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The Hollywood Strike

Annoyed at Delays? Tell the CEOs to pay actors and writers fairly!

By Natasja RosePublished 8 months ago β€’ Updated 8 months ago β€’ 5 min read
Top Story - July 2023
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The Hollywood Strike
Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

I'm in a lot of fan-pages on assorted social media, and something I've been seeing a lot of over the past few days is people complaining about delays to the next season of their favourite show, or the latest instalment of a film franchise.

It makes me wonder if they realise that's the purpose of a strike: to leverage the collective inconvenience (and resutling annoyance at the company involved) to Jane, John and Jo Average Citizen against the Mega-Boss who doesn't think they should have to care about what the public thinks of them.

So, for anyone upset about the Hollywood Strike causing delays...

Great! Call or email the studio executives! Tell them to treat their employees fairly and pay actors and writers what they're worth!

See, not everyone in a production makes a six-figure paycheque. That's pretty much reserved for the stars, and a lot of actors make the bulk of their pay in residuals - a percentage of the profits every time a movie is shown in theatres or downloaded from iTunes or watched on a streaming site.

One of the big demands of WAG and SAG-AFTRA is that the studios scrap their plan of scanning an actor, paying them for a day's work, and using their likeness in perpetuity via CGI and AI. It doesn't take a genius to see where that would end: with the main cast acting in front of a Green Screen while background cast are CGI-added in later, the actors having been paid pennies for the use of their likeness.

Another demand is for writers to be paid when their work is used to "train" AI like ChatGPT, which then (badly) regurgitates an article, script or draft "in the style of ___". What next, cutting out the writers entirely and hiring a copy-editor at much lower rates to edit an AI-generated script into something marketable?

ProTip: while fanfiction may be tolerated, writers don't actually like it when someone imitates their work and doesn't even do so well.

Before they got their big breaks, actors kept the bills paid with background gigs and walk-on roles, then got cast for perhaps a few lines or a minor speaking role, then a recurring bit-part or type-cast.

Before Rene-Jean Page was Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton, he had a role standing next to Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1. Before that, he had some other walk-on roles, mostly in TV and Shorts. Between Deathly Hallows and his role as Chicken George in Roots, he had some other smaller roles, that led to bigger named roles, that led to stardom.

Imagine if WB had paid Rene-Jean once for that role, then kept the rights to his image?

No roles to add to his resume or portfolio. No opportunities to network with other actors. No way to build experience on screen. Just another face in the crowd, with no way to stand out.

In a profession where "who you know", whether through family connections or having previously worked with them on a project, is the surest way to get your foot in the door, lack of opportunity to be on set can be a huge detriment.

And that's not even touching on the copyright issues. If one studio owns the rights to an actor's image, can they block the actor from allowing another studio to use a different image of them? Can they sell the right to the actors image to another studio or production, without the actor ever seeing a cent of the profits?

No one knows, because AI on this scale is new and untested, and there is very little precedence. Writers and Actors want to get this written into their contracts now, because if they wait until the next contract negotiations, it may be too late and they'll have nothing to bargain with.

Those who patronise Archive Of Our Own, a fanfiction site, may have noticed that a whole bunch of stories just went Members-Only Private. That's because word got out that AIs were being trained on fanfiction, and no-one wanted their hard work being taken advantage of. A number of writers and actors are doing the same thing, suing AI parent companies for unauthorised use of their likeness or work.

I asked ChatGPT to write a scene from the Meryton Assembley in Pride and Prejudice, where Mr Darcy did ask Elizabeth to dance. This is a common premise for many Pride and Prejudice Variations. While ChatGPT gets the general atmosphere and character names correct, everything else is wrong. The Assembly is the first time Elizabeth and Mr Darcy actually see each other in person, and while in the original P&P Mr Darcy makes a disparaging remark, they haven't actually spoken to each other before, and it will be a few more weeks before Mr Darcy admits to finding her attractive, even to himself. If I actually read this in an Austen Variation, it would be immediately relegated to the DNF pile.

In the various Writing communities, AI is a hotly-contested topic. Some see it as the next step in mass-produced novels as a get-rich-quick scheme, or a way to quickly produce content for blogs or paid-content websites like Quora or Medium.

Others are wary, since there have been very few updated Terms and Conditions that take a hard stance on the use of AI, but are very clear on profiting from another's work without permission. What is acceptable and what crosses the line?

Is it ok to be inspired by a writing prompt? To use Midjourney or other Art AI when you're struggling to describe a setting or a character's appearence? What about using ChatGPT to write a scene when you're struggling with writer's block?

What about having AI write the first draft, then editing it into something original? What about AI-generated fanart that you print and sell at conventions? Do you need to pay the AI beyond your monthly subscription to avoid copyright infringement?

Where does it start? Where does it stop?

(Seriously, while ChatGPT is fine for Intercoms and the ChatBot that figures out which department you actually need to talk to before it transfers you to an actual human, it's attempts at original fiction read like a pre-teen's first attempts at a Steamy Romance. It's bland, there is no depth to the characters or the plot, important details are inconsistent and/or incorrect and everything is over in less than a thousand words. I wouldn't trust it for anything more than generating a writing prompt.)

