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Watchdog Exclusive: Actors Revolt at AFTRA Membership Meeting!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

No, it was not a full-fledged revolution at the AFTRA Membership meeting last night, but it may very well have been the first membership-driven shot fired, indicating the beginning of one.

The fact of the matter is, that actors are sick and tired of AFTRA’s actions in regards to poaching shows that would otherwise be covered by SAG.

There are good reasons for this. AFTRA contracts are usually inferior to SAG contracts: Whether it’s an under-five stipulation, or waivers like the one given to the producers of a recent dramatic pilot/series called “Darkness At Noon” aka “Hell On Wheels!” This was a sweetheart “deal” in which both SAG and AFTRA members, not only worked for 80% of current applicable minimum, but the first ten exhibit days during a one year period were given away.

As for most actors, the bulk of their work is under a SAG contract. When they have to go over to AFTRA to work for less money, it not only hurts their pocket books, but it also lessens their chances of qualifying for SAG Pension and Health by splitting their P&H contributions!!

And this was the issue at hand, when dual card holder and SAG board member Steve Barr put forth a motion to have AFTRA reaffirm a 1999 agreement between SAG and AFTRA entitled 99-CVR-17R which basically stipulates that neither union will low-ball the other.

99-CVR-17R

WHEREAS, actors and other performers will continue to be employed in both AFTRA and S.A.G. jurisdiction:

And WHEREAS, differences may exist in wages and working conditions between contracts;

BE IT RESOLVED that the unions make every effort to coordinate with each other to compare and understand the provisions existing in each others’ major contracts that may BENEFIT PERFORMERS;

And BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the unions seek to bargain provisions that benefit performers and, in their totality, raise terms and conditions for work under those contracts;

And BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be effective upon its adoption by the Screen Actors Guild.

Submitted by
Kent McCord
Toey Caldwell
David Jolliffe
Marji Martin
Paul Napier
Jacque Lynn Colton
Bob Carlson
Maureen Donnelly
Kathryn Christopher
Richard Masur
Ron Morgan
Russell McConnell
Kurt McCortney
Alice Backus

Those who spoke eloquently in favor of Mr. Barr’s motion included SAG Hollywood board members Kent McCord, David Jolliffe, George Coe, Terrence Beasor and David Sobolov.

The motion, already reaffirmed by SAG, passed unanimously. Which means it now goes before AFTRA’s Hollywood board. Where I imagine, it will most likely pass. I mean who would want to go on record against a motion that benefits most of its members. And then what? Probably nothing. AFTRA staff supported by AFTRA lawyers and in conjunction with AFTRA leadership, will most likely come up with a justification for continued AFTRA poaching.

The important thing, however, is that a shot has been fired across the bow of the AFTRA leader ship. Those in power have been forewarned that if they continue on their present dangerous course, there will be a full fledged revolt—one which could very likely sink AFTRA.

In another action, it was agreed upon by those members present to send to the AFTRA local board a motion to eliminate the local AFTRA nominating committee, an unfair process in which those on the committee can actually nominate themselves. This one, the Ol’ Dog predicts will not be passed by the local leadership. The reason for it’s predicted failure is that those in power are usually not apt to surrender anything that gives them a political edge.

Now, although the Ol’ Dog has described the actions at the membership meeting as the first steps of a revolt by AFTRA/SAG actors, this does not mean that the meeting was rowdy or vindictive. To the contrary, heartfelt opinions were expressed in a very civil detailed manner. And, it should also be noted that those speaking were treated with courtesy and patience by AFTRA’s Hollywood President Ron Morgan, who was chairing the meeting.

What blew the Ol’ Dog’s mind was, when I asked why AFTRA has yet to organize shows like “The Best Damn Sports Show” there was no reasonable answer. Nor was there one with regard to how AFTRA members are knowingly allowed to appear on this non-union show right under the noses of AFTRA’s leadership without anything being done. Neither Ron nor anyone else present, including staff, could answer my question with regard to the notation on the back of my AFTRA card which states very clearly, “Do not work for non-signatory producers,” when the truth of the matter is that those in the know realize that AFTRA not only allows such non-union work- but in many cases encourages it.

And this is why: Unless things change dramatically at AFTRA, unfortunately, I feel it’s doomed to extinction. How does the old saying go, “Why buy the cow, when you can milk it through the fence?”

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

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Nick can’t pen down writers. Hungry Canadian Actors back at the table. And Agents vs. Managers. Ten will get you Twenty!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

1164759732 69.230.210.191

Writers spurn studios on talks

The guild’s refusal to begin negotiations early reflects rising labor tensions in Hollywood.
By Richard Verrier
Times Staff Writer

November 28, 2006

In a development that underscores the deteriorating state of labor relations in Hollywood, the chief negotiator for the major studios Monday accused the union that represents TV and film writers of jeopardizing production by rejecting his request to enter early contract talks.

