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  • Writer's pictureTim Maylander

Why Maylander Vocal Productions supports the SAG-AFTRA Strike, Part One

Updated: Jan 17

First of all, thanks to everyone who has reached out or sent positive vibes in relation to the previous post. It means the world to my family and I to have the support of both friends and people who've never even met us but are still wishing us all the best. As a quick update, I'm still with my folks and haven't returned home to work on my studio. Family continues to heal, but there are ups and downs I won't get into here.

You all may have noticed we changed our picture at the top of this site and on our social media channels. And by now if you've been paying even the least bit of attention to current events, you've heard of the strike going on in Hollywood.

When most people hear about "Hollywood going on strike" they picture people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, etc. asking for more money - and when these people are featured prominently on picket lines it's understandable the general public would think that's the case and be disgusted by the idea of the strike.

What most people don't realize is that for every A-list celebrity, there are literally thousands of actors, writers, stage workers, costuming & makeup crew, security workers, maintenance staff and others that don't get the headlines. You know how credits are 10 minutes long these days? It's because it takes that long to give everyone credit for making the movie, even if the names are in four-point font on an IMAX screen. We at Maylander Vocal Productions are actually very happy that studios like Marvel are putting hidden scenes after the credits - it forces people to sit through the credits, and while maybe (okay, definitely) you won't recognize or remember any of the names, at least it gives people the idea of the amount of people making a quality film requires. Also, these people deserve the credit they have worked so hard for - it's really a shame that when the credits start to roll most people leave or fast-forward.

Another thing most people don't realize? The *vast* majority of people in Hollywood don't make millions. Or even a million. Or hundreds of thousands. In fact, as much as 95 percent of SAG-AFTRA members made less than $25,000 per year in 2020 - the amount required to qualify for health care through the guild. Think about that, especially given working at $15/hour for a year (which is what our local Target store hires at) pays $31,200 - and we live nowhere close to Los Angeles.

The purpose of this blog post is to talk about the money. We'll talk about AI in our next post, which we'll hyperlink here when it's done. Money and AI are the two main issues at the heart of the strike. As far as money goes, that's also spit into two sections - base pay and residuals.

For base pay, actors are asking for an 11 percent increase this year and 8 percent increases the next two years, while studios are countering with a 5 percent increase this year and 7.5 percent increases in the next two years. The crazy thing about this to us that for the next two years after this one, actors & studios are just 0.5 percent apart. Surely that means they agree on some things, right?

Studio execs argue that this is not the right time to be arguing for pay increases. Noted poor man Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, said that "this is the worst time in the world" for actors and the like to ask to be paid fairly. Such people need to "be realistic about the business."

Let's get realistic about the business then, Bob. Your fourth-quarter 2022 showed a 9 percent growth in revenue for the company, and your yearly growth for 2022 was a staggering 23 percent. How do we know that? You told us so. If your company can grow 23 percent in one year, surely the actors et al. that brought you that growth deserve maybe 11 percent of it? Or perhaps we could take it out of your salary - your $45.9 million dollar salary for 2022. In fact, the top eight studio execs in Hollywood earned over $750 million in salary in that year - all while writers, actors and the like couldn't make rent or go to the doctor. Iger isn't even the worst of the bunch - David Zaslav, President, CEO & Director of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. made almost half a billion dollars in salary from 2018-2022. You'll have to forgive us if we find it hard to feel sorry for studios when this is what they pay their executives.

The second part of the puzzle as far as money is concerned has to do with residuals, and this is where things get a little complicated. First, what are residuals? It's kind of like a royalty - residuals are payments one receives when their work gets re-used. Re-runs, physical media sales, in-flight movies and more are all examples of when one would earn residuals. So why is it such a big deal all of a sudden?

Streaming changed the game in so many ways for Hollywood, but residuals were one of the biggest impacts. See, before streaming, it was relatively easy to show a connection between amount of views and popularity. Nielsen ratings, ticket sales, etc. make that correlation obvious. Streaming changed the game because you pay one price and are offered an entire catalogue of content, regardless of how much (or little) you watch. So it's much harder for someone involved in a project to say with any certainty that "my project is the reason x viewer bought a Netflix subscription" or anything like that.

Worse, many high-end streaming contracts for residuals are only paid annually (when residuals were originally meant to be passive income to help people through leaner times, like, say, a strike), and many of the residuals only kick in after a set amount of time has passed. So if you're wondering why content keeps disappearing from one platform and reappearing on another, studios not wanting to pay residuals is one reason.

The bottom line is the pay increases and residual issues SAG-AFTRA are asking for are completely reasonable in our opinion. Are we at Maylander Vocal Productions a neutral party in evaluating that statement? Probably not. While MVP isn't a part of the union yet, we hope to be one day, and we will definitely be impacted by changes to the industry. But we encourage everyone to do their homework on the issue. That's what we did, and we came to the conclusion that studios seem to be doing just fine while their workers aren't making ends meet. Thus, we support all SAG-AFTRA members on the strike.

Check back next month for our thoughts on AI, which is even more impactful for voice actors than it is for screen actors and other SAG-AFTRA members. You won't want to miss it!

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