top of page
  • snitzoid

Amy, it's not up to you.

Welcome to the real world. Your value as an actor isn't what you think is fair, or what the idiot in charge of Disney (Iger) thinks or makes. It's what the market will bear. Ergo the intersection of supply and demand.

I love the comment below that "capitalism is a brutal system, benefiting a small number of people without benefiting a lot of other people". Really, how about you try doing something else for a living if you're unhappy with the wages of being an actor? If you hate capitalism, try working in a socialist or communist nation where the standard of living is lower.

Good luck jackass.

BTW, the reason you have a union in the first place is to restrict the number of people that can work in entertainment and restrict labor supply to boost wages. No?

Chicago mainstay Amy Morton on the actors’ strike: ‘We’re mad. And we’re fed up.’

By Michael Phillips

Chicago Tribune

Last Updated: Jul 18, 2023 at 12:00 pm

Amy Morton as Sgt. Trudy Platt in the long-running NBC series "Chicago P.D."

When mid-July rolls around, Chicago-based and raised actor Amy Morton typically starts work on a new, 22-episode season of the long-running NBC series “Chicago P.D.,” on which she plays the zero-nonsense Sgt. Trudy Platt.

But this is no typical mid-July. Earlier this month, an overwhelming majority of members of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA unions, representing primarily small- and large-screen actors and the writers guild, authorized and then implemented a strike. This came after their bargaining reps hit the wall negotiating with the studios, streaming services and production companies of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. On July 17, SAG-AFTRA spoke about the most recent pre-strike proposals and counter-proposals. From the looks of it, the strike could go on for months; the two sides remain far apart.

Deadline recently wrote about the impasse, quoting an unnamed executive: “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”

Morton, 64, is one of the lucky ones, and she acknowledges it in conversation, frequently. She’s a steadily employed regular on a long-running NBC Dick Wolf TV series, and has appeared on other shows in Wolf’s “One Chicago” cycle (“Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med,” the short-lived “Chicago Justice”). “To have a job like this, in my hometown, it’s crazy,” she says. The longtime, twice Tony-nominated Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member, who has been gigging on TV and in the movies for 40 years now, sees the current standoff in her profession as not just important, but “heartbreaking.”

Reason: “The way they’re talking,” she says of AMPTP, “it’s really like they couldn’t care less. When you have Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, scolding actors for being ‘disruptive,’ and he’s making $45-$50 million a year? Please. In the old days, around contract negotiation time, at least the actors were paid lip service. Now it’s more like, ‘We’ll just wait ‘til you come crawling back.”

Morton was midway through filming “It Ends With Us” when the strike shut down production. Filming will resume, she says, after an agreement is reached.

Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What means the most to you, personally, in terms of protections and priorities for your next contract? The AI component feels huge, in that last we heard, AMPTP wants the right to pay a background actor to digitally scan the actor’s face, and then —

A: And then use it whenever they want, with the actor having no control and no additional payment! That’s just … frickin’ outrageous. Just a few months ago the man who helped create AI (Yoshua Bengio) acknowledged he basically regretted it. Like Oppenheimer with the atomic bomb. He’s been telling the U.S. Congress and whoever’ll listen that this is out of our control, if we don’t do something about it. And he’s not just talking about actors; he’s talking about health care, our national safety, all sorts of things.

Q: Let’s say the studios walk back the “digital scan” contract language, because it’s the most patently sinister. And let’s say they pick up the tab for actors who’ve had to provide self-taped auditions. That leaves virtually all the tough financial issues to settle, from compensation to health insurance to residual payments which, on Netflix and other streaming giants, are basically zip.

A: I really hope we don’t give in with any concessions on residuals. We probably gave up too much last time. I’m one of the lucky ones; I’ll be able to get through the strike. But most of my friends are screwed. And if I didn’t have “Chicago P.D.,” I’d be, too. Without it, I’d be trying to book guest star roles on things, and that’s hit and miss, let me tell you. As an actor, you’re lucky if you get two guest spots a year. Maybe you get really lucky and your agent negotiates “top-of-show” billing for you. That means a maximum of $10,000 — that’s the most anyone can get unless they’re a big star. But that’s only for network shows. That’s an old model. I feel fortunate to have gotten in on the tail end of that. The three big networks, NBC, ABC and CBS, pay more than cable and Netflix.

But remember: Out of that $10,000, you pay 10% to your manager, maybe 10% to your agent, some people pay a percentage to their lawyer. By the time taxes are taken out you’re seeing less than $5,000. So it’s a constant scrounge for work.

Q: Walk me through one example of residuals for us layfolk. In 1993 you did what I’m guessing was one day’s work on the Michael Douglas film “Falling Down,” in the role of “mom, backyard party,” according to IMDb.

A: I think it was a day, right. Back then you’d get paid for your day, and then typically you’d make a little less than that amount on your first residual check (when the movie moves to network television or cable). And then the residual checks went down from there. I still occasionally get a residual from that film, but it’s down around 10 cents. The residual curve downward used to be slower. Now it’s much faster, so with the residuals I might get from “Chicago P.D.” or “Chicago Fire,” by the time you’re in the third run of an episode it’s already down 50, 60%.

Q: So if “Falling Down” was made today for Netflix, someone working a single day on that —

A: No residuals. Nothing. They’d get the day rate, and then the streaming service can play it a million times, and the actor gets nothing. They sell it to another streaming service — still nothing.

I was talking to my agent recently, and he told me about this new loophole. Apparently, there are cases when (a network) might shoot a pilot for a new series, without the intention of picking it up. Or even airing the pilot. It’s a tax write-off. But you don’t realize this if you’re an actor. An actor gets hired for a pilot and has to negotiate a deal for the next five, seven years in case the series gets picked up. So you and your agent figure out what you’re going to ask for, and you ask for such-a-what, the producers come back with this-a-what — and it’s literally all (expletive). You get paid for a pilot that was never going to run.

Actor Jason Kravits carries a sign on a picket line outside Paramount in Times Square on Monday, July 17, 2023, in New York. The actors strike comes more than two months after screenwriters began striking in their bid to get better pay and working conditions and have clear guidelines around the use of AI in film and television productions.

Actor Jason Kravits carries a sign on a picket line outside Paramount in Times Square on Monday, July 17, 2023, in New York. The actors strike comes more than two months after screenwriters began striking in their bid to get better pay and working conditions and have clear guidelines around the use of AI in film and television productions. (Charles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Q: If the strike goes another three, five months, what would that mean to you philosophically, even if you can handle it financially?

A: It means capitalism is a brutal system, benefiting a small number of people without benefiting a lot of other people. Trying to make a living within that system has, I think, been glorified for a long time. Too long. It’s getting harder. The pandemic started a ball rolling around the world: strikes, racial reckoning, and an amount of anger and fear that is just astounding. The world is changing so quickly, in my industry, in every industry. Everyone’s desperate to hold onto their dollars.

I know this sounds weird, but somewhere during the pandemic, I remember thinking: Uh-oh, NASCAR’s coming to Chicago. Gambling’s coming to Chicago. It feels like we’re heading toward “It’s a Wonderful Life” but the country’s turning into Pottersville. People are really mad. They are fed up. When anyone’s forced to feel grateful to have what they have, whatever that is — watch out.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Yes, they're taking your money

Sorry guys, Chicago's all tapped out. They need to take care of the folks who've snuck in. You? Consider a Spring vacation to Venezuela. Chicago’s response to migrant influx stirs longstanding frustr


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page