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ON STRIKE: Writers and Actors Against AMPTP

By Elizabeth BJ

As technology advances and changes, so does the entertainment industry. Over the last 20 years, specifically, these changes have occurred tremendously fast. Streaming services changed the game for big and small studios alike, reaching a broader audience that could start, continue, or finish a show or film at any given time of the day. This implies considerable revenue for both streaming services and big studios, but something was not sitting right with those actually creating the content being consumed.

To understand who is who, let's review the organizations involved in this dispute:

  • First, AMPTP is an association that represents 350 American television and film production companies, such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Universal, NBC, Disney, Paramount, and Sony. The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers serves the purpose of bargaining with the employees' own alliances and guilds to achieve contractual fairness for both parties.

  • The WGA, or Writers Guild of America, is the union of motion pictures, television, radio, and internet programs writers.

  • SAG-AFTRA is the union of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, meaning that together as SAG-AFTRA they represent actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers and editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and more.

Now with what's been going on:

First, the writers spoke up. On May 2nd the Writers Guild of America West officially started their strike after six weeks of negotiations where their demands on the new contracts for the union members weren’t met.

One of the main reasons for the strike came from the changes in the industry stemming from streaming services. Writers' work schedules changed as the season’s length changed, from TV series with more than twenty episodes to streaming platform series with only eight, the time they spent writing shortened. At the same time, the shows on new platforms didn’t want writers in the room during the production stages, not allowing actors to communicate with them in order to provide feedback on certain characters or scenes. Working time was reduced from forty weeks a year to a maximum of ten weeks.

On July 14, SAG-AFTRA officially went on strike against AMPT as well.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher TV/Theatrical/Streaming Strike Press Conference Speech by SAG-AFTRA via Youtube

The reasons are also linked to how the industry has changed. Contracts are missing all the distribution side of platforms, provoking an economic hardship in medium to small actors primarily. Residuals were paid to actors every time a show, episode, or film they were featured in was distributed or broadcast in traditional media. Now, with the content available 24/7 to users, and the lack of transparency of streaming platforms, the actors only get one check after filming their appearances in said productions, or a meager compensation check a year, sometimes even with 0 dollars for a series with more than one season.

Another big topic in the strike proceedings is the use of intellectual property and personal image. The ethical and moral boundaries regarding Artificial Intelligence are blurry. Big companies are threatening creatives in all fields to lose their jobs, but their property and image, with no warning or economic compensation. For actors, this means that by just being scanned, their whole body and features might appear anywhere, using them as a background character or a main one in any production without compensation or approval.

The AMPTP does not act in the interest of writers or actors, as evident in their representatives saying they will not give in to demands and instead wait them out until the workers have no other option but to sign and get back to work. While producers are getting more revenue from streaming platforms and other tools that bring content to their clients, they neglect to bring the creators of their products along with them to enjoy the benefits of this new era of entertainment.

Even so, when these unions are not quite together in the fight, their fights for better working conditions and compensation align, with the parties wishing to move forward in accordance with the technology of our time.

What You Need to Know About the Actors' Strike | Hollywood Actors Are Fed Up! by Acting Carreer Centre via YouTube.


About the Writer:

Elizabeth BJ, is a twenty-something Mexican writer fresh out of college (UNAM), where she studied English Literature. She has published poetry, critical analysis, fiction, nonfiction and recently interviews and research pieces, all on different online media, both in English and Spanish. Also, is interested in the creation and analysis of audiovisual media, and just recently started to build a path on illustration. Look her up at @cazandocolibris on Twitter and Instagram.

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