Greetings and Salutations!
I decided to take a moment to address the issue of the Screen Actors Guild going out on strike, joining the Writers Guild of America for the first time in 60 years. I have seen some folks posting negative comments about this…talking about how all those rich, Hollywood types were just greedy and did not deserve to make more money.
Well, for a variety of reasons, I thought I should correct a few points here, and add some explanation of what is going on.
- A vast majority of the talent that provides each of us with some distraction and relief from the struggles of life are NOT rich and famous. Overall, the median yearly income of a member of the Screen Actors Guild is $40,000. Perhaps in the 1960s that would have been a great salary, but these days? It will not even get one into the Middle Class. According to This Link, the median salary of actors in 2022 was $5,000 – the Pandemic hit the entertainment industry very hard.
- Work for SAG members is spotty. It is a gig economy there for a vast majority of the actors. Some of them get hooked up with shows that run for a long time…years, even. Most of them might work for a year or less, and be out of work for a couple of years.
- There have been some huge changes in the industry over the past few years, that have worked to cut income for writers and actors. For example…Streaming services. The reality is that the industry has no way to deal with streaming, so, while actors might get a few bucks when their previous shows are broadcast on the air or via cable, they get nothing when the same show is streamed. Another new issue is the advancement of Artificial Intelligence. In less than a year, it has gone from an interesting but irrelevant toy to a major threat to actors and writers. For example…up to now, if a given show requires modifications…say, dialogue re-recorded because of background noise which caused issues with hearing the lines…the actors in the scene would be called in to create a clean recording. This, of course, was a paid gig for them. If the director discovered that a scene was simply wrong, again the actors would be called in, and paid to re-create the scene properly. With A.I. there is no need for the actors any longer. Software, which has the image of the actor, and their voice, can manipulate these to create any needed changes – an the actor does not get paid a penny. While it has not happened as of yet…it is theoretically possible to create an entirely new show using images and voices of actors, run by A.I. and not have to pay the actors a penny. All this is possible because acting is a “work for hire” product, that means the actor loses all control over their image and voice once they finish the job. They have no copyright on that work.
- A.I. can, when given some parameters, create a script in seconds that would take weeks of work for writers to produce. Is it as good as what humans can do? On rare occasions, yes. However, A. I. has no concept of humor, or, other emotional content. So, anything it produces can be intricate, and technically correct, but, it may not have depth. I have seen a couple of attempts, and I have to say that for documentaries, it does OK. For suspense/Drama, not as well, and for Comedy it is kind of like throwing darts while blindfolded. However, these issues may not be important to the Industry…when balanced against the reality that machines work for free, leaving more money for them.
- Actors and writers are the vital heart of the entertainment industry. However, they typically get little more than a pittance of the total earnings of a given show. The residual payments also are a challenge… HERE is an interesting article that touches on Residuals and how they work! When you read the article, remember that it focuses on the highest grossing shows broadcast…so the numbers look impressive. However, there are thousands of shows broadcast every day that are earning a fraction of this..and their residual payments are tiny.
- Many people in the film industry not only have steady jobs, Producers/Directors/and the like, but are paid more than the talent. the majority of Film Producer salaries currently range between $62,500 to $77,500. Executive producers have a median salary of $108,000/year.
I, for one, support SAG/AFTRA and the SWG in their work action, and hope that the pressure the industry is feeling with motivate it to improve the condition of the workers. I hope anyone reading this will agree, and post comments supporting this action.
God Help Us All
Stay safe! Get vaccinated, wash hands, mask, and social distance…Covid is still with us!
Bee Man Dave.