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Hollywood studios and SAG-AFTRA to return to contract negotiations after 2 week pause

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Hollywood performers and studios will be back at the bargaining table tomorrow, trying to hammer out a new three-year contract. Talks have been on pause for nearly two weeks, and members of the SAG-AFTRA union have been on strike for more than a hundred days. Many NPR employees are members of SAG-AFTRA, though journalists work under a different contract than the Hollywood actors. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on where the negotiations go from here.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos is one of the studio heads who will be back to renegotiate a new deal.

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TED SARANDOS: You should know we are incredibly and totally committed to ending this strike. You know, the industry, our communities and the economy are all hurting, so we need to get a deal done that respects all sides as soon as we possibly can.

DEL BARCO: Two weeks ago, Sarandos and others represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off contract talks. They blamed it on one of the union's demands that the streamers pay performers 57 cents per subscriber every year. On Instagram, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said the union came up with a proposal to share the wealth after, quote, "cracking the code" of the streaming model.

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FRAN DRESCHER: It may not be easy. It may not be what they want. But it is an elegant way to solve the problem so we can all go back to work in what would become the new normal.

DEL BARCO: The studios balked, saying the proposed model would cost too much. Sarandos called it, quote, "a bridge too far." When talks resume tomorrow, we'll find out if that subscriber fee model is still on the table. But already the union lowered its original request for the streamers to pay higher residuals when shows and films are re-aired.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Woo (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Woo.

DEL BARCO: On the picket line outside Amazon Studios this morning, strike captain Chelsea Schwartz said she hopes the AMPTP stays at the bargaining table this time.

CHELSEA SCHWARTZ: What's really crazy is that we were asking for a 2% revenue stream for this sharing of work that we're creating for them, that they're profiting off of and we're not. And then we dropped down from 2% to 1%. So we dropped 50% of our proposal, and that's when they walked away from the table and called us greedy. Really? Are you kidding me?

DEL BARCO: Paul Hewitt, a union member since 1989, says he doesn't believe the AMPTP's claims that they can't afford to pay the performers more.

PAUL HEWITT: I'm also a bit concerned that we're giving too much ground. They were asking for 2%. Now it's 1%. That's half. And it seems like we're always giving too much

DEL BARCO: Revenue sharing is only part of the union's proposed package, which includes protections against the use of artificial intelligence for the union's actors, stunt performers, voiceover actors, dancers and others.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.