August 1, 2023
Why are the actors striking and what do they want? Actor, writer, and producer Franchesca Ramsey joins Ashley to explain everything you’ve been hearing about the SAG-AFTRA strike! Franchesca and Ashley get into the nitty gritty of geographic discrimination, the dangers of AI, branding people as scabs, and residuals. They also discuss what the strike means for the industry AND your TV shows and how you—TV Club listeners—can support writers and actors.
Franchesca’s podcast “Lemme Fix It!” premieres September 13th. Listen to the trailer here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lemme-fix-it/id959128344
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S2E54 — Actors Strike Explained w/ Franchesca Ramsey
Ashley Ray [00:00:16] You’re not gonna miss it. It’s two less trips on the private jet.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:00:17] You’re not going to be able to remake the kitchen in your fucking brownstone in the Upper East Side. And I think you’ll survive.
Ashley Ray [00:00:24] You’ll survive. Okay. You’ll find a stock or something.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:00:28] Get rid of this seat warmer on your gold fucking toilet and give us our money.
Ashley Ray [00:00:40] Welcome to TV’s Stay with Ashley Ray–your go-to podcast for discovering what to watch on TV and getting behind the scenes insight from the people who make the shows you love. You just heard a little tease of my chat with the amazing Franchesca Ramsey, who’s an actress, comedian, and writer on a lot of shows I can’t talk about due to the strike, which coincidentally is what today’s episode is all about. We’re going to get into everything. What is the deal with those overall deals? What’s an interim agreement? Why are the actors striking, and what do they want? We’re going to explain everything. But before we dive in, we’re going to try out a new segment where my producer selects a TV related tweet for me to give my thoughts on. So, this week’s TV Twitter Take comes from maggieofthetown who tweeted, “I need people who are not in any unions to stop trying to play a hall monitor. We don’t need you yelling ‘scab’ at everyone because you think you’re being a hero. 99.9% of the folks in both striking unions want to do the right thing and are following our individual strike rules to the best of their abilities. We don’t need you calling folks names and throwing false accusations at them. I just saw folks on TikTok trying to form a fan police to try to report completely innocent folks. You’re not helping.” Thank you for saying this, Maggie, because I absolutely agree. You know, I think people on the internet love to play police. We love to be, like, little sheriffs who figure things out when someone does something bad or says something racist and we find them and get them fired for their job. And that’s great. But with something like the strike, obviously scabs are horrible. There are some clear-cut examples of scabbing, say, on General Hospital, where they hired scab writers to actually do the job of other writers. That is the clear case right there. But also, Justin Simeon, who’s the director of that movie that Disney just put out that probably should have come out in October when it’s Halloween, but instead they decided to put a haunted movie out in the summer… Justin did the red carpet for that movie, even though the writers and the actors were not there. But he is a director, and the Directors Guild had already reached an agreement. So, it wasn’t scabbing. It was him doing the job he was contracted to do as a director. So, it’s really complicated when people have dual hats. Justin is also a writer. So, yes, he is striking with writers, but he still has to, you know, do what his other union says. It’s the same thing with Barbie and what happened there, where Noah Baumbach was like, “Well, I’m not going to do it because I stand with the writers.” But Gretta is a writer and a director, so she was still filling that role. So, it gets so complicated. No one, I would say, has the same parameters that they have to follow. So, no, TikTok, don’t try to be fan police. Don’t try to arrest actors who are just, like, retweeting a show they like. Yeah, sure. Some people can’t retweet. They can’t quote things. They can’t, you know, say that they’re on a show. But they can show appreciation for other shows. So, unless you are in the union–you are on the SAG team that is keeping track of all this–you don’t need to worry about it. You’re not getting paid. It’s not your job. Go mind the business that pays you because it’s definitely not yelling at TV writers who promote a show that they’re in because writers can still promote their shows. So, take a breath. Listen to maggieofthetown because she’s absolutely right. And there you go. Franchesca Ramsey, welcome to TV Club!
Franchesca Ramsey [00:04:16] Thank you for having me.
Ashley Ray [00:04:17] Before we dive in, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself, your acting/writing background, and about the TikTok videos that you’ve been making about the strike?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:04:25] Sure. I am a TV writer, producer, and actress. I’ve worked on shows like [CENSORED]. I’ve written for award shows, including the Oscars and [CENSORED]. And as an actress, I’ve appeared on [CENSORED]. And most recently I was a recurring character on NBC’s [CENSORED]. And I got my start in TV because of my online presence, making YouTube videos. You might know me from the [CENSORED] or from [CENSORED] on MTV. And so, I’ve been making content on social media, but especially on TikTok, about the writers’ strike and the actors’ strike.
Ashley Ray [00:05:01] You are, I would say, an expert across so many different channels. I mean, okay, we had the writers’ strike. Complicated. Now the actors are striking–even more complicated. And there’s all these rules. A big part of them is influencers can’t do certain things. Actors can’t do certain things. There are certain things they can do. It’s all a confusing mess. And you have been such a wonderful presence in the middle of all of this.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:05:25] Thanks. I mean, I really found out early in my career that I had a special talent for taking big concepts and trying to boil them down into digestible little nuggets. And so, when it came to the actors’ strike and the writers’ strike, I really felt like I had an opportunity to do that in a creative way and just make things so that anyone who wants to support the strikes can do so. And especially because I came from social media and crossed over into film and TV, I want that for anybody who wants that. And so that’s why it’s been really paramount for me to stress to influencers, like, “Please support us. But also, if you have aspirations–because I’m gonna tell you that influencer check don’t last forever–that, you know, supporting us can potentially open doors for you in the future if you want to potentially join the union.”
Ashley Ray [00:06:15] So we’re going to have you break down so much of the complicated negotiations, but we have some TV news this week. I want to talk about Pee-Wee Herman, who just passed away. And then truly, just before we were about to record, we found out Angus Cloud from [CENSORED] passed away. I just am so shocked.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:06:32] Yeah, it’s really sad. We were saying right before, it’s hard when you–with Angus, specifically–see somebody who’s clearly struggling and has been struggling for some time. And, you know, I can’t speculate because I’m just hearing the news with you. But it was clear that there were times that substance abuse were playing a role in how he was showing up on the red carpet and in interviews. And it’s just sad when anyone passes away, but it feels like someone so young is preventable.
Ashley Ray [00:07:02] Yeah. And so talented. I mean, I just loved WHAT HE DID.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:07:05] And just at the beginning of his career.
Ashley Ray [00:07:07] At the beginning of his career. He clicked with so many people. I feel like most people thought he was the best guy in the show. So, I’m just really taken aback by that. And I don’t know. Maybe now this will be the end of [CENSORED].
Franchesca Ramsey [00:07:20] Yeah. I mean…
Ashley Ray [00:07:22] Just let those kids rest after this.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:07:24] I know. I mean, I didn’t really watch the show largely because I felt like the content was difficult for me to watch. And I could only imagine that now, with the passing of one of their cast mates, it probably will be really difficult to work on that show, given the themes.
Ashley Ray [00:07:38] Exactly.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:07:39] Yeah, it might be the best to put it to rest.
