“It’s now or never. We cannot allow our images to be scanned and our voices to be copied,” Liza Colón-Zayas charged to the roar of hundreds.
A-list actors lent their famous faces and voices to a massive SAG-AFTRA picket line in Times Square on Tuesday in an effort to battle the rise of artificial intelligence and pay disputes as the strike continues to rage on as it approaches its third week.
Dubbed “Rock the city for a fair contract,” hundreds upon hundreds of Screen Actors Guild members lined Times Square on July 25 and each lifted their SAG cards in a show of solidarity and defiance against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The union representing about 160,000 Hollywood actors charges that the major studios are making record profits while the laborers are now making less cash than in 2020.
According to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the COO and General Counsel of SAG-AFTRA, streaming services such as Netflix made a staggering $5.6 billion in profits over the last 12 months while they had a 5.9 million increase in subscribers. It is due to numbers like these that actors say they should be paid their fair share.
“These are not unusual or unreasonable things to ask for. They are in fact essential. So, we are here because this moment is crucial,” famed actor Steve Buscemi said from a stage overlooking a sea of staunch allies. “We stand together strong.”
Despite these demands, AMPTP have been unable to agree to terms on a new contract that would include the controversial use of artificial intelligence. Those who act on the big and small screen alike fear unfair use of their likeness thanks to the rise in technology, while also not being properly compensated for it.
“Listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots,” Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston roared. “We are not in the same business model that we were in 10 years ago. And yet, even though they admit that is the truth in today’s economy, they are fighting us tooth and nail to stick to the same economic system that is outmoded, outdated. They want us to step back in time. We cannot and we will not do that.”
The picketers hope that by occupying the heart of the Big Apple with hundreds of working actors and dozens of famous faces, they will not only galvanize more support, but also a clear message will be sent: the union is not prepared to back down.
The likes of Michael Shannon, Brendan Fraser, Chloë Grace Moretz, Matt Bomer, and many more also joined the cause. And with so many household names refusing to work, the billion-dollar industry is essentially shut down while neither the entertainers or studios are currently willing to budge.
“So many lives will be damaged, so many careers stalled or shattered, families already working hard to make ends be enduring further harm and degradation,” actor Stephen Lang said. “The eyes of the world are upon us.”