Tag Archives: SAG

SAG’s week to decide

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild will have to decide this week if they want to make a deal — or keep Hollywood on edge about whether actors will strike this summer.

Both sides have kept a tight lid on news about the negotiations, but it’s understood that minimal progress has been achieved after two weeks of negotiations. Unlike the WGA talks before and during the writers strike, however, the process with SAG has been cordial.

The optimistic view is that SAG will have to start compromising in the next few sessions, since it faces a Friday deadline to reach a deal or face the prospect of rival union AFTRA signing a primetime deal next week that could lead to the guild losing shows to AFTRA. That’s a serious threat given the abysmal relations between the performers unions — which are negotiating separately for the first time in 27 years.

The negative view is that SAG’s leaders may be willing to take that chance in hopes they can pressure the majors into a better deal as the June 30 contract expiration gets closer.

SAG and the majors returned to the bargaining table at noon Monday after taking the weekend off. Previous plans had called for negotiations to continue on Saturday, but SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers noted that last week’s move to extend the time frame for the talks until the end of this week had alleviated the need for the sides to work through the weekend.

Although the guild hasn’t set a strike authorization vote for the 120,000 SAG members yet, the industry continues to fret about a work stoppage. The majors have remained unwilling to commit to starting new feature productions until a SAG deal is in hand — a situation that some in the biz are calling a de facto strike.

After two weeks, the guild’s been unwilling to back down from two of its initial demands — that the companies increase DVD residuals and offer a shorter period of free usage for promotional purposes for streamed content than the 17- and 24-day windows in the DGA and WGA deals. The majors have insisted they won’t give in to either demand.

It’s widely expected AFTRA would be willing to sign a deal that mirrors the terms of the DGA and WGA deals when it sits down with the AMPTP next week. AFTRA leaders — who tend to be much less assertive than SAG’s — incorporated parts of the DGA-WGA deals when they agreed last month to a new pact for AFTRA’s network code, covering most of the union’s shows outside primetime.

SAG’s board and negotiating committee are controlled by the more aggressive side of the guild, based in Hollywood and repping about 60% of its 120,000 members. Though SAG’s stayed silent about the specifics of its proposals, it’s been making the case to members via three briefings sent last week that it needs a much better deal.

The most recent missive, sent Friday, focused on residuals but offered few specifics as to the guild’s proposal.

“Residuals are critical to an actor’s ability to make a living,” SAG said. “As a deferred payment for the use or reuse of an actor’s work, residuals are paid on a time cycle that allows many actors to receive income on a reliable basis. Residuals accounted for 53% of all pensionable principal earnings for middle-class actors under the TV and theatrical contracts in 2007.”

SAG asserted that changes in industry business models — declining volume of repeats on the major networks, vastly increased Web streaming of primetime fare and the proliferation of unscripted programming — have severely cut into the residuals fees paid to working thesps.

“Getting fair residuals formulas in new media, DVDs and other markets is a priority for the guild,” SAG said in its briefing. “Real earnings are on the decline, with average inflation-adjusted residual earnings decreasing 7% over the last five years. This has contributed to a negative annual growth rate in real aggregate earnings to actors over recent years. So, if it feels like you’re making less, it’s because you are.”

SAG noted that the volume of primetime repeats is down 25.1% in the last two TV seasons, resulting in fewer residual payments to actors; total home entertainment consumer spending is projected to top $31 billion in 2012, up from $23.4 billion in 2007; the DVD market is forecast to remain viable for years to come, partly because of projected growth in the Blu-ray segment; and some series are Web streaming all episodes produced via ad-supported formats.

SAG said it’s asking for “reasonable” residuals for DVD and homevideo, for content made for new media and for traditional film and TV content that is made available via paid downloads, Web streaming and other new-media platforms. It’s also seeking a formula for the burgeoning world of made-for-new-media programs released in traditional media — as NBC experimented with earlier this year in picking up the Marshall Herskovitz-Ed Zwick Web serial “Quarterlife.”

In all, SAG said it was seeking a “sustainable residuals structure that ensures working actors can maintain a middle class income and represents an appropriate share of the value contributed by actors.”

The AMPTP’s only disclosure came last week when it said that there were “significant gaps” between the two sides — with the caveat that it had sought and received approval from AFTRA to extend the SAG talks for another week in hopes of giving the guild the opportunity to make a deal.

