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Hollywood Actors, Producers Will Head Back to Bargaining Table

Hollywood Actors, Producers Will Head Back to Bargaining Table

Actor Jac Cheairs and his son Wyatt, 11, take part in a rally by striking writers and actors outside Netflix studio in Los Angeles on Friday, July 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

City News Service

City News Service

9/28/2023

Updated: 9/28/2023

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—Hollywood writers gathered at night on Sept. 27 to celebrate hard-won gains in a months-long strike that brought production of new films and television shows to a halt, while leaders of the actors union said they would head back to the bargaining table with producers next week.
Close to 1,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) filled the Hollywood Palladium, where key leaders of the negotiating team received thanks and several standing ovations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
With the strike formally called off as of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, writers are free to return to work. However, some might continue to honor Screen Actors Guild-America Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) picket lines. WGA negotiating committee members earlier this week encouraged writers who are able to continue supporting the striking actors on their picket lines.
“This [end of the WGA strike] allows writers to return to work during the ratification process, but does not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval,” the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee wrote in a message to union members on Sept. 26. “There will be meetings for current members this week before the ratification vote begins.”
The ratification vote by the roughly 11,500 members of the WGA is expected to be held Oct. 2-9.
Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA offered renewed hope for an end to its strike Wednesday evening, announcing that long-stalled negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, would finally resume next week.
“SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP will meet for bargaining on Monday, Oct. 2. Several executives from AMPTP member companies will be in attendance. As negotiations proceed, we will report any substantiative updates directly to you,” the union posted Wednesday evening on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The WGA strike began on May 2, with actors going on strike in mid-July over many of the same issues, including residual formulas for streamed content, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.
The twin labor actions brought the entertainment industry to a halt, with actors and writers walking picket lines daily in front of the major Hollywood studios.
While negotiators for the WGA and the AMPTP worked hard in recent days to hash out their tentative deal, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have not held official talks since that strike began in July.
SAG-AFTRA represents about 160,000 actors. Its demands include general wage increases, protections against the use of actor images through artificial intelligence, boosts in compensation for successful streaming programs, and improvements in health and retirement benefits.
The proposed three-year contract for the WGA was announced on Sept. 24 night after five consecutive days of negotiating sessions, at least some of which were attended by the so-called “Gang of Four” group of top studio executives—Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, Universal’s Donna Langley, and Warner Bros/Discovery’s David Zaslav.
With the boards of the WGA’s East Coast and West Coast branches endorsing the deal Tuesday, the union also released the first detailed overview of the agreement, which includes stepped increases of minimum salaries which will jump by 5 percent upon ratification, 4 percent in May 2024, and 3.5 percent in May 2025. There are also increases in health and pension contributions.
The proposed contract also includes restrictions on studios’ use of artificial intelligence, barring AI from writing or rewriting literary material and preventing AI-generated material from being considered source material, meaning it can’t “undermine a writer’s credit.”
The proposal also includes a new residual formula for streaming program that boosts pay for particularly successful programs. According to the guild, shows or films “that are viewed by 20% or more of the service’s domestic subscribers in the first 90 days of release, or in the first 90 days in any subsequent exhibition year, get a bonus equal to 50% of the fixed domestic and foreign residual, with views calculated as hours streamed domestically of the season or film divided by runtime.”
Also included are increases in pay for writers employed on TV series, along with employment guarantees for set numbers of writers on series, based on the number of episodes being produced.
A full summary prepared by the WGA of the contract proposal is available online.
The three major networks’ flagship late-night talk shows are expected to be among the first new entertainment shows back on the air, with NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” CBS' “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” headed back to production as early as next week.
Bill Maher, whose weekly “Real Time” program on HBO is taped at CBS Television City in the Fairfax District, announced his return on X on Tuesday, posting: “My writers and Real Time are back! See you Friday Night!”
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