Ashley Ray [00:07:42] And then with Pee-Wee, he passed away after a long battle with illness that he didn’t really tell people about. He was 70, which… He just always seemed like one of those people that I was just like, “No, Pee-Wee Herman is always going to be there.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:07:54] You know, that has been one of those moments of getting older where you start seeing people that you’re like, “No, I just always thought…” You know that life ends–it’s inevitable–but not the people that you grew up watching.
Ashley Ray [00:08:06] You’re like, “No, they always will be there.” R.I.P. to two amazing, amazing people who changed TV in a lot of ways. Pee-Wee changed TV, and one of them was great on TV. Let’s get into this. Let’s get into the strike. We did an episode on the writers’ strike, so listeners, if you don’t know the details of that one, go listen to that episode. You know, you’ll see some repeated themes here, but we’re going to focus on SAG because there’s so much.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:08:35] There’s so much.
Ashley Ray [00:08:36] We’re going to do it all. We’re going to talk about the waivers going to talk about the announcement this week that they might be ending some of their overall deals and what that means. But let’s start with why are the actors on strike. We know every three years that the SAG-AFTRA–the union representing actors–has to negotiate a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Pictures, aka the AMPTP. They’re the bad guys here. So, if we say, “bad guys,” that’s who we’re talking about. They represent the Hollywood studios, networks, and streamers. And the two sides could not reach an agreement on July 13th. So, the actors declared they’re going on strike.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:09:12] I mean, a lot of the same issues that were present in the writers’ strike. So, I’m a member of both unions, and our biggest core issues are around residuals and protections around artificial intelligence. So, for those unfamiliar with residuals, that is a portion of the profits that go to the writers and actors in order to say, “Hey, your show’s doing really well. We’re making money off the show. You’re going to continue making money off of your work, especially when you invest your time and energy into a show that you don’t necessarily know is going to become a hit.” When it goes on to be successful for the network, that’s how you’re rewarded for that. And unfortunately, due to the popularity of streaming and other so many shows, the streaming model has made it so that as creators and performers, we don’t actually know if the shows are successful. Like, they don’t tell us.
Ashley Ray [00:09:59] They don’t share the same viewership numbers as a Nielsen broadcast, where they’re just like, “Oh, we saw 3 million viewers on the cable box then.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:10:06] They do not tell us. And so, for that reason, the metrics that they’re using for the residuals are completely unknown. And what ends up happening is, you know–we’re seeing actors showing this on TikTok and Instagram–you got these residual checks in there for, like, $12.
Ashley Ray [00:10:23] I think the dad from Even Stevens posted a check for $0.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:10:28] It’s really baffling, especially when, you know, for example, Kimiko Glenn from Orange is the New Black–I mean, Emmy Award winning, SAG Award winning, a hugely successful show that put Netflix arguably on the map…
Ashley Ray [00:10:41] And she was a huge part of it.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:10:45] She had, I think, 44 episodes of that show. And she showed one of her residual checks; it was for $27.30. So really making sure that residuals reflect the success of the show, so that the actors and the writers can profit off of that. And then when it comes to AI, it’s protections of actor’s image–this idea that you could potentially be scanned on set and that image could be used in perpetuity is really scary.
Ashley Ray [00:11:14] And one of the things they requested, I think, was the right to scan background actors to completely replace them. That’s a huge industry of actors of, you know, I would say the middle class of actors.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:11:26] Yeah. And the day rates are low to begin with, you know? And so, you’re asking people who are showing up sometimes earlier than the main cast and staying all day long. And, you know, they’re not recognizable stars, but they’re sometimes working on multiple productions at one time. To then use their image forever is really scary, especially if you could potentially be in something that you normally wouldn’t have agreed to.
Ashley Ray [00:11:51] Yeah.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:11:52] Then there’s also that potential for, you know, the, quote unquote, “big name stars.” If someone passes away, you don’t want… You know, we talked about Angus. You don’t want your image to then show up in another season that you did not agree to and your family didn’t consent to. And then who’s making money off of that? So those are some of the big ones. There’s some smaller things that might not necessarily translate to, like, the average listener or viewer, but I’m really hopeful, and I’m really positive that as frustrating and as tenuous as the situation is, we’re doing it for the right reasons. And the reason that we’re, you know, holding strong is because we will win. And it’s inevitable.
Ashley Ray [00:12:36] We will win.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:12:37] Strikes are nothing new. We’ve had to strike multiple times in the past in order to get our fair wages and to get residuals in the past–
Ashley Ray [00:12:45] Yeah, to get this in the first place.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:12:46] Yeah, to get this in the first place. And so, it’s unfortunate that we keep coming to this situation, but it’s going to make a better industry for everyone, including anyone that wants to join the industry in the future.
Ashley Ray [00:12:58] Exactly. And I think there’s a big misconception that people have. I mean, I think when the writers’ strike happened, people were like, “Okay, writers are poor. You decided to be a writer. You’re going to be poor.” But people look at actors, and there’s been some push back of people going, “Well, you’re actors. You’re rich. These people are millionaires. What do you mean that they need help or they’re not making a lot? What do you mean you’re not getting a lot on residuals? You probably got paid $100,000 to make that season of Even Stevens.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:13:26] Yeah, it’s really unfortunate that people have that mindset. And I saw someone else say this–I’m probably going to be butchering it–but you know the big-name actors, what you don’t know are the names of the people who, you know, show up in all the little bit parts everywhere. It’s the person you see in the grocery store and you’re like, “Did we go to high school together?” No, you didn’t. They were the killer on Law & Order.
Ashley Ray [00:13:49] They’re a character actor.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:13:51] Exactly. They’re the working actor who doesn’t have a recognizable name, but their faces are recognizable. And those are the people who sometimes are going months to a year between jobs. And the purpose of residuals is to reward you for the work that you’ve done. And it also is to help sustain you between jobs because unfortunately, you don’t always know when the next job is going to come. And for some actors–even if you are, like, a series regular or you’re a recurring guest star–sometimes your contract doesn’t allow you to go do other projects because they have a storyline that they don’t want spoiled and if you show up in another show where there’s conflict of interest, for example… And then you’re asked out. You’re like, “Okay, well, how am I supposed to live?”
Ashley Ray [00:14:35] I think Angelica Ross just shared a story; she was working on [CENSORED], she got hit up by a marvel to get that Marvel bag, and she couldn’t even take it because she was on hold. And, you know, it’s frustrating when they don’t even really give you an answer about why.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:14:52] And sometimes you don’t know if the show is going to even be a hit or if the show is going to come out. Like, that’s been a really big issue for the writers in terms of, like, these mini rooms where you work on a project and then you don’t know if the show is going to series. And similarly, you might film a pilot, and you don’t know if the pilot’s going to get picked up. You don’t know if the show gets picked up and you’re even still in it. Like, you were in the pilot, and they kill off your character or they recast your character. You’re like, “Oh my God, I’ve been sitting around waiting. And I’ve had to not take certain jobs.” And it’s really demoralizing, especially when you look at the profits that the studios are making off of these shows. I think that’s the thing that I keep trying to drive home to people. “Oh, you’re so entitled. Oh, you guys want millions and millions of dollars?” No, no, no. We’re just asking for a portion of the profits that we helped create.
