union and studios and streamers that ended the 118-day actors strike.

The board voted to accept the deal with 86 percent approval, national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said at a press conference Friday. Members of the 160,000-strong union will vote on ratification of the deal beginning Nov. 14, with ballots due in early December.

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Crabtree-Ireland and SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher gave broad outlines of the deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers at the press conference, including “above pattern” increases in minimum salaries, a bonus for actors who work on successful streaming series and regulations on the use of artificial intelligence.

“This victory is everyone’s victory,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “AI protections for performers mean the preservation of tens of thousands of jobs” — from set and costume designers to drivers and caterers — “as well as all of the small businesses that serve the entertainment community.”

In extended remarks, Drescher recounted how the union’s leadership “deflected their intimidation tactics” and held out for key elements of the deal including the streaming bonus and AI protections.

“From July 14 to Oct. 3, we never heard from the AMPTP,” Drescher said. “We said, what are they waiting for, are they trying to smoke us out? Honey, I quit smoking a long time ago. I think they realized they were facing a new kind of leadership.”

Drescher concluded by saying, “We hold in our hands a record-breaking contract that has broken new ground and broken pattern again and again. … We began this journey as the largest entertainment union in the world and we finish it the most powerful.”

Crabtree-Ireland then detailed several aspects of the contract. As for minimum pay, the deal includes general wage hikes of 7 percent in the first year, 4 percent in July 2024 and 3.5 percent in 2025. For background actors, the immediate increase is 11 percent, followed by 4 percent and 3.5 percent in the second and third years of the contract. The first-year increases are above those that the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America received.

He also noted that the agreement includes language on performance capture (a first for the union); “meaningful protections” regarding self-taping of auditions; requiring intimacy coordinators for scenes involving sex and nudity; new terms regarding hair and makeup for all performers, including actors of color; and “informed consent and fair compensation” for the creation of digital replicas of a performer whether they’re living or dead.

The AI protections also cover consent and compensation if part of an actor’s face or body is used in creating a “synthetic” performer via generative AI. Crabtree-Ireland said that piece of the package, along with a firm commitment to the streaming residual fund, came together in the final hours before the deal was announced.

Drescher also said that the streaming bonus fund will work on a formula similar to the one the Writers Guild enshrined in its contract: Actors on shows that reach 20 percent of a streamer’s subscribers over three months will be eligible for the bonus, but rather than all of that going to those performers, the additional money will go into a fund jointly administered by the union and AMPTP. Three fourths of money in the fund — Crabtree-Ireland projected it will be about $40 million annually — will go to actors on those high-performing shows, while the remaining 25 percent will be distributed more widely, as determined by the fund’s administrators.

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