SAG has cancelled membership meetings in Hollywood and New York that had been set for Tuesday and Wednesday to update members about the negotiations.

Source: Variety

SAG signs interim pact with independent film company

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Screen Actors Guild has cut a deal that would let its members work for an independent film company regardless of a future strike against the major studios.

The deal with The Film Department guarantees completion of nine movies that haven’t started filming yet. One of them, a romantic comedy called “The Rebound,” stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and is scheduled to begin production Monday in New York City.

“Hopefully, they’ll work things out and there won’t be a strike, but if there is we’ll be able to stay in business,” Mark Gill, The Film Department’s chief executive officer, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The union, which began contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Artists on Tuesday, declined to discuss the deal.

“We’re in negotiations. We’re focused on that. We have no further comment,” said SAG spokeswoman Pamela Greenwalt.

The trade paper Daily Variety said SAG was only offering such deals to independent feature producers.

“What’s thrilling is SAG is willing to keep their members working and allow us to keep making movies and not get caught in a dispute with the big guys,” Gill told the AP. “We’re the mice running between the elephants’ feet and it’s good not to get stepped on.”

Earlier this year, the Writers Guild of America signed several similar deals with independent producers during its three-month strike against the major studios.

Contract negotiations between SAG and the producers group are scheduled to run through April 26. The producers then start talks with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on April 28.

It is unclear whether SAG’s interim deal with The Film Company will exert any real pressure against the studios. Variety said AMPTP members have been holding off starting projects until after a new deal is set with the guild.

SAG’s contract with the studios expires June 30.

Top SAG officials have indicated they’re intent on negotiating a contract that betters the recent deals reached by the writers and directors guilds.

Those unions won key victories, including jurisdiction over programs produced for distribution online, and new and better compensation for shows and movies streamed or downloaded online.

Source: Associated Press

SAG, studios begin negotiations

Opting for a low-key approach amid the town’s fears of a strike, the Screen Actors Guild and the majors have launched feature-primetime negotiations with a minimum of fanfare — in sharp contrast to last year’s incendiary WGA talks.

Bargaining began Tuesday morning at AMPTP headquarters with the official presentation of proposals. SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers issued a brief statement in the late afternoon, disclosing only that talks would resume this morning.

The two sides have not agreed to a news blackout, but plan to limit their disclosure to jointly issued end-of-the-day statements for the next two weeks.

Although these plans may change if talks become contentious, the main hope behind the strategy is to avoid the bitter back-and-forth attacks that dominated WGA negotiations before and during the writers strike. Even before the first WGA bargaining sessions began in mid-July, both sides had been blasting each other’s positions; once the talks started, the accusations became only more vehement and vituperative.

The start of the SAG talks comes on the heels of a bruising battle with sister union the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists over jurisdiction and strategy.

On Monday, AFTRA spurned a last-minute invite from SAG to rejoin it at the bargaining table under terms of the 1981 Phase One partnership, with AFTRA asserting it can no longer trust SAG leaders due to a dispute over possible decertification of “The Bold and the Beautiful.” So Tuesday’s session represented the first time in 27 years that SAG and AFTRA have not negotiated together on the contract.

There’s still plenty of potential for the guild negotiations to veer off track. The congloms have insisted SAG’s going to have to accept terms similar to those in the WGA and DGA pacts signed earlier this year; SAG president Alan Rosenberg has been explicit that the guild must get a boost in DVD residuals and improvements in the new-media portions of the WGA and DGA deals.

The current SAG-AFTRA deal expires June 30. AFTRA, which covers a handful of primetime shows, will begin its negotiations on April 28 — which puts pressure on SAG to wrap up its talks by then or face the prospect of AFTRA signing a deal first and then using it to expand its coverage in areas of shared jurisdiction.

In a sign that SAG is cognizant of the looming AFTRA talks, it’s already scheduled talks for the next two Saturdays, in addition to the weekdays.

And the bitter dispute with AFTRA received more fuel Tuesday as “The Bold and the Beautiful” star Susan Flannery asserted that SAG had not initiated the question of decertification.

“Just so everyone understands, the idea of exploring the possibility of a new ‘collective bargaining agent’ began with me,” she said in a letter to the SAG board. “There have been over the past 21 years at ‘B&B’ a growing dissatisfaction with AFTRA regarding health plans, residuals, pensions, meal penalties, turnarounds, etc. In the final analysis, the contracts negotiated on our behalf over the years, in our opinion, have fallen very short of our expectations!”