Ashley Ray [00:15:43] A tiny sliver. I think I saw someone make the pie chart, and it’s, like…
Franchesca Ramsey [00:15:49] 2%! For the writers, it’s 2%. I don’t know exactly the percentage for the actors, but it’s negligible. It’s one boat.
Ashley Ray [00:16:01] You’re not going to miss it. It’s two less trips on the private jets.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:16:02] You’re not going to be able to remake the kitchen in your fucking brownstone in the Upper East Side. I think you’ll survive.
Ashley Ray [00:16:09] You’ll survive, okay? You’ll find a stock or something.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:16:13] Get rid of the seat warmer on your gold fucking toilet and give us our money.
Ashley Ray [00:16:18] Give us our money. We’re making the shows. So, let’s go through some of the major stakes here because I think a lot of the public is reaching this point of frustration where they’re starting to notice the movies they’re excited about are being pushed. The shows they want to watch are being pushed–being recasted. We’re starting to get into the consequence part of this.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:16:37] Yes. Just fuck around and find out.
Ashley Ray [00:16:43] Now you’re finding out, okay? Because the next [CENSORED] is now going to come out in 2025, and I’m upset. And it’s easy to want to be mad at the people on strike, but that is incorrect.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:16:52] We don’t want to be on strike. You would love to go back to work.
Ashley Ray [00:16:55] Exactly. So, the union presented AMPTP with all of these offers–all of the proposals they wanted. And line by line, AMPTP went through and either rejected or presented a counter. And most of it is stuff that really should be something anyone could agree on. SAG was like, “Maybe pay us on time.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:17:18] This one was the one that really blew my mind. And this is something that I have personally dealt with on the writers’ side and on the actors’ side where you do a job and you’re super excited about it and then you don’t get paid for months. And let me tell you, it is so soul sucking when people are like, “I saw you in this thing,” and you’re like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t seen my check yet. Like, I am stressing out.” And the AMPTP was like, “No, we’re not going to…” They acknowledged that historically, they’ve been paying late. And they said, “This is not going to change. We’re not going to change.”
Ashley Ray [00:17:51] They’re just like, “No. No change to that.” And for the writers, they were like, “We think if we paid writers on time, they wouldn’t be incentivized to do their job.” I would do my job if you paid me. Do you know how many times I’ve been in meetings and I’m just like, “Everybody else here has been paid.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:18:07] Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:18:08] “What about me?”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:18:09] Yeah, that is really hard. Man, that’s really difficult. I sold a show, and I think it took nine months for our deal to close. And that is all time that I’m not being paid. And my bills do not give a shit that I’m waiting, you know? And to your earlier point, it’s really difficult when you’re taking these meetings and you’re getting notes when you’re on set, right? And you’re like, “Everyone else here is being paid except for me.” That is unacceptable. And again, these are the things that led to us being on strike because our leadership said that that’s not going to work.
Ashley Ray [00:18:45] Exactly. So much of this I think you’ll see is like, “Oh. No, the actors are being totally reasonable.” There’s one where they asked for schedule breaks for background actors. And I think they made a note that this has not been changed since, like, 1960. They were like, “Since 1960, we have not changed the allowance of breaks for background actors. They should be allowed more time.” And the AMPTP said, “No thank you.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:19:13] Yeah. You know, something that I’ve thought about and I’ve said multiple times is have you ever seen that show Undercover Boss, where, like, the people have to go undercover?
Ashley Ray [00:19:21] Yeah.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:19:22] I think we need that in every industry.
Ashley Ray [00:19:24] Every industry.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:19:25] And I absolutely think that the counters from the AMPTP exemplify that because most people are not understanding that when you are a background actor, you are there for so much time. You can’t have random people popping in and out of the background of these scenes. You’re doing takes over and over again. And it really does feel as if the people at the top of the pyramid don’t actually understand what the job entails. And I would love for them to just, like, come to set, see what it’s like, try to survive for eight months without a paycheck, let me know it goes…
Ashley Ray [00:20:04] They made a few requests for background actors. I think a lot of people don’t realize they often have to spend their own money on styling, hair, makeup. And they asked if the background actors could be compensated for one and a half hours of work time. That’s it–one and a half hours of work that would count towards that. And AMPTP said, “We will give you a $35 flat fee.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:20:29] Again, it’s that thing of like, “How much could milk cost? $2.00?” Like, they don’t understand…
Ashley Ray [00:20:35] “Hair and makeup? 35 bucks?”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:20:37] Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And it’s just… Again, I think a lot of this just shows how out of touch the studios are and how grown actors are still actors. They’re still working.
Ashley Ray [00:20:51] It never even occurred to me that all of those background actors have to do all of that themselves, make sure their wardrobe is right, keep track of any changes… Yeah, even an hour and a half. I think we could give more.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:21:05] I think a lot of the proposals are coming from… I know they do, like, surveys of the membership to, like, ask them questions about your finances and what your experience is. One of the things that’s in here that I thought was really important was hair and makeup equity. And again, this is coming from our membership. I say this as a Black woman; I have to get my hair cut before I came to set because I was like, “Let them not mess me up,” because I’ve been messed up on set before. And when I had locks, I did the same thing. I would do my hair before I got to set. Sometimes that meant waking up super early and going to the salon–waking up super early and doing my own hair. And so, SAG is taking this information from its members and saying, “This is what our membership needs. We want to make sure that we’re involved in the process so that when I show up to set, I know they’re going to have my shade range. I know somebody there is gonna be able to do my hair.” And I felt really fortunate that when I worked on [CENSORED] as a producer, I was able to advocate for a Black hair stylist to be our lead stylist because we had Black girls in the cast. And I said, “Somebody’s got to be able to do their hair.” And so, we just want to make that standard for everybody.
Ashley Ray [00:22:18] Because that’s another thing that is just going to cope with diversity in acting and just diversity of the members of the guild, which we want to see. But it’s so difficult when you’re a Black actor and you’re like, “Well, I also have to, like, bring my own wardrobe and stuff because sometimes they only have smaller sizes.” You know, just being a plus size person… Or when I’m like, “Oh, they’re definitely not going to know how to do my hair.” Like, I get there, and I see, you know, it’s, like, a nice white girl who’s just like, “I’m gonna do my best.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:22:43] It’s really frustrating. But I really hope that audiences are more empathetic to the challenges that we’re experiencing because–look–I know before I got into the business, I had this narrow viewpoint as well. But y’all are watching shows and you’re dragging actors because their hair looks a mess. You’re dragging actors because they look ashy. And the reality is it’s not always their fault.
Ashley Ray [00:23:07] It’s not, okay? Harper in [CENSORED]–leave my girl alone. The first season? Those braids? That wasn’t on her, okay? It wasn’t her fault.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:23:14] And that’s the other thing, too. I know a lot of girls get braids because they’re like, “I don’t know what y’all are about to do. Let me get these braids done so at the very least, I can lay my own baby hairs and throw this shit in a ponytail.”
