Screen Talk turned to strike talk on Friday at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival when host Anne Thompson was joined live on stage at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre by SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Watch the video above, or listen to the audio below.
He shared that unfortunately, as of Day 57 of the actors’ strike, there has been no movement on the AMPTP coming back to the bargaining table, but the strategy to grant interim agreements has been hopeful. “The goal of an interim agreement is to really prove to the industry and the world at large that the studio’s position is unreasonable, which it is, and I know this because there are over 1200 independent productions that would love to produce under our interim agreement,” said Crabtree-Ireland. “If this contract were unreasonable, unrealistic, or not viable, we wouldn’t have 1200 independent producers who by the way have fewer resources than the studios and streamers. And nonetheless, they say, ‘Absolutely, we are eager to move forward. We’re eager to work under the terms of this interim agreement.’”
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Crabtree-Ireland also talked a little bit about his own career journey, revealing he was a criminal prosecutor out of law school, before joining SAG-AFTRA in 2000. “There’s a surprising amount of overlap,” he joked, before giving an example of some of the AMPTP-affiliated studios’ shady dealings.
For example, the artificial intelligence issue goes deeper than hiring background actors only once and scanning them to use their likeness in perpetuity. There was a similar proposal for franchise projects that affects principal actors. Using the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a random example, Crabtree-Ireland said, “Let’s say you got hired for a day, or maybe even a week, to be a minor character in a Marvel movie. When that happened, as a condition of you getting that opportunity, you could be required to sign off on them creating a digital replica of you that they would have the right to use in perpetuity within that universe for anything without further consent or compensation.
He added, “Can you imagine the position that that’s putting someone in, which is this is their big break. They get cast in a Marvel movie, this is their chance, and then they’re told to get that chance, they have to basically give themselves up and give ownership over their persona to this corporation for any use they want in the future. That’s an absolutely unconscionable proposal. And of course we rejected it.”
The example hit on the core issue of informed consent, especially in contracts involving artificial intelligence. “The devil’s in the details with A.I.,” said the SAG negotiator. “If an actor is going to be asked to read that their image or likeness can be used through a digital replica, they need to know exactly what it’s going to be used for, how it’s going to be used, and they need to be able to say yes or no to that. The company’s idea of consent was, ‘Well, we can bury in a sentence on page 12 of a contract that says you give your consent for any use ever in the future in any way the company ever wants without further discussion.’ That is not consent.”
Listen to the audio below, or watch the full video at the top of the article.
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