SAG-AFTRA’s Duncan Crabtree-Ireland Says Studios’ Decision to Halt Talks Is ‘Inexplicable’

Asked what went wrong, Crabtree-Ireland tells TheWrap, “I guess I’d love to know the answer to that”

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Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (Getty Images)

Before the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers abruptly walked away from negotiations with SAG-AFTRA on Wednesday, the guild had “no indication” there were any serious problems, chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told TheWrap Thursday.

“We wrapped up our scheduled bargaining session on time and with no indication of problems. Then a couple of hours later, I started getting phone calls that they had decided to walk away from bargaining. They canceled the session for today and were not planning to return to negotiating at this point,” he said.

When asked what went wrong, Crabtree-Ireland sighed and said, “I guess I’d love to know the answer to that.”

AMPTP cited what it described as irreconcilable differences over a revenue-sharing scheme the guild proposed, when it announced talks were paused. But speaking to TheWrap by phone, Crabtree-Ireland called the studios’ move “disappointing and frustrating and inexplicable, because there’s no way to move parties forward without further talks.”

Particularly, he says, because SAG-AFTRA had offered a revision to its streaming revenue-sharing proposal specifically to address studio concerns.

After reading the press release issued on behalf of the AMPTP, Crabtree-Ireland said it seems that “they were not happy with the changes we made to our streaming share proposal — changes we made to address their concerns – and moved in their direction.”

He explained that the guild realized that the studios were “never ever going to agree to anything that involved attachment to their revenue stream.”

“Our committee did some soul searching and came up with a revised proposal not attached to revenue stream, but attached to viewers and subscribers. I thought it was going to be more palatable to them,” he said, adding that he “fully expected” them to accept the new, more studio-friendly model.

“They have either intentionally or non-intentionally misconstrued the cost of the proposal,” he said. “I told them how and why last night and they decided to leak that incorrect evaluation in their press release. The correct valuation is about $500 million – a little bit less than 57 cents per subscriber per year. Less than a postage stamp per year per subscriber is not that much of an ask.”

He added that the streaming residuals proposal has been part of SAG’s package since June 7. “We discussed it multiple times before the strike and since the strike and since returning to bargaining,” he said.

Crabtree-Ireland called out studios heads like Netflix’s Ted Sarandos for attending Thursday’s Bloomberg conference instead of meeting again with SAG.

“Their walking away from the table has come out of nowhere,” he added, saying that the guild had “moved hard to move the structure in a direction that fosters agreement.”

While he is discouraged, he said even though both sides were “still far apart on a number of issues,” progress had been made and they were not back to square one.

“If someone changes terms to accommodate your concerns, your response [shouldn’t be] ‘I’m not going to talk anymore.’ That does not indicate good faith, especially when so many lives are on the line,” he continued. He said that the AMPTP had yet to respond to the guild’s counterproposals to AI that were offered on Monday.

“My concern is more about timing than anything,” he said, “because I feel very deeply that our members are out of work and it is causing real economic harm to them and other people in the industry.

Duncan-Crabtree said he is still hopeful that they will “ultimately make a deal,” but that delaying “longer than necessary” is “not fair to workers in the industry.”

“When they come back to the table, I hope and believe we can find a path forward,” he said.

For all of TheWrap’s Hollywood strike coverage, click here.

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