George Clooney and several other top Hollywood actors offered to pay an estimated $50 million annually in increased dues in an effort to help end the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, TheWrap has learned. Their proposal also includes reversing how residuals are paid, sending payment to the lowest billed actors on a project first instead of the top billed.
Top film actors, among them Tyler Perry, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone, met on Tuesday via Zoom with union leaders including president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Insiders say that the proposal, which was taken back to the guild’s negotiating committee, was rebuffed.
The proposal, which Clooney explained to Deadline, would see the industry’s top-earning actors defraying costs to AMPTP signatories by eliminating the cap on membership dues, which is currently $1 million, and is an effort to bridge a gap in negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP.
Also in the conversation is a residual system for streaming including a formula that would make the lowest names on the call sheet, who presumably are the least wealthy, the first to be paid. Meanwhile, the top-billed actors on a given project would be the last to be paid their respective residuals.
This deal would amount to about $50 million annually, or $150 million over the course of the three-year contract. TheWrap understands that SAG-AFTRA has yet to approve or reject this offer and is expected to release a formal statement on the matter shortly.
“A lot of the top earners want to be part of the solution,” Clooney told Deadline. “These negotiations will be ongoing, but we wanted to show that we’re all in this together and find ways to help close the gap on actors getting paid.”
Even if Clooney’s proposal gained traction, implementing it would not be so simple. Any changes to the dues structure would have to be voted on by delegates during the guild’s national convention. That convention is set to be held virtually this weekend, and the submission deadline for resolutions to be voted on passed a month ago.
And while the proposal would, at least in theory, help working-class actors in keeping up with inflation and rising costs of living, a guild insider tells TheWrap that the A-listers’ offer would do little to address the impasses between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, which last week said it was stepping away from negotiations.
In its statement on Oct. 11, AMPTP cited differences over a proposed revenue-sharing scheme on streaming services. Revising a previous demand of a 1% levy on all streaming revenue, the studios claimed that the guild was demanding a flat $1 per subscriber per year fee.
This was an unusual first-dollar revenue share regardless of profit or any individual contributions to the success of any show, much less a company. The money would go to the guild itself rather than individual actors on any show — and the union would decide how to distribute.
Crabtree-Ireland disputed AMPTP’s claim, saying that the proposed levy by the union was 57 cents per subscriber. The guild is looking for a new compensation structure that reflects the decline in linear TV residuals that have served for years as financial support for actors and the rise in streaming as the most popular medium for watching films and TV shows, while studios are pushing back as many streaming services have yet to become profitable and are turning to price hikes and ad-based models to get there.
As rank-and-file members of the industry have made clear, they are in great economic difficulty, having not worked in months. Meanwhile, studios have been unable to properly promote their theatrical and streaming releases, since striking actors are forbidden from doing publicity for such projects. This has done damage to both conventional theatrical pre-release marketing campaigns and what should have been a vibrant awards season.
Jeremy Fuster contributed to this report.