J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers, said his offer to begin negotiations in January had been spurned by David Young, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West. Instead, Counter said, Young proposed beginning talks in September, just before the writers’ contract expires Oct. 31.

“We’ve been rebuked,” Counter said.

The failure to schedule early contract talks reflects rising labor tensions in Hollywood that eventually could lead to a strike or work slowdown if they aren’t defused soon.

Writers and actors believe that they were shortchanged for years by studios during the DVD boom, and have vowed not to let it happen again as Hollywood moves toward the digital delivery of entertainment. The studios’ contract with actors expires in 2008.

Studios and writers have been haggling since last summer on when their next round of negotiations would begin. In recent years, Hollywood unions and studios have typically bargained months in advance because motion pictures and TV episodes must be shot so far ahead of time, and because top stars, writers and directors have limited availability. Studios are loath to let labor contracts run down to the wire because pulling the plug on projects is so costly if a strike does occur.

Counter said the inability to schedule early talks substantially raised the odds of a “de facto strike” similar to one that occurred in 2001. Fearing a walkout by writers and actors, studios that year raised production to frenzied levels to stockpile scripts and projects.

After deals were reached that averted strikes, so many films were sitting on shelves that producers turned the spigot off. That threw thousands of production employees out of work, some for nearly a year, before work levels started to recover.

Studio and network executives fear that a similar scenario may unfold next year, especially given the increasingly long lead time required for movies.

Beginning next year, studios and producers are expected to accelerate productions and build up an inventory of scripts just in case. They also are expected to order more unscripted TV fare such as reality shows and game shows, which could limit the number of scripted comedies and dramas needed next season.

The guild’s president, Patric Verrone, and Executive Director Young were unavailable for comment. In a statement, Young said that the guild was meeting with members on contract issues and talking with sister Hollywood guilds. It would be prepared to begin negotiations this summer, he said, well before the current contract expires.

“We fully expect that a fair agreement will be reached in our upcoming negotiation,” he said.

Writers last struck in 1988 for 22 weeks, which cost the industry about $500 million.

Tensions have been rising between the 11,000-member guild and the studios since Verrone and his supporters swept control of the guild’s board last year. Verrone vowed to step up organizing efforts in such areas as reality TV and basic cable while taking a harder line in talks with studios.

John McLean, a former CBS executive, was ousted as the union’s executive director and chief negotiator last year amid criticism that he was too close to the studios. He was replaced by Young, the union’s head of organizing.

A veteran union activist and former Teamsters official, Young has rankled Hollywood executives and some high-profile writers by dispatching members to disrupt industry panel discussions and adopting other public protest tactics traditionally used by blue-collar unions.

The guild also recently backed a strike by writers who worked on the CW network’s hit reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model.”

richard.verrier@latimes.com

Canadian actors, producers renew contract talks
Tue Nov 28, 6:31 AM
By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) – Canadian actors and North American producers will return to the bargaining table Tuesday to try to work out a new labor deal and avert a strike early next year.
Two-day talks on a new pact are set to take place in Montreal between ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists), which represents about 21,000 performers, and Canadian and U.S. producers.

Both sides appeared intent on narrowing differences on key issues, including wages and residuals, to help kick-start stalled talks on a new Independent Production Agreement (IPA).
“The negotiations are approaching a very serious juncture, we’re approaching them very seriously, and we’re hopeful that there may be some opportunities for a breakthrough on some of the major issues,” ACTRA lead negotiator Stephen Waddell said.

“There’s a desire to drill down and find common ground,” added John Barrack, head negotiator of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. (CFPTA)
But with the current IPA expiring December 31, there is little time for the sides to bridge existing gaps in bargaining demands. Should actor and producer representatives fail to make substantive progress this week, two mediators are poised to step in.
Also hanging over this week’s talks is the fact that ACTRA has mailed out ballots for a national strike mandate.

Canadian producers also have been active behind the scenes, briefing industry stakeholders — including broadcasters and key government funding agencies — on how they might proceed in the event of an industry shutdown.

Despite both sides privately voicing cautious optimism about this week’s negotiations, the IPA talks to date have been bogged down in procedural wrangling, with little progress made on key issues.
The producers angered actors early on by calling for pay cuts of 10%-25% for minimum daily rates paid on film and TV productions shot here.

