After 118 days, the longest actors’ strike in Hollywood history is over. SAG-AFTRA’s deal with the AMPTP ended the strike at 12:01 AM on Thursday, November 9. The new deal went out to all 160,000 members on Tuesday, November 14, for its ratification. Members have until Tuesday, December 5, to vote with results presumably made known within a few days of the end of the voting period.
But what new agreements does the SAG-AFTRA deal contain? How will it change the industry? And what details do producers need to be aware of as Hollywood wakes up to a new landscape? Read on to find out.
2023 will go down as one of the most transformative years in Hollywood history… And not just because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization was predicated on many of the same challenges the rest of the industry faced.
On account of pressing concerns such as dwindling residual artist payments and the usage of AI , two of the major Hollywood unions went on strike in 2023.
The DGA was the first to come to an agreement with the studios, followed by the WGA (after a 148-day strike), and now the actors, with their brand new SAG-AFTRA deal.
After the 100-plus days of the SAG strike of 2023, what ultimately ended up in the SAG-AFTRA deal? According to SAG:
“In a contract valued at over one billion dollars, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes ‘above-pattern’ minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus. Our Pension & Health caps have been substantially raised, which will bring much needed value to our plans. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.”
Here’s a rundown of the SAG-AFTRA deal’s key points:
One of the most complex and difficult issues negotiated during the SAG strike in 2023 was how to regulate the use of AI. In fact, this issue was a major component of the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization.
Much of the disagreement between the studios and union during the SAG strike of 2023 revolved around actors giving consent to the use of their image, and how much an actor should be paid if their digital likeness is used.
The resulting SAG-AFTRA deal is complex, but the bottom line is that major steps have been taken to protect SAG members’ likenesses from being used without compensation, consent, and credit.
First and foremost, if a performer’s likeness is used to create a digital replica, they must be paid the “performer’s pro rata daily rate or the minimum rate, whichever is higher.”
In addition, the SAG-AFTRA deal says that a project’s producer must make a “good faith effort” to determine the number of days the digital performer’s scenes would’ve taken to shoot if the actor had been on set.
The SAG-AFTRA deal further stipulates that consent and compensation must be negotiated separately each time a performer’s likeness is used in a project. This means the studios can’t scan an actor once and own that image for potential usage in other projects.
The expanded AI compensation structure also applies to residuals. Ninety days after ratification of the SAG deal in 2023, the new rules will go into effect. From that point on, performers who fall under the category of employment-based digital replication will earn residual compensation on their work whether their performance was in person or their digital replica was used.
Under these rules, it’s not just stars that benefit from the SAG deal in 2023. Background actors will also receive greater compensation.
The hours an actor spends creating a digital replica are now classified as work and will be paid accordingly. So if a background actor is called in exclusively to be scanned for replication, they will be paid “for a full day.”
If the resulting digital creation is then upgraded and used as a principal character “the actor gets paid a principal’s rate for the estimated days they would have worked.”
To help further explain the new AI rules in the SAG-AFTRA deal, the union has released the following two infographics:
This was one of the highest profile negotiation points for both sides. In fact, the divide between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP around streaming participation is what caused a breakdown in negotiations at the bargaining table on October 11.
At the end of the negotiations, the AMPTP agreed to fund an annual $40 million in residuals, or $120 million over the course of the three-year contract.
The money in this fund is to be distributed to "series, mini-series and longform pictures that have initial exhibition on or after January 1, 2024," and are viewed by at least 20% of a particular streamer's domestic subscribers in the first 90 days.
This is very similar to the language for streaming residuals set by the WGA contract in September.
What makes this different from the WGA deal is the way in which the money can be allocated.
The SAG-AFTRA deal summary pledges a 75/25 distribution model of the money: 75% directly to the cast of a hit streaming show or movie and 25% back into the fund co-run by the union and the studios for them to allocate accordingly.
Theoretically, this means that the 25% going into the co-run fund can be paid out to any SAG-AFTRA members the trustees choose even if they are not on a hit streaming show as defined by the SAG deal in 2023.
What this means in practice for how actors are paid streaming bonuses remains to be seen.
While these increases were not one of the more controversial points during the SAG strike in 2023, they’re perhaps some of the most important.
According to the 2023 SAG deal points:
Minimums shall increase by 7% effective Nov. 9, 2023, by another 4% effective July 1, 2024 and by another 3.5% effective July 1, 2025. These increases shall be compounded.
Much like increases in minimum wages, this was not one of the more exciting items on the table for the SAG deal in 2023. But “not exciting” doesn’t mean “unimportant.” The health and pension increases gained in the SAG strike in 2023 are historic.
As detailed in the fine print:
“The contribution ceiling for half hour TV or new media motion pictures increases from $15,000 to $25,000 [while the] contribution ceiling for one hour TV or new media motion pictures increases from $24,500 to $35,000.”
Changes to the Schedule F contracts are also a part of the new SAG deal..
The SAG-AFTRA deal in 2023 also increases the minimum for performers working on Schedule F contracts.
The SAG deal in 2023 increases feature minimums from $65,000 to $80,000. For Half-Hour TV and New Media Motion Pictures, the minimum rate increases from $32,000 to $37,500, and for One Hour and Longer TV and New Media Motion Pictures the rate increases from $32,000 to $45,000.
Finally, for Multi-Part Closed-End Motion Pictures (or “mini-series” in layman’s terms) the Schedule F rate increases from $40,000 to $47,500 per picture and from more than $4,650 to more than $5,150 per week. This rate is for each individual “motion picture” in the series.
In addition to these rate increases, the new SAG deal details an uptick in PH&W contribution caps for TV half hour ($15,000 to $25,000) and hour-long ($24,500 to $35,000) programs. These increases are scheduled to go into effect on December 8, 2024.
The SAG strike in 2023 was a long and painful process. However, while the longest actors’ strike in SAG-AFTRA history, hopefully the groundwork has been laid for a successful negotiation when the contract expires again in another three years.
If you’re looking for more information on the other Hollywood union strikes this year, check out our wrap-ups on the DGA deal and the WGA deal. And to make sure your production is following all of the new rules, check out our Union Compliance homepage!
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