While unionized actors and screenwriters strike over fears that artificial intelligence (AI) will displace their jobs, major studios have already begun hiring new positions to implement the technology.
- On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began a multi-week strike over issues with streaming compensation and fears over how AI will affect their jobs.
- On July 14, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) began to strike over the same issues.
- Disney CEO Bob Iger appeared on the July 13 episode of CNBC’s Squawk Box and dismissed the demands of the actors guild as “unrealistic” and “disturbing.”
- On Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter noted that major studios have quietly begun hiring big-ticket AI positions amid the protests, with at least six high-paying jobs currently posted.
- The hiring spree comes months after thousands of layoffs at Disney, Paramount, Amazon, and Warner Bros. Discovery.
Why It’s News
Many factors have led up to the past several weeks of strikes from screenwriters and actors, but the changing nature of technology in the film industry is the leading cause of the issues that WGA and SAG have continuously fought against. The rise of streaming has harmed residuals for actors, meaning all but the most successful names in Hollywood make money from syndication and long-term advertising.
AI has definitely led the majority of concerns, with actors and screenwriters worried that the technology will have a severely negative impact on jobs in the industry, replacing many basic positions instead of being integrated as a tool to assist them.
“We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger: I know, sir, that you look at things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that, to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots,” noted actor Bryan Cranston in a July 25 speech in New York City.
The current job postings speak to the film industry’s desire to forge ahead on AI innovation regardless of the protests. Disney is currently hiring an Imagineering Team member to focus on generative AI solutions for $180,000 per year and a machine learning engineer for streaming, while Netflix posted a job for a $900,000-per-year AI product manager. Sony Pictures is hiring an AI ethics expert.
Iger has noted that technological advancements are inevitable and that AI will become a part of the entertainment industry, but it remains unclear if the SAG protests will be able to barter changes that will create unionized protections for jobs or not. Studio executives have already noted their intention to wait out the protests for as long as possible, even as fall production schedules for film and TV are already falling behind and threatening entertainment releases for the new future.