AFTRA leaders have said that SAG’s involvement in discussing decertification with Flannery was “the last straw.” But Flannery insisted that SAG national exec director Doug Allen merely advised her and co-star John McCook that they should take the matter to AFTRA.

Tuesday’s launch of negotiations coincided with a labor solidarity rally at Hancock Park to start a three-day “March to the Docks” to push for better jobs. SAG board member Esai Morales and AFTRA board member Jason George both spoke at the event, which drew about 1,000 supporters from more than two dozen unions.

“Unions are the only way to keep our dignity,” Morales said. “We’ve been under assault for decades. Corporate America has turned us into a serf nation.”

Morales also said SAG doesn’t want a strike, reiterating a position that Allen and Rosenberg have expressed repeatedly.

“But we will not be forced into a position where we have to take less and less,” he added. “We will not be the bad guy on this. Let it be on them to give us what we deserve.”

Source: Variety

Majors kick off talks with IATSE

With SAG waiting in the wings to start its contract talks, the majors will begin three days of negotiations today with the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees.

The below-the-line union is expected to emerge Wednesday with a new contract — even though its current deal doesn’t expire for another 16 months.

By contrast, with SAG’s feature-primetime deal expiring June 30, the town continues to worry about actors going on strike, despite proclamations by guild leaders that they don’t want a work stoppage. The guild agreed last week to start its talks April 15 after AFTRA decided to bust up the 27-year bargaining partnership; AFTRA’s talks on primetime will begin April 28.

Neither IATSE nor the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers would comment on the IATSE negotiations, first disclosed a month ago.

But it would be a surprise if the talks don’t lead to a deal, which will cover about 25,000 below-the-line employees in 18 West Coast locals. IATSE topper Thomas Short has indicated to associates he’ll come in with a focused proposal.

When SAG talks do get under way, the majors will be able to tout having reached agreements with the town’s other unions this year — first the DGA, then the WGA, the AFTRA network code and finally IATSE.

As with the DGA, IATSE leaders have opted for early negotiations in the belief that employers will agree to the most favorable terms in exchange for labor stability. Additionally, by negotiating now, IATSE will be able to incorporate gains in new media into its contract to help continue funding its health and pension plan.

IATSE is a little over halfway through its current contract, which expires in August 2009. It announced a strategic alliance with AFTRA in mid-2007 that was touted as a way to share information and resources.

SAG has only two weeks before AFTRA has its turn at the negotiating table — placing major pressure on SAG to make a deal first or face the consequence of AFTRA expanding its TV jurisdiction by signing new TV deals. SAG leaders have indicated they want a better deal than the DGA and WGA, particularly in DVD residuals and new media, while the majors have indicated those positions are non-starters.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen met informally last week with News Corp. president Peter Chernin and Disney CEO Robert Iger to lay the groundwork for the April 15 start of bargaining at AMPTP headquarters.

Source: Variety

WGA talks ratification

One of the final acts in the WGA strike passed quietly Monday night, as fewer than 20 members showed up for a brief contract ratification meeting at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills.

Confab sets the stage for the afternoon’s announcement of voting results on the ratification ballot sent to members 11 days ago. Members had the option of voting by mail or showing up at the meeting with a ballot.

WGA West president Patric Verrone, WGA West exec director David Young and WGA West counsel Anthony Segall staffed the dais during Monday’s 15-minute session.

Verrone told members he was least pleased with the deal’s 17- to 24-day promotional window for Internet streaming of TV series — an assertion he also made during the Feb. 9 membership meeting at the Shrine Auditorium. Along with a lack of improvement in cable, the terms for ad-supported streaming were the most unpopular aspects of the WGA deal among members due to concerns over the fast-growing migration of TV viewing to the Web.

In response to a question about upcoming negotiations for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Verrone expressed “100% support” for the actors. He noted that he expects SAG — the WGA’s closest ally during the strike — to take a strong stance at the bargaining table.

The ruling boards of the WGA West and WGA East recommended the new three-year deal unanimously on Feb. 10, pointing to gains in new-media jurisdiction and compensation. The ratification vote is expected to come in around the same high level of support — 92.5% — achieved in the vote to end the strike on Feb. 12.

Terms of the new deal will go into effect immediately, and the contract will run to May 1, 2011.

Source: Variety

Posts navigation