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EXCLUSIVE: Sunday will not be a day of rest for SAG-AFTRA leadership and the studios this weekend.
Saturday’s virtual session between the AMPTP and guild leaders Fran Drescher, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, and the SAG-AFTRA negotiation committee has just ended.
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With the guild awaiting a response from the studios to their latest proposal, it appears the two sides will be working tomorrow, October 29. Whether that entails another meeting, either virtual or face-to-face, or a day of review, is yet to be determined, we hear.
Saturday’s virtual session was described to Deadline as “a deep dive” into the heart of the matter.
The major studio Gang of Four — Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix‘s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley — were not in attendance today.
Studios are anxious to restart global TV and feature productions, which have been halted since the actors walked out on July 14, 107 days ago. As they did with the WGA, the AMPTP is pushing for the guild to lift the restraining order and see members heading back to work even before any tentative deal is ratified. While the WGA agreed to a return-to-work during their deal-ratification process with the studios, there were fewer intricacies in enabling that 12,000-member union to do so than there are with the 160,000-strong actors guild given their size.
Today’s meeting comes after a Friday session via Zoom that many described as “underwhelmed” in regards to progress; still, both sides’ continued willingness to meet is a better sign than no talks at all.
After talks were re-started on October 24, the studios proposed a rise in minimum rates as well as increased bonuses based on the success of streaming shows and movies. The studios offered a 7% increase in minimums, with SAG-AFTRA offering on Friday a self-described “comprehensive counter” going from a proposed 11% rise to 9%, sources on both sides informed Deadline.
The studios’ proposal this past week was in response to the actors’ ask for a 57¢-per-subscriber annual charge for streamers. That request by SAG-AFTRA drew a great amount of ire among studio brass; studios “suspended” talks on October 11 for 12 days. Sarandos emphatically called the actors’ suggestion “a levy on subscribers,” Crabtree-Ireland, at NY Comic-Con expressed his thoughts on Sarandos’ words, saying that they were “preposterous.”
“That’s like saying that workers should be compensated for their work as a tax. That’s wrong. The reason that product exists is because of their work. Fair compensation, fair wages for workers is not, and never has been, or will be a tax,” the SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator and national executive director told Deadline.
Some on the studio side argued that a subscriber charge would backfire for actors given a downturn in an OTT service’s subs; the AMPTP parties believe a performance-based measure of revenue share was better.
On Thursday night, during a week of returned talks, an open letter to the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Hamm, Sarah Paulson, Chelsea Handler, Christian Slater, Sandra Oh, Daveed Diggs, Pedro Pascal and more emphasized “We would rather stay on strike than take a bad deal.”
Drescher, Crabtree-Ireland and the negotiating committee’s mission has been to express the guild’s need to overhaul an antiquated residual payment structure that hasn’t accounted for streaming. Long gone are the guest-star days when syndication residuals from long-running broadcast series could cushion an actor’s year. Short episodic streaming orders are the new norm.
Already, the impact of dual strikes has cost the state of California $6.5 billion, with many below-the-line workers suffering due to production stoppages and 45,000 industry jobs lost. Already, the 2024 global box office is set to lose $1.5 billion with the delay of the likes of Mission: Impossible 8, Snow White and Pixar’s Elio to the 2025 schedule. Even if an actors strike comes to an end in the near future, the resumed production and post-production of such films rely heavily on thespians.
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