Black Mirror: The Dark Reality of Studios Wanting Eternal Digital Images of Actors

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Black Mirror? Studios Wanted to Keep the Digital Image of Actors Forever and Without Pay

Hollywood has been officially paralyzed. In early May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike after failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Now, the Actors Union (SAG-AFTRA) has also joined the fight that seeks to improve their working conditions. This Thursday morning, the actors union voted unanimously to go on strike, and the situation in the entertainment industry is more chaotic than ever.

Gladiator 2 and Mortal Kombat 2 stop production due to actors’ strike.

According to a report in Comic Book, the SAG-AFTRA strike has already caused its first effects in the industry, with Oppenheimer’s cast walking out of the world premiere of the feature film by the time the strike officially went into effect. Shortly after news of the SAG-AFTRA strike broke through various media outlets, the union organized a press conference at which President Fran Drescher and CEO and bargaining committee head Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, gave the details of the tense situation.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Kumail Nanjiani, Jack Quaid and other members of SAG-AFTRA support the actors’ strike.

In addition to improving wages and working conditions, one of the key issues discussed with the studios was the use of artificial intelligence in Hollywood productions. Both the scriptwriters’ union and the actors’ union disagree with the excessive use of AIs, which is why, through negotiations, they sought to implement regulations to guarantee protection against a future where AIs could be in charge of creating all the content, even to replace the actors and writers entirely.

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As reported by Comic Book, during a press conference, Crabtree-Ireland revealed that in the period of negotiations, the AMPTP made a proposal to the Actors Union that sought that the images of film and television extras be duplicated digitally and used at any time, with a minimum payment for the real artists. This was what the CEO said:

“This ‘groundbreaking’ AI proposal they gave us yesterday: They proposed that our background artists should be able to be scanned, get paid on a payday, and their company should own when scanning their image, his likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want without consent and without compensation. So if you think this is an innovative proposal, I suggest you think again.”

Such a proposal has generated a lot of controversy, as it means that if an actor joins a film or television production as an extra, the studio in charge of the project would have the right to use the image of any performer in any future series or feature film without having to pay a penny to the person whose image was taken. This almost macabre scenario reminds us of the first episode of the sixth season of Black Mirror, entitled “Joan Is Awful”, where something very similar happens, if not exactly the same: the actors are simply images created by artificial intelligence and it is not known more who is real.

The House of the Dragon will continue filming despite the actors’ strike.

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