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.
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".
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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