Ashley Ray [00:23:26] “Put a wrap around it, and I’ll be okay.” Oof. Been there so many times. Another one that really shocked me from the proposals is the relocation allowance. So, this is something that I think most people don’t know. I’ll read it exactly. “Drop the ruse that television series regulars who travel to other states or countries for their work thereby become residents who are not entitled to reimbursement for housing and other expenses. They would like to increase the relocation allowance to sufficient levels.” So basically, when you watch a TV show that’s set in Chicago, it’s not really set in Chicago. They’re not shooting in Chicago. They’re probably in Toronto. And all those actors who live in LA who got cast in the show then have to go to Toronto for however many months.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:24:18] They have to try and sublet their apartment–sometimes on very short notice.
Ashley Ray [00:24:24] Like, I’ve had friends who were like, “I have a week. I need someone.” They go to the other place, and I think sometimes they’re given a one-time fee. But once they’re there, they’re considered a citizen, so they have to get their own place and pay rent.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:24:37] And they don’t get a per diem for, like, lunch or, you know, if you take an Uber to set or something like that.
Ashley Ray [00:24:43] Yeah, like, most people have to get rental cars. They handle those expenses by themselves. And the counter was they offered inadequate fixed stipends that bear no relationship to the actual cost of spending months away from home to work on television shows. I am going to guess if you’re offering $35 to background actors for makeup, I bet they were like, “What is rent? Like, $200?”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:25:02] “How much could rent be?”
Ashley Ray [00:25:04] “What, you need a rental car? What’s that? Like, 40 bucks?”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:25:07] “Have you looked into getting a Citi Bike?” Yeah, I mean, you brought up so many good points. The fact that you have a quick turnaround time. I know that when I booked one of my first big jobs, I auditioned for the show on a Thursday, and I needed to be on set Monday. And it was cross-country. And I paid my own way. And I was able to do it. And I wasn’t able to find a sublet because it was such short notice. And I was paying rent in both places. And it was really difficult. And then the amount of money I was being paid wasn’t that much. And that was really eye-opening for me because I genuinely didn’t know that that was most people’s experience. And I was on the show for a few months, but there are sometimes people who are shooting for six months at a time. Or you’re there waiting to find out if you’re going to be, you know… “Can I go back?” “Well, we’re reworking a script. We think we’re going to be a little bit longer.” You’re, like, calling your dog walker. It’s really difficult–on top of the fact that you’re not necessarily being paid the gazillion dollars everyone assumes that you are.
Ashley Ray [00:26:13] Yeah. And I think people think, “Oh, glamorous lifestyle of an actor. You get flown all over the world and you get to live in these fancy places.” And it’s like, “No, you’re probably in a sad Airbnb in Toronto that you could barely afford.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:26:25] Yeah. You know, again, the silver lining is that it’s demystifying this industry, I think especially for a lot of people who are potentially looking at creatives and judging, like, “Oh, I wish I could have their life. I wish I was doing that.” The reality is things are not necessarily the way that they always seem. But again, we’re doing this work to make the industry better. And I believe that the things that we’re asking for are reasonable.
Ashley Ray [00:26:54] Really reasonable things. It’s super reasonable stuff. I mean, I don’t know if people realize singers and actresses are covered by this. They’re also in SAG. And it’s really just minor things, like, “Oh, if a singer needs help with, like, a vocal contractor, they should get payments for doing that work.” If they help an actor, I think, sing with vocal contracting classes, they should get paid. They also sing, but then are asked to do dancing services later–they should be able to be like, “Hey, pay me.” And instead of saying, “Yeah, you would get paid as a dancer and a singer,” AMPTP said, “We’ll give you 25% of the dancer rate.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:27:29] Which is so weird because, like, you’re doing 100% of the dancing!
Ashley Ray [00:27:32] And also for performance days, but not rehearsals.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:27:35] When you’re going to rehearse, which is still work. It goes back to my original point. I don’t think that people understand what our work entails. And I think because it is singing and dancing and acting and voiceover, people think, “Well, it’s fun! It’s fine!” It’s like, “No, it’s work. It’s skill.” The people who are acting and performing in these shows have spent years’ worth of training. They’ve invested their money–they’ve taken out student loans–in order to develop their talents to then bring them to set so that you can then use their likeness to make millions of dollars. And all we’re asking is to be paid fairly. Like, the math is not nothing.
Ashley Ray [00:28:13] Like, you don’t have the stuff without us.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:28:16] That’s why we all strike!
Ashley Ray [00:28:18] And I know a lot of people–some of the push back, again, is: “You’re all rich. And mostly this will just help people from the coasts. What do I care about all these people in LA and New York?” But I do want to point out that the union requested something called “geographic discrimination.” So, they requested a discussion with relevant casting personnel regarding geographic discrimination in casting whereby actors outside of New York and Los Angeles are offered lesser terms for the same role. So, this is something that they are thinking about–that they want to help actors everywhere. This isn’t something that’s just going to help Gwyneth Paltrow be more famous.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:28:56] Yeah, because those relocation fees–again–when we’re talking about actors who are in Los Angeles who book a job that then shoots in Toronto, those relocation services also would apply to an actor in Atlanta who’s perfect for a part that’s shooting in LA. And they’re kind of cut out of the process because they’re not going to pay relocation for them.
Ashley Ray [00:29:15] Exactly. So, you know, again, that’s another reason why we struggle with seeing diversity in television. Oh, and if you were curious what the counter was to that… Rejected. AMPTP was like, “We don’t want to have the conversation.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:29:28] I know. And it’s so frustrating because part of negotiations is coming back to the table with an alternative proposal. And it’s just so frustrating that so much of this, they just outright refused. And, you know, when Fran Drescher was doing her press conference right after the strike was announced, she even expressed that she was really blown away–that she said she really went into this thinking, like, “This is reasonable. They’re going to work with us.” And they just were flat-out stonewalled on so many of these proposals.
Ashley Ray [00:30:00] Yeah. So many of them are like, “We would just like to talk about this. Like, maybe we could have a discussion or just, like, a monthly little meet and greet about it.” And they’re just like, “Rejected.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:30:10] I mean, everything that I’ve read gives the impression that the AMPTP really was not prepared for SAG to strike–that they really did not see this coming–which is very strange to me but also just confirms my belief that they are wildly out of touch and that, again, they have such a limited perspective of what the industry is like. And they’re probably thinking about those big-name stars making tons of money when the reality is there’s 160,000 members of SAG. And you know, I heard someone say this on Twitter– I think it was actually Nicole Black saying, “You can’t name 160,000 famous actors.’ You just can’t because we’re not all famous
Ashley Ray [00:30:50] But you would notice when, like, that favorite person you see in Law & Order–that character actor–when they’re gone or if they’re CGI or AI…
Franchesca Ramsey [00:30:56] Oh, God.
Ashley Ray [00:30:57] You’re going to notice.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:30:58] Yeah. Oh my God. So scary.
