Justine Bateman, a prominent actress, writer, and filmmaker, has expressed strong reservations about the recent tentative agreement between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and studios and streamers, particularly highlighting her concerns regarding the provisions related to artificial intelligence (AI).
In a recent interview, Bateman criticized the AI provisions in the contract, suggesting that union members should only approve the deal “if they don’t want to work anymore.” She raised alarm about the potential use of generative AI to create synthetic objects, replacing human actors in the filmmaking process. Bateman argued that industry executives embracing AI to the extent of excluding human involvement are essentially choosing to exit the film and series business.
Referencing a statement by DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg predicting a significant reduction in the workforce for animated films due to AI, Bateman, who served as a union advisor for generative AI, emphasized that such a shift would fundamentally alter the nature of the film industry. She asserted that those who opt for projects devoid of human participation are, in essence, no longer part of the film business.
Bateman, known for her role as a filmmaker, stated her commitment to avoiding the use of generative AI in her work. She expressed appreciation for the collaborative efforts of human crews, writers, editors, cinematographers, make-up artists, and actors in the filmmaking process.
During a discussion on MSNBC, Bateman highlighted the potential consequences for consumers of entertainment and media. She discussed the possibility of customized films based on individual viewing histories, cautioning that the novelty of AI-generated content might wear off as people continue to crave authentic and human experiences.
Bateman outlined two divergent paths in the industry—one involving negotiations with AI technologies, likened to negotiating with cannibals, and the other focused on creating genuine, human-centric content for audiences. She positioned herself firmly on the latter track, emphasizing her commitment to producing human-driven projects.
Following her media appearance, Bateman took to social media platform X (formerly Twitter) to express disappointment in the SAG leadership and committee for not addressing her concerns on AI issues. She pledged to read the actual contract thoroughly to elucidate the AI-related permissions that she believes could be violated.
In a subsequent thread on X, Bateman highlighted key points in the AI portion of the tentative SAG agreement, underscoring the inclusion of ‘synthetic performers’ or ‘AI objects’ resembling humans. She deemed this inclusion contrary to the essence of a union contract, expressing her belief that the studios’ and streamers’ ability to use human-like AI objects instead of hiring human actors goes against the principles of the industry.
While the contract details have not been publicly disclosed, the national executive director, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, provided insights into various aspects of the agreement during a press conference. These included AI protections covering consent and compensation for actors in the event of AI-driven structural changes within a production.