Jul 17, 2023

Actors Reject Artificial Intelligence Proposal from Studios Transcript

Actors Reject Artificial Intelligence Proposal from Studios Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAIActors Reject Artificial Intelligence Proposal from Studios Transcript

Actors hit picket lines in their first strike against film and TV productions since 1980 and the nation’s largest strike since 1997. Read the transcript here.

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Christina (00:00):

Natasha, so many issues on the table for those striking, I understand you are at a picket line at the Netflix studios in Los Angeles. Just tell us what union members are saying to you there.

Natasha Chen (00:12):

Right. Well, Christina, a lot of discussion around better compensation, the protections regarding artificial intelligence, where AI could take the digital likeness of an actor and residuals in the world of streaming services. And that’s where I want to bring in our guest, actor, Brittany Garms. And you have been doing some shows and content for Netflix, for Hulu. Tell me about what you were saying earlier that your brother is also an actor and was just receiving a residual check for something he did 30 years ago.

Brittany Garms (00:45):

Yeah. My brother was an actor. He’s since retired, but in the nineties, worked a lot and we sometimes get residuals and he’ll get checks from broadcast television shows that he did in 1995, that are worth more than residual checks for big corporations, for films I did in 2020. And that is, I think, a big part of the reason why people are out here today. I understand that streaming is such an uncharted territory, but there has to be some sort of cap because they’re making money. All these millionaires are making money, but nobody else is seeing any of that money.

Natasha Chen (01:14):

Tell me a little bit about what your life looks like when you are doing a lot of content for these streaming services. Does it mean that you have to do extra work for your day job, just to connect those moments?

Brittany Garms (01:27):

Right. I mean, for me personally, it’s been a lot of the in-between. There’s a lot of waiting in acting, and I think in the days of past, you were able to get through from job to job based off residuals, and that has sort of gone away. I mean, SAG represents 160,000 members, 95% of which can’t pay their bills. I mean, a lot of actors that I have worked with, that I’m doing shows with, have to have side jobs in between, have to do side jobs while working just to make ends meet because the money is just not what it used to be.

Natasha Chen (01:52):

Even while they’re on a show.

Brittany Garms (01:54):

Yeah. Absolutely. 100%.

Natasha Chen (01:56):

Yeah. And then tell me about your concerns regarding AI. What are your feelings on that right now?

Brittany Garms (02:02):

I mean, it’s such a scary, uncharted territory. I don’t know too much about it, but I know that the big threat right now is that they can take your likeness and use it for whatever they want. I know it’s an even bigger threat to the Writer’s, Guild, which is obviously out here tonight. But so a corporation can pay you a SAG day rate, and that’s supposed to last you for months and months on end, but they can use your likeness for years and years and years.

Natasha Chen (02:23):

How are you feeling today? It’s day one for SAG-AFTRA, but it’s day 70 something for the writer’s strike, which tells you that this could be a very extended experience.

Brittany Garms (02:33):

I’m feeling really excited. I’ve been out here quite a few times in support of the writers and the energy has always been good, but nothing like it is today. Everybody is excited, everybody is loud, and I hope that we just keep that energy going.

Natasha Chen (02:45):

Is there anything that you’re hearing from the studios where you want to send a message back?

Brittany Garms (02:51):

I mean, I just think you can’t replace us. What do you think you’re doing, my guy? You think that artificial intelligence is going to be able to create stories and tell the stories of our lives? You can’t do that. Writers can’t be replaced. Actors can’t be replaced.

Natasha Chen (03:06):

Thank you, Brittany. And we’re already seeing a lot of financial impact from the writer’s strike that has been going on for more than 70 days. And now with SAG-AFTRA joining them, we’ve talked to a number of local businesses, people who run restaurants, janitors, dry cleaners, makeup artists, who are not seeing the business come in because productions are at a standstill. I did speak to the Milken Institute’s Global Chief Strategist who said that that is going to be seen now much more abroad as well outside the United States, in filming hubs like the UK, like Australia, like New Zealand, and the global impact could be at least $4 billion with a B. Christina.

Christina (03:51):

Wow. Well, as you say, this is of course a global issue, not just in the United States. And it seems from what your guest was saying there, Natasha, that they are prepared to strike for as long as it takes. Natasha Chen then, live from LA, thanks for bringing us that Natasha, and I’m glad that Natasha’s guest, Brittany, mentioned AI. We want to talk about that because the strike comes after actors slammed a proposal from the studios on how artificial intelligence would be used in movies and television shows. Take a listen.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (04:19):

In that groundbreaking AI proposal, they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity, in any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.

