SAG Set to Resume Talks AMPTP’s Nick Counter Dummies up in the press. He’s getting his message out but his lips ain’t moving
Although, we haven’t heard much from the AMPTP’s Head Negotiator Nick Counter in the press that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of writers in the press to channel his words to the public.
Traditionally, papers like the LA Times, and local trade papers come down on the side of the industry in any dispute between them and, any of our guilds that have the audacity to take them on in a labor dispute. And all the reasons are understandable: after all SAG doesn’t pay for all those lucrative ads in the Calendar section!
Even so, as a member of one of those guilds, it ain’t always palatable.
Although, the Ol’ Dog, has tried to ignore several commentaries read in the past few months, the one below was, one more, than he could stand, without responding. Whoof! Whoof!
I have as usual added a couple of pertinent asides.
“To those who crave the spotlight, check your egos at the door”
By Ray Richmond
May 9, 2008, 09:07 PM
An open letter to SAG president Alan Rosenberg and executive director Doug Allen.
Dear Alan and Doug:
Sorry for the informality. I know we don’t actually know each other, although Alan, I once saw you die on “Chicago Hope.” Or maybe it was “ER.” I still can’t get those shows straight, although I’m guessing the residuals checks probably help you tell them apart.
Right, and those residuals weren’t gained by kissing the asses of producers and studio heads, but, but, I’m sure several trade paper commentators have found it, ah, beneficial.
Anyway, I heard that both of you guys were pretty upset last week that the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists — I’m going to take the liberty of calling them AFTRA — refused to postpone its negotiations on a new primetime TV contract with the major studios and sent you to the bench just when you claimed to be making progress on your own deal with the AMPTP after 18 days at the bargaining table.
Now that’s funny, as if AFTRA ever refused anything without checking with the AMPTP first. As to AFTRA ever being sent to the bench by the AMPTP, ah, not as long as they continue to play ball with Nick and the gang, at the expense of the very actors they purport to represent.
I know it’s lousy to have all of that momentum stopped in its tracks. But guys, come on, your talks had already been extended twice, and from what I can gather you’re not exactly ensconced in a love fest these days with your fellow union. So why all of the pouting? When your people and AFTRA can’t figure out a way to negotiate together for the first time in 27 years, no one needs to remind you that chivalry and decorum shouldn’t be high on your list of expectations.
And of course, as it always is with AMPTP lackeys, the fact that progress isn’t made and negotiations stymied is always the fault of SAG. Hey, not many press reporters, or commentators end up with jobs with the Screen Actors Guild, but, but, a lot of them, or least those that are non-critical of studios or producers, and that includes all but a couple, somehow seem to end up with jobs with those entities. Hey, even union staff members that demonstrate that they are willing to screw actors, don’t do too bad either, i.e., Whipsaw Bob Pisano, now co-heads the MPAA.
But the last thing you need right now is a lecture, and that isn’t what you’ll get here.
Consider it instead to be a perspective alert, a timely reminder that even should AFTRA bang out a relatively quick deal as predicted, and you’re both carting a big heap of righteous indignation and defiance into talks, you can’t allow your egos to take center stage.
Of course, Nick and the AMPTP boys and studio heads have no ego! Ah, that is if you want to end up selling that screenplay or ending up with that cushy PR job.
Too much is riding on this, Alan and Doug, for you to permit hostility to trump good judgment.
Translation, reach over and grab your ankles guys.
This town can’t afford another strike. C-A-N-N-O-T. Period. That has to be on your mind at all times.
Right guys, what is it to this guy, if you go ahead and sell out SAG’s membership. Sell out their right to control their images! Give up their rights, in the current SAG/Producer contract, relating to Force Majeure. Oh, yeah, and by all means, follow Nicks demand that you sell out the SAG members currently in arbitration with producers because of their (The producers” failure to adhere to the SAG/Producer Agreement on Force Majeure payments during the writers strike. Oh, and why the hell have you guys been trying to get a few more DVD pennies for a movies entire cast. (According to the AMPTP that could cost them over a HALF-BILLION DOLLARS) Ah, which will give you an idea of how many Billions of dollars they have screwed actors out of, over the last couple of decades, with their 80% off the top VHS/DVD formula. Oh, hey, an by all means, be sure and give away those network show replays streamed on the Internet for which actors get between $23 and $98 dollars for a year. It’s this way, guys, the industry can’t afford a strike, but, but actors can afford to giveaway their rights and their livelihoods for decades to come, or perhaps forever.
