North Texas actors and writers rally in support of nationwide SAG-AFTRA, WGA strike

North Texas film and TV workers striking for better pay and artificial intelligence protections hosted a rally in Dallas Saturday morning to show they’re part of the nationwide fight. Texans at the rally said they’re also concerned about being overlooked because of geography.

By Toluwani Osibamowo, KERA NewsSeptember 13, 2023 10:13 am, , ,

From KERA News:

Film and television workers from North Texas and beyond gathered in Dallas for a rally Saturday morning to support the efforts of actors and writers on strike nationwide.

At least 120 people showed up at Reverchon Park sporting black, white and yellow T-shirts and pins representing the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the union hosted the rally, which includes members from North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Nikki Dixon, president of the chapter, said it was finally time for a local event to bring together members of SAG-AFTRA and other unions.

Dixon hoped the negotiations would be short, but said the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have so far been unresponsive on key proposals.

“This is a marathon, right?” Dixon said. “We are in this thing for the long haul.”

Those proposals include protections against what’s known as “geographic discrimination” in contract proposals. Dixon, who lives in Grand Prairie, has had a 20-year career in television and film and recently starred in the 2023 film “Hypnotic” with Ben Affleck.

But the fight for better pay as a Texan actor is compounded by the struggle to be taken seriously compared to stars from Los Angeles or New York, she said. And so far, AMPTP has been unresponsive to the issue of geographic discrimination.

“A lot of times, they’ll bring in somebody from L.A. or New York and pay them more than what they would pay someone that they would hire here locally,” she said. “And why is that? Because they think that those in L.A. or those in New York are better. And that is a misconception, and again, something that we are trying to fight to dispel.”

A group of SAG-AFTRA union members gather holding picket signs. One reads

Toluwani Osibamowo / KERA News

Members and supporters of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists attend a rally in support of the ongoing actors and writers strike at Reverchon Park in Dallas on Sept. 9, 2023.

More than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America first went on strike in May, with SAG-AFTRA’s more than 160,000 members joining in July.

Union members are asking the AMPTP, which represents film and TV studios, for new contracts amid the streaming-service boom that leaves workers on- and off-screen with little money in residual checks from those projects. Actors and writers are also concerned about the use of artificial intelligence, and want protections for human-created work and performances.

The AMPTP member companies — which include the major motion picture studios, broadcast TV networks and streaming services — have said they are working in good faith to reach a resolution.

“Every member company of the AMPTP wants a fair deal for writers and actors and an end to the strikes, which are affecting not only our writer and actor colleagues, but also thousands of others across the industry,” the group wrote in a statement Friday.

Texas has made legislative efforts to bring more film and TV productions to the state. This year, the state legislature invested $200 million into the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, which gives Texas-based productions an opportunity for cash grants based on how much money they spend on the project locally, including wages for Texas workers.

But because the strike has halted productions nationwide, that money can’t be used — and it has a two-year limit for use.

A man holds a microphone speaking at an outside rally. This is actor and union member Kendrick Sampson. He wears a tank top with a stylized spelling of the phrase

Toluwani Osibamowo / KERA News

Houston native Kendrick Sampson, who has starred in TV shows like "Insecure" and "How to Get Away with Murder," spoke to attendees at a SAG-AFTRA strike rally at Reverchon Park in Dallas on Sept. 9, 2023.

Colin Haig, an actor and stuntman from Austin, said he hopes there’s still time to show the state it pays to invest in its film and television workers.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” Haig said. “So, the more money you can bring to us, the more money we can make better productions and help the community out as well.”

Speakers at the rally included state Rep. Venton Jones, D-Dallas, and Kendrick Sampson, an actor and Houston native who’s appeared on shows like “Insecure” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Sampson spoke candidly about the struggles of Hollywood life despite the perceived glitz and glamour of his profession. He said he had to ask his mother for money for the first time this year because of the strike.

Still, he called for strength among union members and accountability from streaming services and Hollywood executives.

“It’s not a bougie pastime,” Sampson said. “We lose all of our community to try to move across the United States when we shouldn’t have to. We should be able to have healthy jobs and a good ecosystem for this content right here in Texas.”

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