Christina (04:39):

Well, Nina Schick is joining me now. She’s an author and commentator specializing in generative AI. Nina, thank you for joining us on this important day. We had a taste just then in that short clip we showed of what impact the use of AI could have. And it’s quite frightening, frankly, to see it laid out. You have called Fran Drescher’s speech, that powerful speech that’s been at the front of every news line on this, a moment of historical significance. Can you just begin by explaining how justified she is and everyone else in the industry, by their fear that AI could take over their jobs?

Nina Schick (05:17):

I think that this is going to become one of the most pertinent debates in society. I’ve long been predicting that this is going to get intensely political. Because for the first time, if you consider the technology revolutions of the past 30 years from the internet to the smartphone, it’s all been about building a digital ecosystem and digital infrastructure. However, when it comes to AI and in particular generative AI, you can conceive of it as a knowledge and creative revolution. For the first time, you have machines that are able to do creative intelligent output, which we thought was only unique to humans. So the capabilities of ChatGPT or the capabilities of artificial intelligence to actually clone people’s biometrics.

So it’s not only the entertainment industry that’s going to be utterly disrupted by this, but I would argue that all forms of knowledge work, white collar work, creative works, are going to be impacted by the effects of artificial intelligence. And the key philosophical question, and this is the thing that Fran is getting at and that SAG is getting at, is to what extent is this going to augment or automate us? And obviously the fear with this action is that it is going to automate us and that we’re not going to be fairly compensated.

Christina (06:33):

And what we’re seeing with this revolt really, is the beginnings of this being voiced really publicly for the first time. And for us beginning to really understand the ramifications of this as you laid out. It seems to me that the question of how far this goes in this particular industry, depends on where the power lies. At the moment, we are seeing big names, big acting names come out in support of lesser actors. But if that support wanes over time, the question is, how much leverage are industry insiders going to have to prevent the use of IA actually being used in this industry?

Nina Schick (07:11):

So I don’t think that we are going to prevent the use of artificial intelligence either in entertainment or any other industry. I think it’s going to actually become a fundamental part of knowledge work and creative work going forward. But the question as to how we put in place protections and perhaps in this case more, how do we share some of the incredible abundance and economic abundance that’s going to come with this AI-powered revolution, and ensure that, for instance, in this case, if actors’ digital likeness is being used, that they’re being fairly compensated for that. Because that should be a part of their IP. But what Duncan from SAG-AFTRA was referencing, was that the studios were saying “In perpetuity, we now own the rights to your likeness.” This is not what we see happening with big Hollywood stars. For instance, you might have seen the recent ad, which came out with Jennifer Lopez for Virgin Atlantic, I think it was, where it’s an AI simulated version of her. She’s been compensated for that, but are background actors going to be compensated too?

Christina (08:12):

So if you were advising members of SAG-AFTRA what to do, what protections would you say to them, “Go get these. This is what you need for the future protection.

Nina Schick (08:21):

We were actually at an events together in January, and at the time a lot of the conversation was about how this was something that they were looking at, but they didn’t think that it would be such a big deal and actors and writers couldn’t be replaced. Now six months, just six months later, the conversation is entirely different. And it’s very interesting to see SAG and Fran putting themselves at the front line of what she pitched very clearly in her speech, as a bigger battle for labor. She said, “We are just the first, but it isn’t only about the entertainment industry. This is for all workers.” Now, she said, this is a historic moment. And indeed, I do think that speech has historic significance because the issues and the fears that she raised are increasingly going to become a core part of public discourse far beyond, I think, the entertainment sector.

Christina (09:16):

I just want to show as we’re referencing real life events here, our viewers a clip from the recent Marvel movie or Marvel TV series where the studios basically used AI in the opening credits. They didn’t use any graphic designers, they didn’t use any animators. I don’t know if we can run that clip for you. Here it is. It was a kind of artistic take, and this caused outrage of course, because of how easily people could be replaced. But it also raises issues as we’ve been talking about, of copyright. That speaks to your point as well about body scamming for actors. I mean, does the issue of copyright exist in AI? Could that be used as a potential protection?

Nina Schick (09:57):

It is unprecedented territory, and it is a territory that is being litigated right now. So some of the breakthroughs that you see in AI’s capability to generate, to create intelligent and creative work, is nascent. But already since the release of ChatGPT last November, the conversation has dramatically shifted because the full capacity, capability, and scale of this technology is becoming apparent. And a part of that is that we’ve seen a bunch of class action lawsuits launched in the United States against some of the creators of these large general models, in which they argue that the training data used to create this synthetic or AI made content is subject to copyright protection. Now that’s all winding its way through the courts. It’s going to be a big one.

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