Actors already are looking more and more like something of an endangered species, at least in television primetime, where producers have discovered a cost-cutting solution to the expense of scripted product called “reality,” which involves very little reality and close to zero guild involvement. You don’t want to give these people increased motivation to move even farther away from the thespian world.
Yeah, right! Look, if we continue to cave in to producers, actors won’t be able to make a living, and therefore will find other means of doing so, and these, oh so bright, entertainment producers won’t have any choice but to do reality shows, because there won’t be any professional actors around to do dramatic shows. Look, again. If reality shows make the most money, and get the biggest ratings, it won’t matter how much we concede to producers they will do only reality shows. The idea that if we, only, just bend over and grab our ankles, employers will continue doing scripted dramatic shows, even though they aren’t getting ratings, or making money, is an idea that only Nick and the gang could put forth, and only one that shill writers and Roberta, Kim and gang would believe. Just because actors do the ankle maneuver, the AMPTP wont do more unprofitable dramatic shows, but then, again, they might turn such behavior into a reality show.
Getting a deal done by June 30, or at least before a strike authorization vote sends everything careening once again out of control, is far more imperative than crushing the enemy and satisfying your own innate alpha-male aggression. It’s easy to believe that but tough to put it into practice. It requires composure and acuity and restraint.
Must not get that careening strike authorization vote. Better we should depend upon the generosity of the benevolent AMPTP Society. You, you, see it’s SAG that is trying to crush the enemy, while the AMPTP only wants to make a deal to keep the industry working. Gosh, why can’t you folks get it. Come on you selfish pr*cks! Is keeping your clip out a porno, or retaining things in your contract that you have sacrificed over the years to get, or wanting to be able to make a living–worth standing up for? Hey, folks, come on, we have Ol’ Ray’s career advancement to think of herelet’s check our egos at the door and go along with Nicks, ah, I mean his ideas.
All of the piddling bureaucratic details and daily affronts can be frustrating at best and infuriating at worst, I’m sure. But your job is to keep your eyes on the prize. That prize is not a slightly better contract procured following months of another devastating Hollywood shutdown that can’t be weathered. You guys need to be the brick wall erected in the path of a walkout, not the grease for its wheels.
The only thing erected here is what Nick wants to use on actors.
It’s well understood that you’re negotiating with an adversary that doesn’t have the best interests of your 120,000 members at heart. Everyone gets that. Too, it’s a given that rolling over and taking a lousy deal — and having to spin it to avoid being pilloried and pummeled — isn’t much of an option, either.
But that need not happen. You’ll still have five weeks after resuming negotiations to make an equitable accord in advance of the deadline, and I have to believe that the majors are no more girding for another strike than they are hoping for a nuclear holocaust (one of which can wreak havoc on an entire weekend’s box office gross).
You know what, is great about this article? Everything in it blames negotiation breakdowns on SAG’s NED and President, but there are no admonishments for Nick and the AMPTP. Look, if this guy, or all the other expert SAG skewering critics really wanted the two groups to reach a fair deal, they would be equally critical of both groups and put forth constructive solutions that would indeed keep the town working. But, instead, all of the so-called industry pundits have their noses so far Nick Counter ass, they should charge him for a prostate examine.
Nothing at this level is ever simple or orderly. Your struggles at the table already have clearly demonstrated that. Yet if, as you say, SAG was mere “hours” away from reaching a deal at the time talks broke off, then do what you have to do to get it done without giving up the farm.
Let’s just make sure we get this clear, folks. SAG needs to do what needs to be done to reach a deal. But, but, butthe AMPTP is under no such obligation to do the same. And of course there is no bias on Ray’s part.
A crop or two is OK. Check those pesky egos at the door and compromise. Be tough, but also even-tempered and conciliatory.
You, know, that farm metaphor is pretty appropo, in light of the fact that, mostly what we have been getting here is a lot of horse manure.
The industry you save may be your own. Peace and pay hikes.
This whole article is a tad contradictory, ah, first we are advised to, more or less, go along with Nick and the AMPTP, and then we are wished “pay hikes.”
*Ray Richmond can be reached at ray.Richmond@THR.com
Okay, maybe, I have been a little too tough on Ray. Why doggone, I bet that open letter from him critical of the AMPTP and Nick Counter will be forth coming, quicker than you can say Eric Mika!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief