This spring, as the odds of a writers’ strike increased from “possible” to “inevitable,” Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos claimed with a slightly smug attitude that his streamer could survive a strike due to its growth Library with international content.
And it’s certainly true that Netflix has offered American audiences something rarely seen on the small screen: movies and TV series from around the world in their original languages (with available subtitles and dubbing).
However, this is not the result of cultural charity. Netflix is an international company that serves a global audience, and production costs are much lower than the United States in many of the countries it serves.
This is partly because many of these countries do not have entertainment unions as strong and agile as the United States.
But if Sarandos and the CEOs of every other studio plan to lean to international content To get them through the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, they believed fears that more jobs would be offshored would force American writers and actors to scale back their demands. Apparently they underestimated their power artistic solidarity.
Not only American actors and authors want to be paid fairly. It’s them all.
As my colleague Max Kim recently reported, actors in South Korea, where Netflix is spending billions to boost its post-Squid Game presence, are also upset by the lack of residuals and low pay for all but the biggest stars.
The Korea Broadcasting Actors Union may not be as influential as SAG-AFTRA right now – Kim reports that Netflix has even declined to meet with them – but that appears to be changing as members realize they, too, are part of the Streamers are treated unfairly.
Elsewhere, UK actors’ union Equity was among the first to send out a strong message of support for the SAG-AFTRA strike. Under the rules of UK industry law, actors who are both SAG-AFTRA and Equity members cannot legally stop working on shows currently in production, including House of the Dragon.
But Equity boss Paul Fleming said the union will do everything it can to prevent the UK from being taken advantage of “as a back door” to undermine the SAG-AFTRA strike, including fighting to reform “draconian” regulations preventing equity players from striking.
In July: Brian Cox from Succession, Imelda Staunton from The Crown, Simon Pegg from Mission Impossible and other top British actors gathered in London and Manchester in support of SAG-AFTRA.
Actors in other countries are also currently bound by laws that make it impossible for them to walk away from their jobs without risking layoffs, fines and lawsuits against individuals and their union – Apple TV+ thriller “Tehran” was originally given a tentative by SAG-AFTRA Agreement made in Israel. In AustraliaSAG-AFTRA members have left shows for studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, while local production has continued.
But regardless of the legal situation, most international actors’ unions have expressed their support for the SAG-AFTRA strike because, as Eleanor Noble, national president of the Canadian Alliance of Cinema, TV and Radio Artists, said recently, “We are us aware that their fight is our fight.” and serves the well-being of all artists.”
Rising anger, rhetorical determination, and expressions of solidarity are unlikely to affect members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in the short term. But any hope that the studios would simply swoop by overseas on the backs of writers and actors seems futile — and just as their actions are sparking a broader revolution in the Hollywood workforce, they also risk killing a sleeping giant awaken in the fast-growing ranks of entertainment professionals abroad.
Divide and conquer tactics can be dangerous. Openly Recognized Inequality for Profit – We don’t need to worry about the Americans because we can just count on the Koreans/British/Canadians etc. – can convert division to multiplication on the fly.
The increase in international production works both ways. It may be exciting and occasionally lucrative to work with an American studio, but no actor in any country wants to be seen as a cheap solution to the studio’s financial woes. Like their American counterparts, they love what they do but expect to be paid fairly for it.
Also, Sarandos may be overestimating English-speaking Americans’ appetites for international fare – “Squid Game” was great, and I like a French detective story as much as I like the next girl, but even I’m not ready to rely entirely on subtitles.
While actors in other countries are voicing concern and outrage at their low and/or falling wages, it’s hard not to recognize an underlying and very troubling tenet of the entertainment industry: that artists should, on some level, be thankful to them at all get paid for what they do.
In the general population, this attitude towards creative work seems to be changing slightly; COVID-19 provided everyone with a crash course in workforce fragility and greater appreciation of workers’ rights. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA are just two of many unions on strike this year; The working class of almost every industry is being studied with a heightened level of awareness and even compassion.
But in the upper echelons of Hollywood studios, there remains a strange disdain for the very work that supports the industry. Anyone who hasn’t found great success yet, and even some who have, is expected to feel nothing but gratitude for the chance to be part of a writing team or cast — the potential success of their show or movie and the opportunity to return to work should be sufficiently paid.
And if they fail to get a living wage, they should quit and get “a real job.”
Because by that logic, there are thousands of people in other countries willing to do it for less money.
Not to mention the cowardly inhumanity of such an attitude; it is also self-destructive. When studios make it impossible for writers and actors to make a living from what they do, they may find other jobs. And then who is left to do film and television? Even with artificial intelligence, there aren’t enough high-quality writers and actors. Being John Malkovich can only be done once.
Institutional poverty is not a business model, and Americans have historically been reluctant to move jobs overseas.
Realizing that their new favorite Korean streaming series was made not only to punish American unions but also at the expense of Korean writers and actors is unlikely to persuade US audiences to continue paying higher subscription fees.
With balance sheets suddenly black due to production disruptions and international film and television films reaching wider audiences in the US, studio executives apparently figured they could ignore unions’ “unrealistic” demands because they had the world at their feet.
Unfortunately for the studios, this oyster has some requirements of its own. Netflix and its competitors have merely pointed out their own “unrealistic” demands — and learned that the pesky desire for fair pay knows no bounds.
If studio managers want to prevent a global workers uprising, they should start by ending the strikes at home.
That, or get a real job.