Ashley Ray [00:31:00] And the last negotiation point I want to talk about is the request for paid auditions. Can you explain this a little bit? I don’t think people have a sense of what the audition process is like and how it’s changed since COVID. You know, maybe traditionally you thought, “Oh, don’t you just drive around LA all day, drinking water bottles and talking to casting directors.” But COVID really changed that where now actors are usually recording these from home. And now they have to be directors, lighting–they have to find a friend to read with them. So, what exactly is SAG asking for in terms of help?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:31:34] Yeah. So, the self-tape phenomenon really came about during the pandemic. There were some self-taped auditions before, but in the issue of safety, people are being asked to record their auditions at home. And on the one hand, it opens the door for more actors to get involved and potentially book roles. But to your point, it’s also asking folks to do their lighting, do their camera–in addition to learning all of the lines for the auditions–and then edit all the footage together and then turn it around.
Ashley Ray [00:32:05] In 24 hours. Even end of day, sometimes.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:32:09] Right. And so, as a result, all of these self-tape studios have popped up, where you can go, and you can pay a fee and they will shoot it for you, edit it together, and turn it around. And it’s costly.
Ashley Ray [00:32:22] Yeah, it’s$100. I’ve had to do this because I just was like, “I don’t have time to work this out in my apartment or while I’m traveling.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:32:28] And I can tell you, as someone that’s been on the producer side, they won’t even look at it if it’s bad quality. It doesn’t matter how good your audition is. If it’s too dark or your audio is messed up or something like that or you’re out of focus, which… God, there’s nothing worse than being like, “I fucking nailed that take,” and then it’s out of focus because no one is there. You’re doing it by yourself, you know? And what I was doing a lot of times is I would, like, record the other person’s lines on my phone. And then I would, like, play it. And there’s, like, this whole frigging timing thing of trying to get it right. It’s just bonkers. And actually, our contract currently does include payment for auditions, but it’s just never been enforced. And it’s one of those things where, you know, everyone would love to do it, but nobody wants to be the first one to ask for it because it’s like, “Well, if I ask for it and nobody else is asking for it, then I’m probably not going to get called back.” But the thinking is, if you are called for an audition, we are asking that it’s disclosed if there’s already an offer out because that’s something that happens a lot of times. You get called to do a self-taped audition, you spend that money to tape, and there’s already an offer out.
Ashley Ray [00:33:40] Already an offer. And the next day, you open Deadline and you’re like, “Oh.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:33:45] “Really glad that I spent the money to tape that audition and learn all those lines.”
Ashley Ray [00:33:48] “Michaela Coel got it? Cool, cool, cool.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:33:52] Exactly. And so there has been, you know, some pushback from people saying, “Well, if they pay for auditions, then less people are going to get called.” Yeah, that’s actually a good thing. That means that they will be more intentional about calling people that actually have a potential to get booked for the role. And then that means if you’re not getting those auditions, that’s time that you can go devote to getting another job or, you know…
Ashley Ray [00:34:13] Writing something or doing anything else.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:34:15] Exactly. Or doing whatever else you need to do versus spending money to audition. And again, if we’re getting the residuals, for example, there is a world in which–okay–maybe you’re not getting a lot of auditions, but you’re making residuals off of the work that you did book already.
Ashley Ray [00:34:29] Yeah, it’s just… As you can tell, it’s just all very frustrating.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:34:34] Yeah, it really, really is. And I think, again, for people who have countered with, “Well, you know, it’s acting. It’s writing. This is a hobby. Blah, blah, blah.” The reality is this has the potential to trickle down to a number of industries. If you see another person advocating for themselves and saying we deserve to be treated better and you’re thinking, “What about me?” Yeah, girl, What about you? What about you? You absolutely should be paid fairly. Yeah, absolutely should not be taken advantage of. You absolutely should be able to get an apartment in the city that you’re required to work in. You should be able to make a living–whatever it is that you’re doing–because the people at the top are making tons of money. Why aren’t you making you, too?
Ashley Ray [00:35:17] And you should have protections against AI and robots taking your job. I think we all want that.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:35:21] Yeah, absolutely.
Ashley Ray [00:35:23] Why not help, you know, support the actors in getting that and the writer. All of us. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just so much. There’s obviously a lot of other things in the negotiations. A lot of it is about wage increases, revenue sharing. Some of it is pretty similar to what the WGA is asking for. So, if you want all the details–the nitty gritty–go dive into that because we’re not about to sit here and talk about, like, 11% adjusted over inflation in four years. But mostly what you need to know is that in response to all of this, AMPTP said, “No thank you. Rejected.” So, they’re the ones who aren’t coming to the table. So, if you’re upset about your favorite show getting pushed–the fact that you’re that movie you were waiting for isn’t coming out till 2026 now–that’s not our fault. That’s not the union’s fault. They could pay us whenever they want.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:36:06] It’s so true. We would love to go back to work. AMPTP, if you’re listening, call us. You have our number.
Ashley Ray [00:36:13] Yeah. We’re just waiting for you to say, “Let’s go back to the table. Let’s have the talks.” So, while we’re on strike, there are a lot of things that actors cannot do. Yes. Can you give us an overview of that?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:36:23] So the most barebones way to understand it is we are withholding our services from the studios. And that means acting services, that means hosting, that also means promotion. And so, as many people saw, the cast of [CENSORED] walked off of the premiere. There’s not any [CENSORED] press or promo. You’re not seeing all the big-name actors sharing on social media about their movie. They’re not doing podcast interviews about their shows. And the reason for that is, again, a full work stoppage to show the studios you cannot do this work without us. And so, I get it. It’s been frustrating for everybody, especially when you pour your heart and soul into something you want to share.
Ashley Ray [00:37:11] I have friends who have projects they’ve been working on for years that are finally coming out. And it’s just such horrible timing that you can’t scream about how amazing they are. But overall, we know we’re doing this to better the industry, so it’s just one of those hits you have to take. But that led to a lot of fans going, “Well, what about what I can do? Can I support my favorite shows? What can influencers do?” And there was some language that SAG announced around this, but it was really confusing at first, where the original one kind of made it seem like people were like, “You can’t even say you’re a fan of a TV show or you’re going to be scabbing.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:37:47] I mean, here’s the thing that’s worth remembering. The last time WGA and SAG were both on strike was 1960. There was no social media. And so, you know, again, I think–especially for people who’ve grown up with social media and they’ve always had it and they can’t conceptualize a world where we didn’t have it–you have to remember that there are people in this industry that are still coming from a very traditional view of the marketplace. And so, when we first started people weren’t thinking about influencers. They were just like, “Hey, like we’re thinking about us.” So, the influencer standards didn’t go up for a few days. I mean, they were actually very proactive in getting them up. But essentially what SAG and WGA are asking is for anyone who even has aspirations to join the union–so maybe you aren’t a member now, but something that you do want to do in the future–to support and stand with us because what is happening is that the studios are going out to any and every one that they can because they’re like, “Well, I don’t have this big name actress to promote the movie, so I’m going to go to this TikToker that has 3 million followers. And I’m going to give them way less money than we would have to be giving the actors.” But to the TikToker–they’re like, “This is the most money I’ve ever been offered to do anything!”
Ashley Ray [00:39:07] It’s a brand deal. They’re not even thinking about how it plays into the strike or what they could be doing. It could be seen as scabbing. It’s just, “Oh, this is just a brand deal. This is so exciting.” And it is so clear the studios are desperate. I think we saw with one premiere, they had…
Franchesca Ramsey [00:39:24] That red carpet–no shade, but a lot of y’all were on that carpet, but you’ve never been anywhere.