Having dug in its heels, ACTRA is seeking a 15% jump in minimum pay rates for its members over three years and parity by 2006 for what Canadian performers and Screen Actors Guild members are paid on big-budget Hollywood shoots in Canada.
In addition to this week’s talks, negotiating dates have been scheduled for December 6 and beyond.
Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

The Murky Line Between Agents and Managers

November 24, 2006

By Lauren Horwitch

If Hamlet had hightailed it from Elsinore to the States in search of thespian glory, he’d be pondering a different question as he mailed yet another armload of headshots and rsums to casting directors: “To sign with an agent or to hire a manager or both? That is the question.”

Unfortunately for the Danish prince and players everywhere, it’s one of those questions that leads to more questions. Making sense of the differences between agents and managers, and learning to comprehend the union and state laws that govern how each can do business are tasks that could drive anyone mad.

In California and in New York, entertainment law provides that agents, who must be bonded and licensed as talent agents with those states, are responsible for sending clients on auditions and generally presenting opportunities that will, hopefully, lead to work. A manager, who needs only a standard business license to practice, is responsible for shaping an actor’s overall career, serving as an adviser on issues from finding work to personal finances.

But, as in many aspects of the entertainment business, the law states one thing and reality dictates another. Even agents and managers can’t agree among themselves on who does what and whether both representatives are necessary to an actor. “Managers spend 90 percent of their time justifying their existence to their clients,” says Adam Lieblein, talent agent and president of Acme Talent & Literary, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles. “If you can spell ‘manager’ with the proper number of vowels and are able to fill out the one page of information at the city clerk’s office, you’re a manager. Go get a business card, and you’re a manager the next day.” In Lieblein’s opinion, only two kinds of actors need managers: children whose parents might not know how to best manage their careers, and star-level clients who need a larger staff to handle requests outside of auditions and work.

Harmony, Pretty Good Company

L.A.-based independent agent H. David Moss agrees that setting up shop as a talent manager is too easy, and thus “unregulated managers can be generally unscrupulous.” “Any and all of my clients, or anyone else, can be managers. All they need is a fax and, I’m assuming, a cell phone,” he says. “A lot of [managers] don’t have real credentials, as we know. They’ll take on a couple hundred neophytes from the Midwest, and if one of them gets a series out of their 300 or 400 naive clients, they’re kind of ahead of the game.”

But Lin Bickelmann, talent manager and CEO of Encore Artists Management in Burbank, Calif., says she has worked harmoniously and effectively with many agents over the years. “What’s paramount is the service to the client,” she says. “Collectively we can build a client’s career and maximize opportunities by having constant open dialogue.

“I have definitely heard that there are certain agents that do not like working with managers, but I’ve not encountered that so far,” she continues, noting that part of a manager’s role is to bring new clients to agents. “The agents that I work with, they rely on us heavily for new talent to do the scouting for them and they also trust our judgment that we’re going to bring someone that’s prepared.”

Steven Nash, head of Arts and Letters Management in L.A. and president of the Talent Managers Association, understands why some agents are wary of managers. “The way some managers operate, I wonder what degree of success they are experiencing,” he says.

According to Nash, managers perform services that agents who tend to have many more clients can’t perform for the individual actor: The manager protects the artistic, financial, and even spiritual interests of his or her clients. “A professional talent manager, I see as the business partner to the actor. It’s been described that the professional talent manager is like the CEO of the company that the actor owns,” says Nash, who unlike Lieblein thinks it’s necessary for actors to consult managers in the developmental stages of their careers. “I have found most successful agents today embrace the partnerships with professional talent managers. We all know in reality that until a young actor starts showing true momentum and visibility, the agent doesn’t necessarily have all the tools they need to sell them.” He adds, “Sometimes it takes a village to bring the talent to casting’s attention.”

Over the Legal Limits

A major distinction between agents and managers is that agents are more heavily regulated. The Talent Agency Act, set forth in Section 1700.23-1700.47 of the California Labor Code, and the New York State General Business Law, Article 11, govern what agents can and can’t do in those respective states. West Coast agencies must post a $50,000 surety bond to practice an amount Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger increased from $10,000 in July 2005. In New York, talent agencies fall under the umbrella of employment agencies broadly defined as “any person…who, for a fee, procures or attempts to procure… employment or engagements for persons seeking employment,” and specifically as “any theatrical employment agency.”

For more than 60 years, agencies franchised with the Screen Actors Guild were also regulated by a union contract known as the Agency Franchise Agreement. This agreement established the maximum an agent could charge in commission 10 percent and set other professional parameters between agents and SAG members.

