Richmond actor says AI technology could put him out of a job

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Osric Chau talks about impact of film industry strikes in the U.S. on Canada

Consequences from on-going strikes in the U.S. film industry are trickling into Canada.

The Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) – two American unions – are currently fighting for fair wages and against the rising and unregulated use of artificial intelligence that could cut out writers and actors from the industry.

The two strikes have slowed down the production of film and television shows in Canada.

With AI technology improving so fast, the fear is it could make SAG union members redundant, leaving them jobless, said Richmond resident and actor Osric Chau.

Chau, who has been in the industry for 30 years, said using new technology isn’t wrong, but it shouldn’t completely replace writers and actors.

“We have to embrace new technology, but at the same time we also want to not put 160,000 members in the SAG out of a job,” said Chau.

Studios are looking to pay actors once to use their voices and performances and then teach AI to create new content using that data without paying the actors further compensation.

There is a similar concern for scriptwriters, that AI will be used to create “rehashed products,” as opposed to original work, Chau added.

Canadian unions have less clout than U.S. counterparts

When asked how the strike is affecting actors in Canada, Chau said Canadian unions in the country have “far less power” and members are “paid far less than our American counterparts” for similar roles despite film sets on home ground.

Chau, however, sees a silver lining, saying this is the time for local actors to develop themselves and work on their own projects.

A prime example of this was a recent audition in Vancouver where aspiring actors lined up for five blocks to sign up with a local acting agency.

“I thought we were slowing down (in the industry), but I forgot how much people wanted to act in B.C.,” said Chau.

He said most actors often don’t understand their own value, especially those just joining the industry and he hopes to change that – starting with an introductory seminar for aspiring actors in B.C.

The main goal of the seminar, aside from providing tips and skills for auditions and information on working in the film industry, is to meet and build relationships with other actors, explained Chau.

“The one thing I didn’t have when I started in the industry was a community and that’s the thing that I’m trying the hardest to build and foster right now.

“Film is a collaborative experience.”

The seminar will be held at Tofubot Studios in Vancouver on Aug. 13 at 3 p.m.

For more information and to register, email [email protected]


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