Ashley Ray [00:39:29] That red carpet… I genuinely felt so bad for, like, these actors who work in the park who had to do these roles.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:39:39] Yeah.
Ashley Ray [00:39:40] And it’s just… Just cancel it. But, okay, you know, they did that. But it feels like they’re getting even more desperate. I know the [CENSORED] movie is coming out. But for their promo, they reached out to…
Franchesca Ramsey [00:39:52] The zombie kid.
Ashley Ray [00:39:54] The zombie kid who, like, said when he was five years old–he was like, “I like turtles.” They found him today, and they have him doing a promo.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:39:59] He’s, like, a 25-year-old man. No one recognized him.
Ashley Ray [00:40:04] Nobody really recognizes him. And he’s just like, “Oh, I like turtles still. And watch the movie.” And I was like, “Okay. They couldn’t even get a good influencer for that one.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:40:14] Yeah, they’re real desperate. And I will say that my hope is that it was because so many influencers said no. And I will say that I’ve seen tremendous solidarity from creators online. There’s definitely been people that have pushed back and have stomped their feet. And to that, you know, that was frustrating and disappointing for me to see, especially because, like… What? The actors’ strike has been going on week three? I was like, “Oh God. What am I going to do? I can’t go to this red carpet. What about my Getty Image? How will I feed my children?” Like, you guys, we’ve been on strike for 90 days.
Ashley Ray [00:40:48] What about my press box?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:40:48] Exactly. I would like to work, too, right? And ultimately you have to make that choice for yourself. No one is forcing you to not do promo for the studios. You are absolutely allowed to do and will do whatever it is that you want. But we are asking–especially for those who, you know, enjoy our work… You come home from a long day and you turn on the TV and you watch our shows. You share memes and gifs with our characters. You’re quoting things from these shows. There are people that are working to create that content. And we’re not being paid fairly. And many of us are struggling to make ends meet. And it’s definitely a sacrifice in order to withhold doing promotion for brands, especially if that’s what you’re making a living off of. I 1,000% understand that. And again, you have to make the choice for yourself. But I try to remind people that especially in this industry, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And so, you make a sacrifice now in order to reap the rewards of it later on. And I can tell you as somebody that worked as a content creator and an influencer for a very long time, it is good over here. The healthcare! I got dental; you know what I’m saying? Like, my teeth were clean and good. Like, I’m taken care of. And it is a level of security and support that is just immeasurable. And there is also an influencer agreement. So again, there is a world in which if you are a content creator, you could join the union as a creator–but also as a voiceover artist or as a host. You know, there are a lot of creators–
Ashley Ray [00:42:22] Podcast hosts.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:42:23] Podcast hosts. Getting the opportunity to host an unscripted show. Maybe you’re going to be on one of those streamers doing a competition show or something like that.
Ashley Ray [00:42:34] All of that counts.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:42:35] Yep. Maybe you’re a stand-up comedian, and you get the opportunity to have your own show. I mean, I really want to encourage anybody who creates content online to think bigger than the immediate. If you want to be reviewing movies in your bedroom for the rest of your life, you go ahead and do that. But I know there are people that want to do more. I implore you to look at the Issa Raes and the Quinta Brunsons and the Bo Burnhams of the world, who started making rinky-dink content at home and are now accepting Emmy Awards and are now, you know, the face of makeup brands and have award winning albums. I mean, there’s more that you can do. And again, it just requires thinking long term and making the sacrifices right now.
Ashley Ray [00:43:18] Yeah. Let me tell you–the other thing about this industry? People don’t forget. Memory is long in Hollywood.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:43:24] It is so true.
Ashley Ray [00:43:25] So let me tell you, you think, “Oh, nobody’s going to notice if I do this little TikTok brand deal–blah, blah, blah–for this movie and show up to this. Nobody will notice! I’ll just delete the pictures.” No. People will notice. And they will remember.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:43:37] Well, another thing is to your point about memories being long, this industry requires a level of trust. I want to know that if I have to be on set with you for 12 hours, that you’re somebody that I want to be around, that you’re somebody who’s going to have my back when we’re acting in a scene, that you’re going to be there to make me look good, that we’re going to be on a press tour and you’re going to be supporting the show and supporting the brand and supporting the network. And so that is part of this as well–that we want to know that these are people of high caliber that we want to invite into this industry. Now, again, you might not be a member–but when and if you get the opportunity to, we’re withholding our work so that you’re taken care of so that you don’t deal with nine months waiting to get paid so that you, you know, get that–
Ashley Ray [00:44:26] You get a lunch break. Somebody helps you with relocation.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:44:30] That we have your shade range! We don’t want you looking casket ready for your first time on TV!
Ashley Ray [00:44:38] That’s us caring. It’s not going to happen if you’re out here like, “I’m king of the scabs!”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:44:42] Well, that’s another thing, too, is it’s baffling to me that someone would hear writers and actors say, “We’re not being paid well,” and say, “This is my opportunity.” You think you’re going to be paid well? You think it’s going to be a lot if it’s not a lot for us?
Ashley Ray [00:44:55] You think they’re paying the temps a lot?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:44:57] It’s not going to be a lot for you either. And guess what? It’ll take you nine months to– By the time you get paid, the strike is going to be over.
Ashley Ray [00:45:19] There are people who are TV critics, who share their work online, who are writing articles, who do make videos of, you know, the stuff they’re writing criticism about. And a lot of people were calling them out as scabs and saying, “You shouldn’t be promoting this. It’s a TV show. You shouldn’t be writing about it.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:45:35] If you’re under contract… Again, there’s a really big difference. If you are a TV critic and that’s what you do for a living, you are under contract with whoever it is that you’re writing for. We’re not asking you to break the contract that you have, similarly to–
Ashley Ray [00:45:49] Right. You’re basically a journalist. You know, to say that a TV critic is inherently scabbing here would be basically saying all TV critics are just doing promo–like we’re all just PR people. But, you know, they aren’t always, you know, praising these shows. Sometimes it’s negative criticism. So that’s sort of the difference of why people are like, “No, this is okay. It’s a totally different industry. These are writers, not people who are going to be in a TV show someday.” But people have had a hard time kind of separating that difference.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:46:19] Yeah. And I get it. I think, at the heart, people are trying to do the right thing. But I think there’s also this rush to, like, label people. And at the end of the day, we’re trying to get back to work. This is not about branding people as scabs. It’s not about saying this person’s bad or this person’s good. The goal is to get the AMPTP to come back to the table, and everything else is a distraction. And so, if you are concerned or you are confused, all of the guidelines are very clearly laid out on the SAG-AFTRA website. You can also email them. They are very, very active. I think when I sent a message, I got something back in, like, two days. But I know other people who are not members that got equally quick responses. And so much of the interest about the influencer agreement–they actually went ahead and put up a special page dedicated to influencers because of the response, right? And so, there are guidelines for journalists as well. I’ve seen a lot of journalists and critics putting on their article, you know, “We support the strike. We want fair pay and equity.”
