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Update on the writer's strike

All photos taken by Heath Seifert

The Writer’s Guild of America, or WGA, had been on strike since May. At the beginning, it was unprecedented territory—even though there had been prior strikes, this one had the potential to last longer and with more intensity, and everyone was invested to see how it would turn out. However, people soon began to accept the strike as something normal, and interest in it decreased. Few people were riveted in updates, and the strike faded into a dull background. But on September 24th, a tentative agreement was finally reached! After going over some important points, the WGA’s needs were met, and the strike ended after 148 days—making it the second-longest strike in WGA history.

But before all of that, other unions had joined the writers’ plea for fairer rights. The Screen Actors Guild for The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, joined the picket lines on July 13th, almost two months ago. SAG-AFTRA is a union consisting of over 16,000 members, ranging from broadcasters, singers, DJs, stunt stand-ins, and actors. Just like the writers, their demands are concise and fair, and include components such as better compensation and a larger residual based on show viewership. However, a new issue had been presented, one that actors and writers are now more aware of: AI.

Artificial intelligence has been a pressing issue in many environments, especially schools and education. But as the technology continues to improve, more concerns are appearing. AI has the ability to create plots, develop characters, and create whole scripts. While it’s amazing to push the limits of what AI can do, its ability to do those things brings concern for a lot of actors and writers. Their jobs are now threatened by an automated robot, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

AI has practically no limits, and that is being tested more now than ever before. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which came out this year, employs FRAN (face re-aging network). Harrison Ford is 79 years old, but he was able to look 35 years old throughout the whole movie by using AI. Another instance is in Marvel’s new Secret Invasion—the show’s intro was entirely AI-generated. While these tools seem revolutionary, they’re actually very detrimental to actors and producers. By using a computer to do jobs or write scripts, writers are put out of work, it is much more difficult for them to find jobs. From an actor’s point of view, the allegations get even more serious. AI has the ability to capture an actor’s likeness, voice, and image, and then use it to change dialogue and create new scenes—without the actual actor present. This means that actors and actresses would be employed for a shorter period of time, and in a more pressing matter, have an image of themselves used without informed consent.

Although problems like these hindered progression in the strike, forward movement was made. Negotiations with AMPTP resumed on September 20th, where finally AMPTP began to listen to the writers, and negotiations turned into a deal.

This is amazing news for the writers, many

of whom have been struggling to make

ends meet for the last three months. Being on strike means that you can’t work—and when you can’t work, you can’t get paid. Without an income, many families find themselves in difficult financial situations. And, to add to that, they can’t even collect unemployment, which is a payment that helps support people out of work. Since writers are “choosing to be unemployed,” it makes them ineligible to collect unemployment benefits. However, a new bill was proposed, and if approved by Governor Newsom, it would allow members of SAG-AFTRA and WGA to collect unemployment benefits. This comes as a huge relief to many union workers who are struggling financially due to the strike, especially since the SAG-AFTRA strike is still in full force.

The end of the strike is good news for everyone. The writer's and production agencies have agreed on mutual terms that will go into contracts immediately. “We can say with great pride that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” said the official WGA statement. Although the actors are still on strike, this is a tremendous step in the right direction for restoring unity in the world of entertainment.

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