SAG-AFTRA A-lister George Clooney met with his union’s leaders on Tuesday in a bid to further understand how contract negotiations broke down on Oct. 11.
Clooney spoke with union national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland as well as president Fran Drescher over Zoom about why studios suspended discussions the previous week. Deadline, which was the first to report the news, additionally reported that fellow union members Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Ben Affleck and Tyler Perry were present in the meeting.
Said a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson on Tuesday, “We meet with members of all profiles every day and we won’t be commenting on those private conversations.” Representatives for Clooney did not respond to request for comment.
On Oct. 11, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced that studios were pausing discussions because “the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction.” The studio side particularly highlighted the union’s latest revenue-share proposal, which in its current form seeks to create a new pool of money for performers whose work appears on streaming services. The union would do so by charging those services a fixed amount per subscriber. Arguing that the union was asking for studios to shell out over $800 million a year, the AMPTP called this latest ask an “untenable economic burden.” (The union disputed this figure, saying that the companies were “overstating it by 60 percent.”)
A day later, Crabtree-Ireland told THR that the companies’ decision to walk away from the table took him by surprise, given that the day of negotiation that preceded it was fairly usual and, in his view, SAG-AFTRA’s revised proposal was “a huge, huge concession.”
The sides also remain apart on a few other major issues in the SAG-AFTRA negotiation, such as regulations on the use of AI and minimum wage bumps. On the former, SAG-AFTRA has argued that the studios’ current proposal allows employers to get consent from a performer for the use of AI one time on a franchise project and use it for the rest of the franchise. And the union continues to push for higher wage bumps than the increases offered to the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America — 5 percent in year one, and 4 and 3.5 percent in the subsequent years of the contract — which the AMPTP would like to apply to performers as well,
Meanwhile, the ongoing actors’ strike, which has shut down the majority of domestic union production, is inching toward its 100th day. In the final weeks of the recent WGA strike, prominent showrunners including Kenya Barris (Black-ish), Noah Hawley (Fargo) and Courtney Kemp (Power) asked questions of guild leaders about the impasse in negotiations with studios. Ultimately, WGA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser spoke with studio heads Bob Iger, David Zaslav, Ted Sarandos and Donna Langley and the executives agreed to attend negotiations as long as needed to get the deal done.
Langley made a similar promise in an appearance at the Bloomberg Screentime event on Oct. 11, just hours before the AMPTP announced that studios were suspending talks with SAG-AFTRA. “We’ve been spending time with the actors, and we want to spend as much time as it takes until we can reach a resolution and get the industry back on its feet and back to work as has been our goals since day one,” she said. —additional reporting by Rebecca Keegan
Carol Dennis is an entertainment aficionado with an eye for all things pop culture. She dives into the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, from movie premieres to music festivals. Carol’s passion for storytelling extends beyond her reporting, as she’s an aspiring screenwriter in her free time.