And now SAG-AFTRA (actor's union) has joined the WGA (writer's union) and gone on strike.
Contract negotiations have always seemed like a big puzzle to me. But not a difficult one. Actors and writers are saying that they're being exploited (which they are, especially as AI tech advances) while studios are saying that the new streaming business model has drastically cut into the money they're raking in (which is likely true).
Studios put up the money to get stuff made. Sometimes it's successful (read: profitable) and sometimes it's not (read: loses them money). The success of some shows and movies offsets the losses from other shows and movies. Studio executives try and balance this out favorably so they can return a profit. If they don't turn a profit, then they don't have the money to take a chance on new shows and movies.
So, realistically, writers and actors want the studios to make money. That's how they will continue to find work. Not that there aren't writers or actors who would gladly screw over other writers and actors or the studios so they get more money... of course there are... I'm just saying that, in general, it is in their best interest to want the studios to turn a profit.
But they don't want to be exploited while doing it.
And studios, honestly, shouldn't want that either. No sane person wants to make money via exploitation. Anybody who does is evil and has no business being in control of a company.
And therein lies the problem. There are people in these studios who are, to put it mildly, evil. They don't give a shit how they make a buck, and if it takes fucking over the people who create the product they put out, they're going to do that. Scripts written via AI so you don't have to pay creators and writers? Do it! Actors forced to sign over their likeness so you can fire them and continue to have them in your product? Do it! If they can fuck over creative people for a buck, they will 1000% do that and think nothing of it so long as they keep making money.
Which is why this isn't really about the studios or the talent behind the studios.
It's about us consumers.
Will we support studios who think nothing about their writers and actors and have zero problem exploiting their talent for a buck while not giving a fuck who they're screwing over? I sure as hell hope not. I, for one, would never support a show where the writers and actors aren't fairly compensated for their work and have no security from the work and services they provide. Fuck that. I can very easily cancel all my streaming services with zero regrets. And that's exactly what I'll do if it comes down to it.
This is a strike with two sides that's going to take understanding from everybody involved. And it's largely going to fall on the studios to do the right thing. Because so many of the rank-and-file writers and actors want nothing more than to be able to make a living doing the work they love. But when writers have to live in fear of being cut loose after creating something so their ideas and hard work can be turned over to a computer... or actors have to worry they will be cut loose so computer-generated actors can exploit their likeness... well... that doesn't seem very fair, does it? Just listen to this horrendous crap that was revealed at the press conference...
"They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity, in any project they want with no consent and with no compensation."
There's a lot of room to create a system where studios can make a profit while treating the talented people that work for them fairly. But it will involve transparency. It will involve not being evil.
And, as much as I would miss the television and movies I love so much, I am more than willing to give it all up to make sure that the system which provides it is a fair one.