Hollywood is currently experiencing its first double labor strike since 1960, with both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the screen actors represented by SAG-AFTRA demanding higher pay and residuals from major studios. However, amidst the labor strikes, rising concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on actors and writers are coming to the forefront.
Outside Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where picketing is taking place, actors and writers have been discussing their worries about AI replacing human performers. Jeanne Sakata, an actor and SAG-AFTRA member, expressed her concerns about the ease with which AI could take away jobs from actors. Similarly, Elliott Kalan, a former head writer on The Daily Show and a WGA member, emphasized that if the industry is willing to compromise on the quality of creative work, AI could potentially replace human jobs.
The concerns raised by Sakata and Kalan are shared by their respective unions. However, while actors and writers fight to limit the use of AI in the entertainment industry, film and television studios are actively hiring for AI-related positions. Companies like Disney, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video are ramping up their efforts to explore the benefits of AI technology.
To gain insight into the current state of Hollywood’s labor dispute, Lucas Shaw, Managing Editor for Media and Entertainment at Bloomberg News, was interviewed. According to Shaw, the writers and studios have returned to the negotiating table, although the actors’ union has not shown any new developments. If one of the unions can strike a deal, it is likely to influence the other. The prevailing assumption was that the actors would be the first to reach an agreement, but the situation remains uncertain.
The mood in Hollywood is described as defeated, with the industry having faced challenges in recent years such as cord-cutting and the decline of paid TV, as well as the impact of the pandemic. The ongoing double strike further compounds these challenges, leaving many people out of work or with reduced opportunities. The situation has also affected related industries and has not been the most uplifting time for the entertainment business.
On the studio side, there is a growing trend of creating AI task forces, with Disney leading the way. Studios like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are also actively hiring for AI-related roles. While this trend might be concerning to actors and writers who fear job replacement, it is understandable that media companies would want to explore the potential benefits of AI. However, it is crucial for studios to engage in conversations with unions and talent representatives to ensure proper protection and consent.
The primary concern for actors and writers regarding AI is control and consent. They want to ensure that their work is not used without permission or repurposed using AI without their involvement. Both unions have specific requests concerning the use of AI, such as not using scripts to train language models and ensuring that the original creators are credited.
While actors and writers are not calling for a blanket ban on AI, negotiations are underway to establish rules and limitations in its use. The ultimate goal is to find a middle ground where AI and human jobs can coexist harmoniously. It is believed that a deal between the studios and actors’ union regarding AI could be reached sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, Hollywood’s labor strikes have collided with rising concerns over the impact of AI on actors and writers. While the unions fight for better pay and residuals, the studios are actively exploring the potential benefits of AI technology. Both sides need to engage in meaningful dialogue to address these concerns and find a balance that protects human jobs while harnessing the capabilities of AI. The future of Hollywood labor negotiations and the relationship between AI and the entertainment industry remains uncertain.