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Fran Drescher Fires Back at the Studio Heads After Negotiations Break Down

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Actors union head Fran Drescher says she was “shocked” after studio heads abruptly walked out of negotiations this week after five days of talks between them fell apart.

Drescher, who serves as the president of SAG-AFTRA, representing more than 100,000 actors, said in an interview that aired Friday on NBC’s “TODAY” show, that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, known as AMPTP, failed to counter union proposals regarding artificial intelligence protections and residuals from streaming.

“It really came as a shock to me because what does that exactly mean and why would you walk away from the table? It’s not like we’re asking for anything that’s so outrageous,” she said.

“It’s so wrong. And it’s so unfair. That they walked out of the meeting and so disrespectful. You know when I was there, I mean they talk at you. They really don’t want to hear what you have to say or why you’re saying it.”

The AMPTP did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. The alliance represents NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

Just hours before Drescher spoke out, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos addressed the stalled talks at the Bloomberg Screentime conference in California: “We had very productive talks going, then what kind of happened last night. They introduced this levy on subscribers. It just felt like a bridge too far to add this deep into the negotiation.”

Sarandos said they had offered the actors a bonus if a show was successful on the streaming platforms, similar to one that was included in the recently ratified deal with writers.

The AMPTP, which represents the studios and streamers said, in a statement earlier in the day that SAG-AFTRA’s proposal would cost upwards of $800 million annually.

“That’s an inflated price for that benefit of the press,” Drescher said. “It factors out to 57 cents per year per subscriber, less than a postage stamp.”

She said that the AMPTP did not counter with another figure.

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The actors union went on strike in July, weeks after the writers did so. The Writers Guild of America strike ended almost five months later, on Sept. 27. Members of that union ratified its agreement this week.

Drescher also said they are far apart on other key issues like raising the minimum wage for actors and protections on artificial intelligence.

“They refuse to increase that minimum so they can catch up with inflation, and not actually making real money less than they made in 2020,” she said.

“We’re fighting tooth and nail to get them the AI protections that they want. But the last thing that Sarandos said when they exited the room yesterday, ‘We don’t like your counter proposal for AI.’ Well, you know, we’re looking for the protections that these people deserve. Because it’s their likeness. It’s their essence of being. It’s their talent that is in jeopardy of being ripped off.”

She added, “We’re at a crossroads where it’s a very dangerous time. … And this is a very important negotiation. What happens here matters.”

As for when talks will resume, Drescher says there’s no meeting set and the union is willing to hold out.

“We can’t go back to the way things were,” she said. “It’s unsustainable and my members can no longer make a living on this new and unprecedented streaming platform with the old structure of payment. And there are they are going to have to accept that reality.”

Source: NBC News

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