Contract for Hollywood Actors Includes $40m Yearly in Streaming Bonuses

Contract for Hollywood Actors Includes $40m Yearly in Streaming Bonuses – Under the recently approved tentative labor agreement between the SAG-AFTRA actors union and major Hollywood studios, actors on streaming platforms like Netflix are set to receive annual bonuses totaling around $40 million. The three-year contract, valued at over $1 billion, gained support from 86% of SAG-AFTRA’s national board. 

Notably, the agreement introduces a new fund to compensate performers for future streaming views, supplementing the conventional residuals for movie or series broadcasts. Leaders of the union highlighted prompt 11% wage boosts for background actors and immediate 7% wage increases for other members. They also highlighted hard-fought wins on AI. 

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“For the first time, informed consent and fair compensation guardrails will be in place around the use of artificial intelligence in our industry,” the chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said. For Black actors and other actors of color, who have long highlighted racist practices in Hollywood hair and makeup departments, the contract includes “new terms to ensure that sets have proper hair and makeup for all performers, including those who have diverse and textured hair and complexions”, Crabtree-Ireland said.

Numerous Black actors have shared instances of being informed that productions lacked the funds for styling their specific hair type or dealing with stylists unfamiliar with their hair or skin tone. Additionally, the proposed contract includes a mandate for intimacy coordinators in scenes featuring nudity or simulated sex, according to Crabtree-Ireland. The decision now rests with union members, who must vote on the agreement involving Netflix, Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, and other members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Crabtree-Ireland anticipates the conclusion of voting in early December. SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher noted that the union has partially succeeded in its objective to secure a larger share of revenue from streaming services for actors. Although previous proposals, such as a per-subscriber fee, were rejected by companies, they have agreed to implement new bonus payments. “We opened a new revenue stream,” Drescher said at a press conference. “We got into another pocket.”

As per the agreement, 75% of the $40 million fund will be allocated to actors in the most popular streaming shows, while the remaining 25% will be directed to a fund for distribution among actors in other streaming programs. The AMPTP expressed satisfaction with the SAG-AFTRA board’s approval of the deal. “We are also grateful that the entire industry has enthusiastically returned to work,” the group said in a statement.

The board, comprising figures like Billy Porter, Jennifer Beals, Sean Astin, and Sharon Stone, unsurprisingly endorsed the deal, given the overlap with the committee that negotiated it. The strike lost some suspense as union leaders swiftly called it off upon reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP on Wednesday. Notably, AI concerns were addressed in the final stages of negotiation, according to Crabtree-Ireland.

Under the new contract, studios are obligated to seek an actor’s approval before digitally replicating their image. Additionally, a detailed description must accompany the request, and actors are entitled to compensation commensurate with the on-screen activities of the digital replica. Crabtree-Ireland emphasized that the agreement extends protection to background performers, preventing the unauthorized use of their digital likenesses.

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The use of generative AI to create “synthetic, fake performers” provoked a “very serious fight”, said Crabtree-Ireland. According to the agreement, companies are required to seek approval from performers whose facial features contribute to the creation of a synthetic performer, even if multiple performers are involved. Studios are obligated to inform the union in advance whenever they intend to utilize generative AI for a synthetic performer. 

The union has secured the right to negotiate compensation on behalf of the actor whose features were utilized in crafting the digital performer. This resolution, finalized on Wednesday, marked the conclusion of the second of two concurrent strikes in the US entertainment industry, collectively causing a financial impact of over $6 billion on the California economy. The initial strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) commenced in May, lasting 148 days. Subsequently, SAG-AFTRA initiated a strike in July, concluding after 118 days this week.

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