Writer’s Strike Ends as SAG/AFTRA Negotiations Restart

This past week, the 146 day Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike finally came to an end, with three internal WGA boards voting unanimously to end the strike. Members will have until October 9th to vote on the new contract, which they are expected to approve.

On the heels of this historic agreement, SAG/AFTRA announced yesterday that strike negotiations with studios would resume on Monday. The guild said several studio executives will attend, much as they did during marathon sessions last week that helped bring the nearly five-month writers strike to an end.

Reports say the terms of the WGA’s new contract are more generous than the writers’ originally demanded, with increased residuals for streaming and bonuses for working on hit shows. But what everyone really wants to know about is A.I.

Movie studios had at first refused to engage on the A.I. issue, saying too little was known about the technology. But the issue couldn’t be ignored, and terms were hammered out with what little forecasting power the two parties had.

At first glance, it appears the writers received the regulation and control they were seeking. The new contract specifies that studios cannot use A.I. tools to rewrite original material. Also, A.I.-generated stories cannot be considered “source” material to be adapted into scripts.

The takeaway for most writers, and their film industry allies, is that A.I. based technology cannot replace writers. Most Guild members, when interviewed, felt victorious.

The threat of A.I. replacing workers is what drove most union members to strike in the first place. And that’s not just for the WGA – workers are striking across numerous industries, including shipping, automaking and retail, in attempts to rein in the burgeoning power of A.I.

Toronto filmmaker Bardya Ziaian has a unique perspective on the potential for A.I. to shake up the industry. As a producer who’s shifted into film after a career in financial technology, he’s seen firsthand the seismic shifts that can occur within an industry dealing with new tech innovations.

“In Fintech, there are new innovations all the time, and the markets, who are by nature hostile to any kind of change, have constantly had to adapt to new technologies and new ways of doing the work they’ve always done. So I think it’s vital for the film unions and the studios to have a frank, upfront discussion about the implications of integrating A.I. into the creative process,” says Ziaian. “You don’t want things to just play out haphazardly. In finance, there have been shifts in the balance of power due to new tech that’s been hard to predict, and that’s absolutely what’s occurring in real time with A.I. and the film industry.”

Ziaian says Canadian film workers have been “devastated” by the strike, particularly coming on the heels of the two-year-long pandemic which shut down most productions.

“The pandemic was devastating enough,”  says Ziaian. “At Bardya Pictures, we fought through it as best we could, trying to keep our crews and actors at work when other avenues were shut down for them. It was so hard for everyone. So it’s great to see things start to kick into gear again after this strike. We’re seeing lots of writers’ rooms start back up. Sets are getting built, offices are reopening. We’re hoping the SAG/AFTRA negotiations go quickly and they can hammer out a new contract. It’s all great news for the Canadian film industry.”

The fight to control A.I. was the driving force behind the strike for many guild members. For now, they’ll have to hope that their union has done enough to protect them.


Hot Topics

Related Articles