Justine Bateman Criticizes SAG-AFTRA's AI Agreement Terms

Bateman defends human artistry in the AI era.

by Nouman Rasool
Justine Bateman Criticizes SAG-AFTRA's AI Agreement Terms
© Jeremy Chan/GettyImages

Amidst the ongoing debate on the future of artificial intelligence in Hollywood, Justine Bateman, a prominent actress, writer, and filmmaker, has openly criticized the recently tentatively agreed upon SAG-AFTRA contract for its AI provisions.

Speaking to MSNBC's Ali Velshi, Bateman articulated her disapproval, asserting that accepting such terms could signal the end of traditional work for actors. She warned that the union members should only consent to the deal if they are prepared to be substituted by "synthetic objects" produced by generative AI technologies.

The vote for ratification of the new contract is scheduled to commence on Tuesday, following the SAG-AFTRA board's overwhelming approval. The development comes on the heels of DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg's remarks, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, about AI's potential to significantly reduce the workforce needed to produce animated features.

AI vs. Human Creativity

Bateman, who has offered her expertise as a union advisor on AI issues, expressed her belief that by embracing AI, studio executives are distancing themselves from the core of filmmaking, choosing instead to align with tech innovation at the expense of human involvement in the creative process.

She emphatically stated her commitment to preserving the human element in filmmaking, from the contributions of crew members to the experiences of actors on set. Her comments extend to the implications for consumers, highlighting the stark divide between AI-generated content and traditional filmmaking.

Bateman predicts a fleeting fascination with AI customization in entertainment, which she believes will eventually give way to a craving for authentic, human-crafted stories. Contrary to the union's current trajectory, Bateman has declared her intent to delve into the full contract, bypassing summaries to understand the "violating permissions" it grants to producers.

Via X (formerly known as Twitter), she voiced her disappointment with the SAG-AFTRA leadership's dismissal of her concerns and called for actors and crew to assert their value against the tide of generative AI. To better inform her peers, Bateman listed concerns about the contract's language on AI, particularly the authorization of "Synthetic Performers" or "AI Objects" that emulate humans, which she regards as a fundamental betrayal of union principles.

Justine Bateman