Ashley Ray [00:47:31] “Recorded before the strike.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:47:34] Exactly. And so, we’re getting tremendous support across all industries, and it has been incredibly heartening. And I just remind everyone… I know it’s confusing. I know that this is my first strike. I did not anticipate becoming, like, a voice of the writers’ strike or the actors’ strike. I’m really thankful that people care and they’re listening and they want to help and support. You know, the best advice that I can give is if you have a question and something doesn’t feel right, erring on the side of caution is always a good thing.
Ashley Ray [00:48:04] Yeah, just be cautious. Shoot them an email. Obviously, I do a whole podcast about TV. I had to be like, “What can I talk about? What can we do here? What’s the deal?” And they were so just helpful in breaking down all the rules and what we can talk about because they don’t want people out of work. There are things actors can still do. You can still do music videos, commercials, and other things that are under different contracts. So, they’re really making that clear, you know? “We don’t want you completely, you know, out here broke. We’re doing this effort. We care about you.” So just don’t be afraid.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:48:37] And also for writers, actors, crew people–there’s the entertainment fund. I mean, we know a lot of people are out of work right now and are experiencing financial hardship. SAG has their own fund. The WGA has their own fund. And then the Entertainment Fund is available, for example, to crew members, makeup artists, hairstylists–people who aren’t in, like, the writer or actor positions. Again, we knew that this was a potential situation, and we tried to make sure that all of our memberships were prepared for it. But we also understand the reality of, like, this is a difficult time.
Ashley Ray [00:49:14] And I do know we have been asking people to donate to the Entertainment Fund here, which also does cover people kind of like me–comedians. If you can show for a certain amount of years that you have made a certain amount of money from entertainment–even if you aren’t in the Guild–you can get help. So, I know originally, I was like, “Oh, I don’t think that applies to me.” And then I looked into it, and I was like, “Oh, actually it does.” So, you know, I feel like it’s just such a coordinated effort that it’s like, “Obviously we’re going to win this.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:49:41] Yeah, I mean, it’s been really incredible to see how much planning and organizing and just how many people are involved in making all of this happen. And again, it’s been really, really inspiring.
Ashley Ray [00:49:53] Yeah. There is a controversy that’s come up with SAG. People might have seen this coming up a lot last week. They have been giving out these interim agreements. So, we saw that some people have been against them. Viola Davis, Sarah Silverman, Boots Riley–some of the films that have gotten waivers include a project with Glenn Close. I think there’s one with Anne Hathaway, which honestly looks really good. And it was A24, which technically is not a part of the AMPTP. But why is there so much controversy around these waivers?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:50:27] You know, I think what’s been difficult is there is leadership of SAG, and then there are the members. And, you know, there’s a lot of people that are in SAG that don’t necessarily agree with what leadership is doing. And not everybody has a direct line to leadership. And with any membership organization, there are always going to be differing opinions about things. And, you know, my diplomatic answer is I’m trying to trust our SAG leadership. I don’t necessarily agree or understand the reasoning behind the interim agreements, but I have to trust that they believe that it’s the right thing to do. I believe that similar agreements were offered in 2007 by the WGA. So, it’s not a new thing. And my best understanding of it–
Ashley Ray [00:51:14] I think last time they did a waiver for, like, the Grammy Awards. And so, things like that–it allows people to work on things that would typically be struck.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:51:23] Right. And I think my understanding of it is, you know, we are not striking against indie productions. There are a lot of indie productions that are still SAG eligible. They go ahead, and they make sure that their production is run to SAG standards. And so, we’re not trying to harm those productions. That’s my best understanding. There are absolutely people that don’t agree with that, right? Sarah Silverman made a video about it. Most recently, Viola Davis said that she is going to pause on the project despite it being offered a waiver. It’s not possible for everybody to agree, but I’m trying to remind myself and fellow members that our “enemy,” quote unquote, is the AMPTP–not each other, not these productions. And again, I’m not in leadership, so I can’t surmise why they have or haven’t made certain choices, despite how I might feel about it. But what I’m trying to do is remain steadfast and say, “Look, I’m in here for the long haul. And this little thing that’s happening over here is not going to distract me from the goal, which is getting back to work.”
Ashley Ray [00:52:29] And I think it is a big distraction. I know a lot of it is people saying, “Well, these are independent movies, but some of them will get distribution on major streaming channels.” If we know that movie is going to be on Apple TV, you’re still giving them content, even if it is an independent studio. But then–as some people have mentioned, and this is where it got kind of complicated for me–these independent productions can apply for the interim agreements from SAG that allow them to continue filming if they agree to abide by the terms of whatever deal is eventually reached. So, part of these, like, interim agreements is that they have to abide by the, you know, new agreement that we’re fighting for.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:53:07] And I guess the logistics behind that is to say, “It’s possible, right?” Like, what we’re asking for is not unreasonable. This production says, “Yeah. We’re down to do that. That sounds totally fair. We will pay our actors based on the new residual model. We will make sure that they’re able to have accommodations–whatever other stipulations that are applying to that specific production.” That’s my understanding. But they’re like, “Look, it can be done.”
Ashley Ray [00:53:32] Yeah. If A24 is like, “We can do that–no problem,” you’re telling me Disney can’t?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:53:37] Exactly. Exactly. And I do think that that’s part of the rationale. And again, I have to trust and believe because–look–I’ve never organized a strike before. How did they get that strike website up so quickly? I don’t know.
Ashley Ray [00:53:50] So fast.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:53:51] Somebody figured it out. They got t-shirts at the picket line. They got snacks. I mean, like, somebody is putting all of this stuff together. We got a little check-in where they swipe a card and then you’re accounted for. I don’t know how all those things are happening, but they happen. And so, in this instance, I don’t necessarily understand all of the things. And then, you know, my one-time recurring character–IMDb… You know what I’m saying. Look, my brain is already struggling to put it together. I don’t know. But I have to trust that leadership is making the right decision that’s going to benefit all of us, because ultimately, we’re all in this together and we’re trying to come to a resolution that’s going to benefit all of our members–including the background actors, the dancers, the actors, everybody. So, I just have to trust and believe that we’re doing the right thing.
Ashley Ray [00:54:47] Yeah, there are things at play that we can’t all see. But they’re seeing it, so we gotta trust them, particularly when the AMPTP is doing some shady, shady stuff because this week they announced that they might start doing force majeure on overall deals. An overall deal is when a production studio or network decides to work with a writer and basically say, “We’re going to pay you this much money over a year–over, you know, whatever amount of time is in the contract. And we’re going to pay you ahead of time whether or not we develop your shows or not.” That’s basically an overall–where someone… What is it when they…?
Franchesca Ramsey [00:55:25] A first-look.
Ashley Ray [00:55:25] Yeah, a first-look deal.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:55:26] And a first-look is usually like, “You let us look at it first and then we decide if we want it or not. And then you can take it elsewhere.” And so, it’s essentially, you’re getting a salary for the purpose of you developing content to potentially live with that production company or studio.
Ashley Ray [00:55:40] And it’s what writers dream of. This is a wonderful way as a writer to have a steady income.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:55:46] Yeah. And sometimes actors get them, too.