If you value good writing in movies and TV, books that don't read like a 13-year-old trying to write Werewolf Erotica, and acting that isn't CGI, then support the strike.

If we're lucky, Studio CEOs will be forced to back down quickly and everything will be back on track.

If the CEOs win, we may see even fewer of our favourit shows, because a lot of actors and workers behind those shows won't be able to afford to follow their dreams, and will be forced to quit in favour of a "real job".

If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.

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About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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Comments (21)

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  • Syeda Umama6 months ago

    https://vocal.media/art/the-vanishing-gx2lc0gur

  • Canuck Scriber7 months ago

    Excellent article! I think the problem doesn't lie so much with the studios but the streaming companies programming which is utterly terrible on some net channels. Ai imo, is overrated and hyped. The example you give demonstrates that. AI art is a little different, the source is a composite images already on free domain on internet. With AI writing, it's all copyright infringement.

  • Lilly Cooper7 months ago

    This. Was. Fantastic. You put this scourge into words I think we all need to start using. AI in certain circumstances makes sense, as you mentioned: directing phone calls to the appropriate person, answering basic enquiries online to direct correctly. But writing a novel? A script? Creating extras using scanned people on a green screen? I think we need to change up the language we use and call it what it is. Plagiarism.

  • Very informative! Thank you! πŸ‘

  • Raymond G. Taylor8 months ago

    Great article and well done for supporting actors and writers

  • C. H. Richard8 months ago

    AI and Chapwhatever bother me on so many levels. Yes I believe in technology, but the idea of original thought and real humans being replaced by their images is not just creepy and screams of plagiarism, it just really sad for all of us. Well done on this piece and congratulations on your top story ❀️

  • Rachel M.J8 months ago

    I immediately googled Rege Jean Page in Harry Potter, haha! Thanks for pointing that out, also putting a human face and a beloved actor to the issue really gives it some more weight. I wonder if AI did replace background actors how the 'sourcing' of new stars would work.

  • Cezanne Libellen8 months ago

    AI needs to stop being developed. It is going to ruin our prospects as creators, and the world will be polluted with AI's crappy creations.

  • Mariann Carroll8 months ago

    Congratulations πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ I had a feeling this wood make top story πŸ’“πŸ’•πŸ‘

  • Caroline Jane8 months ago

    Nicely done Natasja πŸ₯°

  • Sarah D8 months ago

    True, even dreams have monetary value! What about the American Dream? It started off with a dream of doing big things! Nice Article, Good for us writers! Would you read my story? https://vocal.media/fiction/the-story-of-estella-and-harold

  • Mark Graham8 months ago

    How true in what you wrote. I believe that all artists whether actor, writer and or artist just get their right monetary due.

  • Jason Ray Morton 8 months ago

    Good piece. I'm mixed on the strike. In some respects I see it as a rough time in Hollywood for crew workers. The rich are wanting more, and those workers in the industry that aren't rich, and will never be, are out of work until this is over. The actors all need a wake up call. Look at the box office string of failures in 2023. Then there's the writers, who ultimately wrote the failed works of this year. There's so much to consider with this strike. But, we'll survive if television and movies flounder for a while. Hell, maybe we'll get smarter.

  • Margaret Brennan8 months ago

    I agree with the strike. My dad had been a carpenter / stagehand for NBC and then for the Met in NYC. While he wasn't in the actor's guild or things like that, he WAS in the carpenters union. Anytime the actors, writers, or whoever went on strike, so did dad's union. They had to do their time on the picket line and never, I mean NEVER cross the picket line. They all stuck together and were there for each other. Dad's been gone closes to 30 years now but I can still hear him say, "Their works is just as important as mine. Respect them."

  • Ashley Lima8 months ago

    Great post. I stand with the WGA and SAG, as this issue very well may bleed into my own work down the line. These artists are exploited for their work and deserve fair compensation. Congrats on TS

  • Preach it, sister!

  • Babs Iverson8 months ago

    Marvelous written and a timely and important issue!!!β™₯️β™₯οΈπŸ’•

  • Dana Crandell8 months ago

    Thanks for this, Natasja! I think it's important for creators to realize just how close to home these issues are. I'm completely in agreement with the reality of what's being passed off as AI. Not only have I been invited (and declined) to submit prompts and edit/rewrite the generated content in lieu of writing it, I (and millions of others) am directly affected by its impact on pricing structures for freelance writing. Plagiarism is plagiarism, and it's time to create AI-centric laws and fair practice standards. Great article!

  • Mariann Carroll8 months ago

    I know Seinfeld , would not have this issue. I don’t watch a lot of sitcom anymore. Prices in the US is so unrealistic compare to other countries who are now thriving compare to us. If you look in the news our country seem like a third world country. Our politicians are not at all United for the people as they should be. We are so busy helping foreign countries that we are no longer trying to help ourselves

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