UPDATED with joint statement: SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers agreed Friday to extend their current film and TV contract until July 12 to allow bargaining on a new deal to continue, both sides said this evening. The current contract had been set to expire tonight at midnight PT, after which it would have likely meant a second major Hollywood guild would be on strike against the studios.
“The agreements, which were set to expire at 11:59 p.m. PT tonight, will now expire on July 12, at 11:59 p.m. PT,” SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP said in a joint statement. “The parties will continue to negotiate under a mutually agreed upon media blackout. Neither organization will comment to the media about the negotiations during the extension.”
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An extension of the SAG-AFTRA contract during tough talks is not unusual: the guild and the studios did so in 2014 and 2017 before finally reaching deals in early July of those years. The extension of the existing contract tonight by 10 working days comes amid a looming Fourth of July holiday, when most of the town typically shutters for a stretch.
Earlier this week, Deadline reported that an extension was on the table with July 7 as a probable date. An insider said this evening: “Yeah, they’ll probably be talking a bit over the weekend, but they really won’t get back to the table until after the holiday.” Under that scenario, that gives the sides an additional week to try and make a deal, though a deal or a strike could come at anytime before the new deadline.
The extension comes against the backdrop of an unprecedented grassroots campaign by guild members to urge the guild to stand strong at the bargaining table and to “join the WGA on the picket lines” if a major “realignment in our industry” can’t be achieved. Earlier this week, more than 1,700 actors, including many prominent SAG-AFTRA members, signed off on a letter to guild leaders saying they “would rather go on strike” and “join the WGA on the picket lines” than compromise on key issues. The ongoing Writers Guild strike is now in its 60th day.
Last Saturday, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, who also signed the “prepared to strike letter,” and national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland posted a video in which they told members that the guild’s contract negotiations have been “extremely productive” and they “remain optimistic” that a fair deal can be reached.
On Thursday, Drescher told Good Morning America that the contract talks were making headway “in some areas” and “in some areas we’re not.”
On June 5, SAG-AFTRA members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if contract talks fail to reach an acceptable deal. Prior to the authorization vote, the guild laid out some of its key bargaining issues, which include “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self-taping.”
With respect to economic fairness, the guild said that “Outdated contract terms, coupled with the evolution of the media business, including shorter season orders and longer hiatuses between seasons makes it increasingly difficult for our members to achieve and maintain a middle class lifestyle working as a performer. In sharp contrast to the diminishing compensation paid to our members, the studios are posting immense profits with a bullish outlook as demonstrated by lavish corporate executive compensation.
“SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring our members are able to make a living performing in scripted dramatic live action entertainment. This means ensuring increased compensation when our members work, shoring up the funding of our Health, Retirement, and Pension Plans, and providing our members a meaningful share of the economic value created by their performances.”
As for residuals, the guild said that “While new business models mean that more and more SAG-AFTRA content is monetized around the globe, residuals payments are failing to reflect the economic value of this exhibition. SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring residual payments both reflect the economic value of our members’ contribution, and serve as a meaningful source of performer earnings.
With respect to AI, the guild said that “Artificial intelligence has already proven to be a real and immediate threat to the work of our members and can mimic members’ voices, likenesses and performances. We must get agreement around acceptable uses, bargain protections against misuse, and ensure consent and fair compensation for the use of your work to train AI systems and create new performances. In their public statements and policy work, the companies have not shown a desire to take our members’ basic rights to our own voices and likenesses seriously.”
Self-taped auditions, meanwhile, “are unregulated and out of control,” the guild said. “Too many pages, too little time and unreasonable requirements have made self-taping auditions a massive, daily, uncompensated burden on the lives of performers. Reasonable rules and limitations, and access to other casting formats, are sorely needed to ensure fair access to work opportunities and protect performers against exploitation.”
The guild also said that “Many other important issues, including those specific to particular careers and categories, will be on the table as well.”
Dominic Patten contributed to this report
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