SAG-AFTRA Negotiator on AI Issue and Strike Talks: ‘A Lot of Issues Still Open’

Progress has been made toward ending the SAG-AFTRA strike in recent days, but “a lot” of issues are still on the table, the union’s chief negotiator said Monday morning.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator and executive director of the guild, made an appearance at the Disney picket lines. In an interview outside the studio gates, he would not hazard a guess as to when the strike will be over.

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“I think that depends on the mindset that everybody brings to the table this week,” he said. “I certainly hope we can move things forward quickly, but there are important issues that are still open, and until they’re done, there’s no deal.”

The union communicated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Saturday and Sunday. The two sides are expected to talk later on Monday about how to proceed with bargaining this week.

“There has been progress, and that’s the source of my continued cautious optimism,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

Among the issues still to be resolved is artificial intelligence. SAG-AFTRA wants to put boundaries around the use of AI to recreate performers’ likenesses, including consent and a minimum compensation floor for such use.

The union has also said that it is seeking to limit AI consent to a single project, but that the studios continue to seek a consent that would cover multiple projects within the same franchise.

“There are a number of big issues within the AI bucket that we’re currently working on,” Crabtree-Ireland said, citing the franchise consent issue as one where there has not been progress.

But he stressed that AI is not the only thing holding up a deal.

“There are a lot of issues still open,” he said. “It’s not only AI that’s left on the table. There are other big issues that we are still working on.”

Crabtree-Ireland declined to go into too much detail on those items, including the union’s demand for a share of streaming platform’s revenue. Earlier in October, the studios offered a model patterned on the Writers Guild of America deal, which provides a residual bonus for the most-watched made-for-streaming shows.

But SAG-AFTRA has pushed for something more broad-based, that would go to actors on every project on a platform.

“From the very beginning, we never called it a success bonus because it wasn’t just about recognizing specific success,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “It was about sharing the revenue that’s been generated in the streaming world. I think whatever version we end up with will be a significant move in that direction.”

The strike has lasted 109 days, and Crabtree-Ireland said he is aware of the pressure to bring it to an end, especially given the hardships felt by performers and below-the-line workers.

“I definitely feel that pressure — it’s why I feel such a sense of urgency to get things done,” he said. “That’s why we worked all weekend long, and we’re not taking any time off from trying to push this process forward.”

But he said he also hears from members who stress that structural changes are needed to get the industry moving in the right direction.

“We are really focused on making sure we are taking care of what our members need in this moment,” he said. “We will eventually get to a deal, and I hope sooner rather than later.”

VIP+ Webinar Replay: Hollywood on Strike — What’s Next?

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