Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, dismissed a studio rebuttal of what the guild says are the primary disagreements that led to a strike.
“It’s just not true,” he told TheWrap after taking part in a panel on AI at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.
And specifically, regarding a claim by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that it had in fact made robust offers to address the guild’s concerns about the use of AI in entertainment, Crabtree-Ireland was blunt: “That is not in any way what they offered.”
Among its reasons for going on strike, SAG-AFTRA says that studios, among other things, demanded the right to scan background actors (extras) using AI and retain rights to their likeness in perpetuity, including to replace real background actors, without further compensation. Guild leaders also say that AMPTP refused to agree to meaningful protections for actors against use of AI to replace them.
In its rebuttal, released Friday afternoon, (read it here), AMPTP denied it made any such demand regarding background actors, and asserted it had offered guarantees of consent, the right to bargain separately for use of digital replicas, and of full transparency for how such replicas would be used.
Crabtree-Ireland said he isn’t ready to respond to every part of the studios’ rebuttal, adding that a “team of people” is currently examining the AMPTP statement.
“But let me just say this,” he said. “As far as background performers go, you know, and this is actually something you can apply to many of the things that they’re saying, the devil is in the details.”
“So when they say, ‘Oh, yes, we agree that there should be consent.’ OK, technically, that’s true. But what they agreed to was that there should be consent at the time of initial employment, right?” Crabtree-Ireland continued. “And what that actually means in the real world of our members is you have a background actor, let’s say, who is going to be hired to work on a project, [and] that the company says, ‘We’re gonna hire you to work on this project for a day, and you’ll be digitally scanned.’”
“And if the background actor says, ‘Well, what if I don’t want to sign consent to have this digital scan that you can keep in use forever?’ ‘Then we won’t hire you.’” Crabtree-Ireland added.
“So that’s the kind of consent that we’re talking about. And to me, that’s not real consent. And I don’t think our members think that’s real consent. What real consent would be is you scan the person if you use it only for the project that they’ve been engaged for,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “And if you ever want to use it again, in the future, you go back to them, you tell them what it’s going to be used for, you give them an opportunity to say yes or no, and you offer them compensation for that future use.”
“That is not in any way, what they offered. And if they’re trying to sort of parse words to make it seem like that, that’s just not true,” he declared.
For all of The Wrap’s strike coverage, click here. And for all our San Diego Comic-Con coverage, go here.