Ashley Ray [00:55:48] So it’s something that people want to do. They love it. It also, I think, helps to support and build talent in the industry. When you see someone who was an amazing writer on an HBO show and they get an overall deal–that’s helping to, you know, nourish their voice and to get them additional content made. So, I think recently we’ve seen a lot of those deals go to people of color and women, and it’s really exciting. So, this week they said, “Well, a lot of those deals, because you’ve been on strike, are about to hit the 90-day clause where we can say, ‘You haven’t worked for 90 days. We’re going to cancel this contract.’” And for some of the bigger people–say, your Shonda Rhimes.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:56:27] Ryan Murphys.
Ashley Ray [00:56:28] Ryan Murphys. They don’t really have to worry. They have these overall deals, but they added little clauses after the last strike because after the last strike, a lot of people got their deals shut down. So, they added these clauses that said, “You can’t end our deal unless you end every production we’ve made for you.” So, you can’t say no to Shonda Rhimes or she’s going to take Bridgerton with her.
Franchesca Ramsey [00:56:49] Right.
Ashley Ray [00:56:49] So they’re safe. But really, who will be hurt in this are the sort of mid-level writers who have these deals–those people of color, those women who have just gotten in the door with these deals. What does this mean for the industry to you because, to me, I’m just like, “This is going to have an impact when we’re looking at a TV schedule eight, nine months from now, and we’re like, ‘How come it’s not diverse? How come we’re seeing more white TV?’”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:57:14] I mean, unfortunately, it all comes down to money. They don’t want to give us money. And I think that they are trying to find ways… I mean, eventually this has to end, right? And so, what has to happen is they need to make their shareholders happy. And so, if they’re going to give us a little bit more money, that money has to come from somewhere. And I think that that’s what a lot of them are deciding. “Well, if we get rid of X amount of overall deals, we’re going to save money. And then we’ll give that little sliver of money to the actors and the writers.” It is unfortunate, and you’re correct that the people that will suffer are the marginalized voices that don’t often get an opportunity to work in this business. My hope is that when we make the advancements that we’re making with residuals, for example, with increased fees for staff writers, script fees, things that we haven’t had in the past–that that will help those marginalized voices get their foot in the door and be able to make a sustainable living in this business. And hopefully, you know, those are the people that will get an opportunity to have overall deals in the future. It’s really disappointing that we’re at this place. We’re all having to make sacrifices. I know there are a lot of people that have worked really, really hard to get to a place in their career where they’ve gotten those overall deals. And the thing that I try to remind myself at every juncture of my career is that I’m highly employable. And so, if I’m not working right now, this is a temporary situation. And again, the strike is not going to last forever. There are people who will potentially lose their overall deals. We’re going to come back. We’re going to be making more money. You know, there’s going to be a moment where the industry needs new shows. Lots of people are cooking up ideas for scripts and features right now. And, you know, the doors are going to open, and everybody’s going to be ready to go back to work. Similarly, to the 2007 strike, there was a beautiful burst of new scripted television after the strike was over because people were excited to go back to work. So, I’m really hopeful that that’s going to be the case here as well.
Ashley Ray [00:59:19] I think so. And also, I know some people got mad about the overall deals in general because they think that most of them go to people who are already famous–like a Donald Glover or Phoebe Waller-Bridge–and they go, “Oh, well, they paid her millions in her overall deal, and shouldn’t even make anything for them.” And it’s like, “You don’t understand. She’s doing work.”
Franchesca Ramsey [00:59:39] Yeah, she absolutely is. She’s not just sitting around.
Ashley Ray [00:59:42] It’s not her fault if Amazon chose not to actually create any of those shows, but those people are working. So, these overall deals–it is a real threat that they’re making this week, particularly after saying they want us to lose our homes. Cutting down trees so people can get heatstroke. You know, it’s so clear they don’t care about us. And this overall deal threat that they’ve pulled out this week is just the next step. But it doesn’t matter because we’re going to stay strong.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:00:07] Yeah, absolutely.
Ashley Ray [01:00:08] Is there anything else you want people to know about the strike that they should be aware of?
Franchesca Ramsey [01:00:14] Yeah. I mean, if you would like to support the strike–if you’re in New York or LA–we would love to see you on the picket lines. You do not have to be an actor or a writer. We are very happy to have support from fans or… “pre-WGAs” is what we often call people or “pre-SAG.” We would love to see you. You can go to the website, wgacontract2023.org or sagaftrastrike.org. And join us on the picket lines. You can also donate to the Entertainment Fund or donate to the SAG Entertainment Fund through our websites. And again, if you’re unclear on any of the provisions for the strike, all of it is laid out for you on the website.
Ashley Ray [01:00:51] It’s right there. And by the way, you can donate at entertainmentcommunity.org. Make sure to direct your gift to the film and television category when asked. Very important. Any plugs? Final thoughts?
Franchesca Ramsey [01:01:02] Oh, I’m super excited to share that. I have a podcast premiering September 13th called Let Me Fix It. You can listen to our trailer. It’s my best friend and I reviewing our favorite movies and TV shows and books and brands from the past and then re-envisioning how we would make them relevant for today. It’s going to be so fun. As you know, it’s a long process to get a podcast from inception to out in the world, but we’re super excited, and it’s going to be really fun. And you know what? We would love to have you on if there’s a world for that.
Ashley Ray [01:01:35] Please! This has been so great.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:01:36] Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Ashley Ray [01:01:38] Thank you for just breaking down this complicated stuff. Like, usually we’re just on here talking about 90 Day Fiancé and being stupid. And then I was like, “I got to bring in someone smarter to make this clear to the people.”
Franchesca Ramsey [01:01:50] Oh my God. Well, thank you so much. And you know, you’ve really done a great job on Twitter of, like, educating people and really kind of demystifying the industry. And so, I really appreciate that.
Ashley Ray [01:01:59] Most of it is just me retweeting you, going, “So true.” And did you say where people can follow you?
Franchesca Ramsey [01:02:05] Oh, yeah. You can follow me on Twitter–on Instagram–@chescaleigh. I’m on TikTok @franchesca_leigh
Ashley Ray [01:02:16] And I would recommend the TikToks.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:02:17] Oh, yes. Please do.
Ashley Ray [01:02:19] You get to see the beautiful apartment.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:02:21] Oh my goodness
Ashley Ray [01:02:21] Amazing.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:02:23] Thank you.
Ashley Ray [01:02:23] Thank you so much for joining me today.
Franchesca Ramsey [01:02:26] This was really great. Thanks so much, Ashley.
Ashley Ray [01:02:40] TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar, produced by Scott Sonne, executive produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon.
September 19, 2023
It’s almost time for the ‘The Golden Bachelor,’ and Ashley Ray couldn’t be more excited! TV Lover and host of High and Mighty, Jon Gabrus joins the pod to discuss why older women are sexy, cringey reality show kissing, and his love for ‘Project Runway All Stars.’
September 12, 2023
Guest Anthony Atamanuik
Things that don’t make Ashley Ray panic? Cult documentaries! ‘Don’t Panic’ host Anthony Atamanuik joins the podcast to discuss the story of Teal Swan, who made the best NXIVM doc, and whether or not he’d join a cult.