Actors strike impacts Tucson actor

Actors strike impacts Tucson actor
Published: Jul. 16, 2023 at 6:49 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Actors from Los Angeles to New York are striking for better pay and protection. The Screen Actors Guild, the union representing tens of thousands of actors, approved the strike after negotiations failed to meet their demands.

The strike from SAG-AFTRA, the union representing more than 100,000 Hollywood’s actors, aren’t representing the demands of big-name movie stars like Ryan Reynolds or Tom Holland.

Though large actors like those have stood with the strike, those facing the issues are the supporting or featured actors that appear casually throughout a show’s season.

Jon Proudstar is an actor living in Tucson, and he understands the issues he’s fighting for firsthand. Starring in movies like “The Year of the Dog,” Proudstar says the glamorous depiction of acting one sees on screen isn’t exactly what life is like behind the camera.

“People see me at my second job, and they recognize me from the show, and they’re like ‘what are you doing here,’ and I’m like you gotta make a living,” he says. “The bills keep coming in.”

Proudstar first noticed a red flag when signing on for “Reservation Dogs,” produced by Disney. Compared to the traditional residual model that he was used to and looking forward to for the upcoming project, the payment model for this particular case was entirely different.

Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are starting to feature shorter seasons over longer periods of time, meaning less reliable work for actors.

Through these streaming services, actors are not able to earn royalties from re-runs from traditional cable TV. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television, the organization representing major studios and executives, isn’t budging.

“And it’s not like we’re asking for the world, comparatively speaking to what they make,” Proudstar says.

“So we just want to restructure the existing deal to fit the change in how the money is being distributed, and how things are being shot and produced now.”

Another concern for the actors is Artificial Intelligence. Proudstar recalls a move to hire background extras, scan their image and only pay them for one day of work, while their image is used more than once.

Aside from the unfair practices AI can lead to, worries increase that AI can decrease, if not eliminate, genuine and creative ideas and acting by real people.

Ben Freese, a director and writer based in Tucson, says the use of AI takes away from what people actually want to see on screen.

Working on an upcoming film, “Eye for an Eye,” Freese says focusing on supporting actors and original stories is what makes a successful film.

“You’re seeing some giant movies with huge budgets failing recently, very recently, even last weekend. I think people have a hunger for something original. ‘In Terror’ is completely original, ‘Eye for an Eye’ is completely original, and I think people want more of that. They want more human stories, and less eye candy.”

For Proudstar, despite the challenges he and many others face as an actor, he has no plan to escape the profession at all. Proudstar knows just how much emotion a film or television show can spark, especially as a child when he sees someone like him on screen.

Today, he admires knowing a young child can see Proudstar on screen and know that anything is possible.

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