SAG-AFTRA and the studios will continue to talk beyond the contract deadline at midnight Friday, as they remain at odds over issues like tailings flow and artificial intelligence.
The union agreed to extend the contract until July 12. The Motion Picture and Television Producers Association and SAG-AFTRA made the announcement in a joint statement prior to 7 p.m. on Friday.
In a message to its members, SAG-AFTRA said the leadership had unanimously decided to extend the contract “in order to exhaust every opportunity to realize the righteous contract that we all demand and deserve.”
“No one should mistake this extension for weakness,” said the union leaders. “We see you. We heard you. We are you.”
The two sides are expected to meet again on Saturday, though they will likely take a few days off afterwards for the holiday.
Negotiations have started since June 7, and the two sides have exchanged suggestions and held lengthy meetings in the past few days. But sources said they remain apart on several key issues.
The union, which represents 160,000 artists, could still call a strike if talks break down.
In a letter this week, more than 1,000 members urged union leaders to call a strike if they cannot achieve a “transformative deal”.
In a video message last weekend, union president Fran Drescher said the talks had been “very productive,” promising to reach a “basic” agreement.
SAG-AFTRA strives for comprehensive AI protection and a residual streaming formula that will pay a bonus for top performing offers. The union is also looking to boost pension and health plans, which have had to significantly raise eligibility requirements during the pandemic.
Several SAG-AFTRA members have already joined the Writers Guild of America in picket lines in a show of solidarity. The WGA has been on strike for nearly two months, and the actors’ strike will shut down production on movies and TV shows that haven’t already been shut down by the writers.
Some low-budget independent productions may be given permission to continue. But much of the overseas production—which had largely survived the writers’ strike—would cease.
It is not unusual for SAG-AFTRA negotiations to extend a few days after the deadline. In both 2014 and 2017, negotiators extended the talks for an additional three days.
In this case, SAG-AFTRA had a short window for negotiation—only three weeks and two days. The talks usually last at least a full month, sometimes longer. Union negotiators also came to the negotiating table with an unusually long agenda.
SAG-AFTRA has not called for a strike on its original film and television contract since 1980. The strike lasted 94 days. Then, as now, the main issue was the remaining payments.
The syndicate suggested using Parrot Analytics, a third-party data company, to measure the success of offers, with the most popular offers generating a higher remaining percentage. The studios, represented by AMPTP, have resisted this idea. Studios have also refused to cap compensation on their viewership metrics, which are considered proprietary and not shared with content creators.
The union does not seek to ban the use of artificial intelligence to generate offers. However, it seeks to claim that any use of the image and likeness of actors is with that actor’s permission and with payment. The union is also seeking to restrict AI training.
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