Hollywood strikes create uncertainty for future creators in filmmaking

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BYU senior Alison Kimball sets up her camera for a film project. Kimball studied how to fill a number of different roles on a production team. (Photo courtesy of Alison Kimball)

The Hollywood writer and actor strikes around artificial intelligence in filmmaking are impacting more than just current writers and actors.

The rising generation of filmmakers, camera crews, editors, lighting engineers and other behind-the-scenes workers are currently out of jobs due to the strikes.

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers after failing to reach an agreement regarding a pay raise for writers.

According to the WGA strike website, multiple proposals failed to reach an agreement, including a proposal regarding artificial intelligence.

The Minimum Basic Agreement, which helped protect work done by WGA members, expired on May 1.

The WGA wanted to regulate AI usage in MBA-projects and asked that “AI can’t write or rewrite literary material; can’t be used as source material; and MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI.” According to the website, the AMPTP rejected the proposal and offered to hold “annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology” instead.

On July 14, the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union dedicated to protecting the rights of actors, announced that the AMPTP was “unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues” important to its members. At the same time, SAG-AFTRA announced they would be going on strike.

This marks the first time since 1960 that both the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA went on strike at the same time.

On July 17, SAG-AFTRA released an update regarding the reasoning behind the strike. The update listed key issues discussed with the AMPTP and included a comprehensive document detailing the status of the issues.

One point of discussion involved scanning the likeness of background actors using artificial intelligence and reusing actors’ image in future films without paying the actors for the use of their digital form, apart from a one-time fee.

The SAG-AFTRA website said actors “need fair compensation that accounts for inflation, revenue sharing on top of residuals, protection from AI technology and updates to our pension and health contribution caps, which haven’t been changed in decades.”

Alison Kimball works with others to create commercials for different products. She said she wants filmmaking to become an art-form again. (Photo courtesy of Alison Kimball)

BYU senior Alison Kimball plans on moving to Los Angeles in the fall to pursue opportunities as a professional filmmaker.

Kimball called herself a jack-of-all-trades in the film industry and said she refused to specialize her skills while in school. She tried her hand in cinematography, directing, acting and screen-writing. Due to her array of skills, she said she can work a number of different positions on a film crew.

“I’ve been really thankful for my ability to adapt. I’m very grateful for that,” Kimball said.

Professionals working in Los Angeles warned Kimball against relying on Hollywood for a job. Her current job, working with companies filming commercials, has not been affected by the strikes.

“Every single thing that happens on a film set needs to happen on a commercial set too,” Kimball said.

Kimball said while people might not want to take commercial jobs over working in Hollywood, the option is there for them. She said she is willing to see what happens in the future with the strikes.

“I have really high hopes that it will get better because I don’t see screenwriters or actors going back into this until it improves,” Kimball said.

BYU senior Zerin Gilmore works for BYU Broadcasting. While he is not a part of either guild, Gilmore said supporting those who are struggling due to the strike is a “good opportunity.”

“I just hope that an agreement that appeases both sides can be made,” Gilmore said. “I really would just like to emphasize that we must be in this together to find a valid solution.”

Gilmore said one of the main concerns with the strikes is the hordes of people who are currently without jobs. He said it wasn’t just the actors and writers affected by this strike, but also the other people who work on movies and TV shows.

“The first 10-15 seconds of the credits at the end of a movie might be writers, but the other two minutes of credits is everyone else that is affected by the strikes,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore said one of the best-case scenarios from the strike is security for future generations of filmmakers. He said future filmmakers want to have opportunities for their dreams and passions.

“They want that reassurance that it’s still going to be around in the future,” Gilmore said.

Kimball said people don’t often talk about the quality of shows and movies. She said the creative aspect of filmmaking is suffering as well as the economic aspect.

“We want film-making to become an art again,” Kimball said. “It’s become so commercialized that it’s lost its flavor.”

The large demands of the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA have the potential to change the way Hollywood pays its artists. As the strikes continue and movie production stagnates, Kimball said it is all up in the air.

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