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Writers Guild Taps Billy Ray, Chip Johannessen, Chris Keyser to Head Negotiations!

December 1, 2016 (17:24) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

December 1, 2016 | 11:49AM PT

The Writers Guild of America has named prominent writers Billy Ray, Chip Johannessen, and Chris Keyser to head its negotiating committee.

WGA West exec director David Young will be the chief negotiator for the guild. The WGA did not disclose when it will launch contract negotiations with the studios on a new master contract. The current three-year deal expires on May 1.

Negotiations with the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will launch Dec. 5. The DGA deal expires June 30. SAG-AFTRA’s deal also expires June 30.

The WGA and the AMPTP — which serves as the bargaining arm for production companies — had no comment as to details of the talks. It’s the second consecutive time that Ray (“Captain Phillips,” “The Hunger Games”) and Johannessen (an executive producer on “Homeland”) have been co-chairs of the negotiating committee.

Keyser served two two-year terms as WGA West president before being termed out last year. Ray was also co-chair for the 2010-11 negotiations.

During the 2014 negotiations, leaders of the WGA placed a premium on hiking compensation for cable shows. The contract negotiations will take place nine years after the raucous 100-day WGA strike shook Hollywood to the core.

The committee includes Patric Verrone, who served as president during the strike, “House of Cards” showrunner Beau Willimon, “The Shield” showrunner Shawn Ryan, “Straight Outta Compton” co-writer Andrea Berloff and “Erin Brockovich” screenwriter Susannah Grant.

Other members include Alfredo Barrios Jr., Adam Brooks, Zoanne Clack, Marjorie David, Kate Erickson, Jonathan Fernandez, Travon Free, Howard Michael Gould, Erich Hoeber, Richard Keith, Warren Leight, Alison McDonald, Luvh Rakhe, Stephen Schiff, David Shore, Meredith Stiehm, Eric Wallace, and Nicole Yorkin.

WGA West president Howard A. Rodman and WGA East president Michael Winship are also on the committee along with David A. Goodman (VP of the WGA West), Jeremy Pikser (VP of the WGA East), Aaron Mendelsohn (, and Bob Schneider.

The WGA has about 12,000 members — 8,000 with the Los Angeles-based WGA West and 4,000 with the New York-based WGA East.

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It’s always great to have the best on Tap!   Hmmm…which reminds me a nice cold one would go real well right now!  Bye!
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Guilds Gear Up for Contract Talks With Producers!

November 30, 2016 (17:57) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


November 30, 2016 | 10:15AM PT

Actors are showing renewed fire. Writers have healthcare concerns and parity issues. But the tone of master film and TV contract negotiations with the industry’s top employers will be set by directors.

The Directors Guild of America will begin formal contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Dec. 5, more than six months before the current contract expires June 30.

Traditionally, the DGA goes first into AMPTP talks and sets the template for many of the terms in the other master union contracts, often to the chagrin of other guilds.

“The DGA has historically been the most accommodating of the three guilds, which is why the companies like to deal with it first,” says Howard Suber, professor emeritus at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, and a longtime observer of Hollywood labor.

It’s understood that the broad outlines of the DGA deal are already in place. The guild made a major advance three years ago in the digital arena, when the contract included wages, terms, and conditions for “high budget” dramatic new media productions for subscription video-on-demand.

The negotiations are expected to be concluded by the end of the month. Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme head the DGA’s negotiating committee, with national exec director Jay Roth serving as lead negotiator.

For writers and actors, meanwhile, there is one big shared concern in this round of talks: Both need an increase in contributions from the studios to shore up their health and pension plans. Just as the onset of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010 imposed new requirements on the guild plans, Hollywood’s unions are seeking a hedge against the uncertainty of what may come with the repeal or major modification of Obamacare — changes that President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to enact.

The WGA contract expires May 1. The guild’s “Cadillac” health plans, known for generous benefits and lack of co-pay fees, are overextended at every level; a few catastrophic illnesses or premature births among the membership can drain resources.

Beyond the health plan, the WGA hopes to make progress on bringing residual fees for work for pay cable and basic cable reruns up to parity with broadcast fees. Broadcast residuals have historically been higher than pay cable and basic cable. But residuals from reruns are an endangered species. The major networks carry far more original programming, which means fewer repeats. That shift in programming strategy has cut deeply into the annual income of workaday TV writers.

“The DGA has historically been the most accommodating of the three guilds, which is why the companies like to deal with it first.”
Howard Suber, UCLA

Basic and pay cable TV outlets serve up more reruns, though the boom in original series has cut into the demand for library fare. Residual fees are calculated on a sliding scale depending on the number of runs and the age of the program. With cable’s lower rates, fees for reruns can be paltry. Securing parity with broadcast rates is probably unrealistic, but the WGA will likely push for gains.

The WGA West told its 8,000 members in May that it planned to seek a bigger cut of what it described as $49 billion in 2015 profits from the top six media conglomerates. But the big growth arena for TV reuse — digital streaming — is not expected to be part of the discussion. The health-plan needs put WGA and SAG-AFTRA in a tough spot for pressing hard on an issue the studios are loath to address; that lack of leverage is another reason the WGA is looking to cable/pay TV parity as a more achievable goal.

