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Industry Insight

SAG-AFTRA Union Votes on Groundbreaking 2023 TV/Theatrical Contracts

In a day marked with anticipation and historical significance, the members of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are preparing to cast a pivotal vote. The ratification of the 2023 TV/Theatrical Contracts comes after an intense 118-day strike, signaling a potential turning point in the entertainment industry. This crucial agreement, forged with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), stands to enact transformative changes. From groundbreaking AI protections to substantial wage increases, these changes are not just about rewriting contracts – they're about reshaping the future of Hollywood itself. Let's dive into the proposed terms of the new agreement.

AI Protections: A Step into the Future

In an unprecedented move, the new contract includes robust protections surrounding the use of artificial intelligence. A key highlight is the requirement for informed consent and compensation when creating and using digital replicas of SAG-AFTRA members, living or deceased. This clause addresses ethical concerns over AI and digital replication, ensuring rights and compensation for actors in the rapidly evolving digital age.

Wage Increases: A Boost for Actors

The proposed contract includes a structured wage increase. Actors will see an immediate 7% raise upon ratification, followed by a 4% increase in July 2024, and another 3.5% in July 2025. Background actors will benefit from an 11% increase effective November 12, 2023, with additional hikes in the following two years. These increases aim to keep pace with economic changes and inflation, ensuring fair compensation for performers.

Equity for Background Actors

A significant step towards equity, the agreement proposes equalizing the number of covered positions for background actors across the West and East Coast Zones. This change will add around 11,000 new covered work days each year, increasing employment opportunities for these vital, often overlooked, members of the industry.

Enhanced Benefits for Health and Pension

In a move to secure the financial future of its members, the contract raises the contribution cap for health and pension funds. This applies to both one-hour and half-hour productions, enhancing the benefits and welfare provisions for actors and acknowledging the importance of their long-term financial security.

Streaming Compensation: Adapting to New Realities

Acknowledging the shift towards streaming content, the agreement introduces new compensation streams for performers in this domain. Besides bonuses on top of existing residuals, a new distribution fund will ensure equitable compensation, reflecting the increasing significance of streaming in entertainment.

Stunt Coordinator Residuals

For the first time, stunt coordinators working in television and new media will receive fixed residuals, acknowledging their crucial role in production and ensuring fair compensation for their contributions.

Advancing Equity and Safety in the Workplace

The agreement includes significant steps towards improving workplace equity and safety. This encompasses hair and makeup equity, sharing of diversity statistics, elimination of inappropriate wiggings and paintdowns, adoption of gender-neutral language, access to gender-affirming care, and translation services. It also bolsters sexual harassment prevention, including the use of intimacy coordinators for sensitive scenes.

Casting Process Protections

The new standards set for the casting process aim to make auditions more respectful and manageable. This includes providing audition materials in advance, setting limits on self-tape lengths, and imposing restrictions on nudity requests.

Increased Relocation Allowances

Addressing the challenges of relocation, the contract significantly increases allowances for series performers, offering substantial support for actors who work in various locations.

Cumulative Impact

The contract is expected to bring over $1 billion in new wages and benefits, marking a significant financial uplift for union members.

As SAG-AFTRA members head to the polls, the outcome of today's vote will be a pivotal moment in the history of the entertainment industry. This agreement promises to redefine the standards and practices of the industry, setting a new precedent for actors' rights, compensation, and working conditions in the age of digital media.