On November 1, when optimism in Hollywood still ran high that the studios and the Actors Guild might finally come to an agreement, The Ankler’s “Strikegeist” newsletter ran with this headline: “AI Proves Knotty but Deal Still Possible This Week.” One full week of negotiations later, AI is still reportedly what’s getting in the way. On Monday afternoon, the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee sent a message to their members saying that they had responded to what the AMPTP had called their “last, best, and final offer,” noting that “there are several essential items on which we still do not have an agreement, including AI.” But on Tuesday afternoon, Variety reported that the studios had adjusted the AI language in their most recent offer, and that with talks resuming on Tuesday, there was hope that the concession might be enough to end the strike. 

According to multiple sources who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, the disagreement comes down to AI scans of higher paid performers—those who earn more than the guild minimum—and securing permission as well as compensation for those scans to be reused. The current AMPTP proposal, according to THR, would allow the studios to reuse scans of dead actors without the permission of their estates or of SAG-AFTRA.

One union-side source who spoke to THR suggested this might be enough to convince higher-paid actors to stay in the fight: “They have to realize that this is about protecting them. This is their strike now when they realize what’s on the line.” At least one high-profile actor—Jeffrey Wright, in the Oscar mix this year for American Fiction—seemed to agree:

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As a still-growing technology that’s not yet fully understood, AI has come up often as a major point of contention for actors on strike. In a recent interview, Succession’s Sarah Snook said that she hopes SAG-AFTRA can set a precedent for other industries, and continued, “Imagine a company owning your image, your voice, creating propaganda. There are no words to describe how important this is right now to attend to.”

AI was a major sticking point in the WGA strike negotiations as well, but its use for writers is significantly different than for actors. The eventual deal stipulated that AI cannot be used to rewrite scripts, and that writers cannot be required to use the technology for their work. An AI script, however, is a very different thing than a digital resurrection of a dead celebrity—possibly one of many reasons there’s still no deal yet.


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