No alarms have been heard about a writers strike, given the robust activity in the TV sector.  “I’d be very surprised if there’s a strike because those occur when people feel they have nothing left to lose,” says Suber.

The WGA’s 100-day strike in 2007-08 did result in writers receiving a payment on the distributors’ gross for digital distribution, but at the cost of writers losing production deals during the work stoppage as companies embraced reality TV. “The unintended consequences of the strike will make it difficult to mobilize for a work stoppage, particularly among older writers,” Suber notes.

Such concerns haven’t stopped the actors. The master contract talks come against the backdrop of SAG-AFTRA mobilizing its first strike in 16 years. (It’s also the first work stoppage in the decade since the WGA strike.)

The actors have been out since Oct. 21 against 11 video-game companies that are covered by a contract separate from the larger pact for film and TV work. But SAG-AFTRA members in L.A. have shown a new appetite for activism under national president Gabrielle Carteris. The strike has generated three respectably sized picket lines as the union pushes for securing residuals for voice actors.

SAG-AFTRA’s AMPTP contract expires June 30. The guild is going into its second master contract negotiation as it prepares to complete the merger of the SAG and AFTRA health plans in January. That process has taken nearly five years: The SAG-AFTRA combination was approved by a membership vote in 2012. Since then, officials have had to sort through differences in eligibility and income-threshold requirements for the various categories of both guilds’ memberships. Now that the plans are to be joined, the funding needs are significant because more members will qualify. The talks with the studios could be the first real test of the clout the two guilds sought to gain by merging.

The SAG-AFTRA merger was successfully completed, after two previous attempts, under the leadership of national president Ken Howard, who died in March. Howard was assiduously nonconfrontational with employers. Carteris, on the other hand, has been an active presence on the picket lines. That makes her an unpredictable commodity for AMPTP president Carol Lombardini and the studios’ other negotiators.

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SAG-AFTRA Foundation Raises A Glass Of Champagne To Aid The Needy.

November 29, 2016 (23:52) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


In a champagne toast to support the needy, every nominee attending the upcoming SAG Awards show will be asked to sign a giant bottle of Taittinger champagne as they step off the red carpet to enter the ballroom. For every signature, Champagne Taittinger will make a donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s emergency assistance program. The bottle will be auctioned off later to further support the charitable caus



As in years past, the show’s red carpet festivities will open officially with a toast from Vitalie Taittinger, daughter of the champagne house’s president. “Champagne Taittinger is thrilled to continue to build and strengthen our partnership with the SAG Awards and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation by supporting such an important cause,” said Taittinger, who serves as VP Marketing and Communication for the high-end booze brand. “We are honored to give back to the talented and growing community of actors that the foundation advocates for.”

The foundation’s emergency assistance program provides financial assistance to eligible SAG-AFTRA members and their families for basic expenses including rent, utilities and car insurance. The foundation has granted $400,000 in emergency assistance to SAG-AFTRA members and families in need in 2016 and more than $18 million since 1985.

“Not only does Champagne Taittinger care about the arts, it also cares about the artists and the families who make up this industry,” said JoBeth Williams, President of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. “It’s extremely difficult to make a steady living as a working actor, and this new initiative and support from Champagne Taittinger exemplifies their deep commitment to actors and performers — not just in the good times but also during times of real struggle. We could not be more grateful for their support and look forward to continuing our 17-year partnership for many years to come.”

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Something for all of us to feel bubbly about!


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Thanksgiving Food for thought!

November 23, 2016 (22:03) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

On this Thanksgiving Week SAG-AFTRA members lets continue to make sure we don’t end up like turkeys gobbled up by our employers!

Seriously.  Hope Everyone had a great Holiday!


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog




WGA Protests Prime Minister’s Threat To Dismantle Israel’s New Public Broadcasting Corp!

November 22, 2016 (15:26) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


The WGA West is reaching halfway across the world to lend its support to the Scriptwriters Guild of Israel in its ongoing battle against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the fate of Israel’s new Public Broadcasting Corporation.

WGA West

“The new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation is the result of a law passed by your government only last year, which you are now attempting to dismantle,” WGA West president Howard Rodman wrote in a letter to the conservative prime minister. “This action threatens free speech and the livelihoods of those who tell Israel’s stories. We join their call to end the campaign to eliminate the public broadcaster.” Read the full letter here.

Israel’s PBC was created to replace and modernize the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Netanyahu, who also serves as minister of communications, originally supported it but is now threatening to eliminate it.

SGI chairman Amit Leor says that the elimination of the PBC would “bring to an immediate halt of all the potential work that we were supposed to begin and put our union members and our affiliates in the six other sister unions into the devastation of unemployment. Therefore, this is first and foremost a union issue, this is a fight for our right to work. Furthermore it is a fight to write freely, whatever we want without government control.”

Both guilds are members of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, which was established in 1986 to address the globalization of the entertainment industry and improve the working conditions of professional film and TV writers worldwide.

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The type of encounters we all hate to see!  Lets hope this story ends well for all concerned!


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog