The impacts of the actor and writer strikes on Idaho’s film industry

Illustration by Sydney Smith

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and The Writers Guild of America (WGA) have reportedly reached deals and made progress in negotiation with major film companies in regards to the ongoing strikes concerning actors and screenwriters pay and rights.

The strikes have brought the film industry to a halt in many places, including Idaho, with the

exception of a few independent productions.

According to Elizabeth Findley, producer and owner of Findley Productions, the strikes also shut down film competitions that local producers use to break into the industry.

“For people like me that aren’t in the mainstream industry yet, a lot of the programs are inactive

right now, like writing, directing programs and script contests,” Finley said. “So it’s really hard,

like a lot of these things that would give us a foot in the door like … and as long as it’s, in effect, like we’re not going to have these programs available to us.”

Two of the main causes behind the actor strikes are the use of A.I. in film and streaming rates

for actors. 

Before streaming, actors would receive residuals — checks for everytime shows were

aired or re-run, but the same pay system does not currently exist for streaming. 

Some studios have proposed using A.I. scans of background actors which allows them to only pay actors once. They can then use A.I. to place the actors face or body into the background of a scene, allowing studios to avoid hiring and paying more extras. Studios are also in talks of starting to use A.I. to help write scripts, eliminating the need to pay screenwriters.

“What the unions are fighting for is really important in our industry because it enables actors to

get paid what they need to get paid, what they deserve to get paid, especially from the

streaming services. And the same goes with the writers as well,” Steph Cullen, founder and

CEO of OMG Studios said.

Cullen believes it is impossible for A.I. to produce the same quality of work as writers.

“I’m also a writer and writing comes from the heart. Writing comes from experience, and A.I. can

only take what you’ve given it and so it’s not going to produce a real experience,” Cullen said.

David Kepner, a 2017 Boise State graduate and current strike captain, has been organizing

SAG-AFTRA strikes outside the Netflix building in Los Angeles, California.

“We want transparency and we want better healthcare. I think only about 12.7% of actors now

qualify for healthcare in the SAG-AFTRA union because there’s a minimum right now that all actors have to make up to a certain point, I think like $26,000 to qualify for health care,” Kepner

said. “And so the fact that the minimums are so low that the actors can’t even get there, and that

streaming residuals are basically absent… all these actors and writers are being exploited for their work.”

According to Kepner, the cooperation between WGA and SAG-AFTRA has been key to

reaching a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers  (AMPTP) on pay and A.I regulations. WGA reached a deal with AMPTP and will vote on the ratification in October, while SAG-AFTRA entered a new round

of negotiations on Monday, Oct. 2.

“The WGA deal is very impressive as it addresses fundamental necessities like minimum wage

hikes, AI oversight, and streaming incentives. It’s worth noting that the original offer from

AMPTP to WGA was $86 million, yet they amazingly won almost three times that amount with a

new total value of $233 million,” Kepner said. “This will be extremely fundamental for

SAG-AFTRA as they start new rounds of negotiations on Monday.”

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