For nearly five years, however, agencies have not been required to adhere to that contract. When the time came to renegotiate the Agency Franchise Agreement in 2002 with the Los Angeles-based Association of Talent Agents and the New York-based National Association of Talent Representatives, SAG’s board of directors proposed a new pact that made provisions for agents to invest in independent productions, ad agencies, and advertisers something managers are free to do. Though the contract was endorsed by then-SAG President Melissa Gilbert and her administration, the members voted it down by a slim margin, and the agreement expired. SAG lost all regulations it had held over its franchised agents since 1939; most important, agents were not and are still not obligated to follow Rule 16(g), also known as the SAG Agency Regulations, which provides that an agent cannot charge a SAG member more than 10 percent in commission.

In lieu of a new agreement with the actors’ union, agencies that are members of the ATA constructed the General Service Agreement, which doesn’t stipulate a set percentage of agency commissions and restricts an actor’s ability to terminate his or her contract for lack of employment. In November 2002, SAG issued an alert to members, stating GSAs “may dramatically alter the essence of your relationship with your agent…. If you sign one of these agreements, you may be signing on to conditions of representation that are significantly different than those with which you are familiar in Rule 16(g)…. If any agent asks you to sign a General Service Agreement, we advise you to immediately notify the SAG National Agency Department.”

“We don’t like them,” said SAG’s 2nd national vp and the union’s New York branch president, Paul Christie, speaking of GSAs in an October 2005 Back Stage article. According to Christie, GSAs potentially enable smaller, less established agencies to exploit their clients. “They’re taking advantage of people that in some cases don’t know better,” he said.

In the same article, two entertainment attorneys who often review contracts for their actor clients discussed a standard GSA shown to them by Back Stage. One said, “Anybody who signs this is in bad, bad shape.” ATA President Karen Stuart responded that the lawyers misinterpreted the GSA. “I think each case is facts-specific,” she said. “I would have to hear the specific facts of the case to give my opinion.”

A Wait-and-Sign Attitude

With the election of Alan Rosenberg as SAG president in September 2005, it seemed the union was on the verge of asking the ATA/NATR to head back into negotiations. Upon his election, Rosenberg said in a statement that one of his top three priorities in the coming months would be to “continue to work toward a solution to the impasse with talent agents.” Then-SAG National Executive Director Greg Hessinger promptly appointed a deputy national executive director for organizing and agent relations: John Russum, who was expected to advise SAG in future negotiations with the ATA/NATR.

A month after Rosenberg’s election, Christie told Back Stage he was eager to reopen talks with agents. “At this point in time, the ATA wants to work toward an agreement as much as we do,” he said. “It’s a sign both parties are waiting for some kind of solution to the problem. We had a really good working relationship for years, and I’d like to see us get back to that.” Christie added that plans to negotiate a new franchise agreement would be a priority at the Guild’s biannual plenary meetings in Los Angeles. And at the time, the Guild was holding a series of informational meetings to educate members on the differences between GSAs and SAG-franchised contracts.

But, more than a year later, actors and agents are still waiting. Almost as soon as Russum was hired, he and Hessinger were ousted by SAG’s Membership First-led national board, and the October 2005 and October 2006 plenary meetings ended without news of a planned sit-down with agents.

Stuart says the standard GSA has not changed since Back Stage’s previous article, and reopening talks with SAG is not on her organization’s agenda. Christie was not available for comment.

Agents are divided about whether to use GSAs, stick with SAG’s original contract for its franchised agents, or draw up contracts of their own. SAG-franchised agent Budd Moss (brother of H. David Moss) used the union’s contract while he was at Shapiro-Lichtman talent agency in L.A. “Our actors were SAG members, so we had to sign them to SAG contracts, but there are a lot of agents dealing with actors without SAG contracts, and they’re just making these deals directly,” he says. H. David Moss is also a firm believer in SAG-approved contracts. “I stuck it out with SAG and signed their contracts,” he says. “[The ATA] went their way, and I went mine. The ATA does make a lot of valid contributions to their managers that are very good.”

ATA member Lieblein, who uses GSAs, hopes the situation with SAG changes but doubts it will happen soon. “[Rosenberg] does not like agents, and I say this with all due respect. He is the only president of SAG, in the last 50 years, not to have a negotiated agreement with ATA or NATR, or even try to negotiate one,” he says. “We want a deal with SAG. It helps the small and medium-sized agencies when we have a deal. Rule 16(g), when it’s in effect, helps us because then when an actor says, ‘No, I don’t want to pay you,’ we go to SAG, there’s an arbitration, and they pay.” SAG declined to comment.

Lieblein adds that agents want a fair deal from SAG but that the Guild doesn’t make it easy. As an example, he points to a client of his who appeared in the 2000 film Cast Away. The actor worked on-set for two days, earning $1,000 per day. “We get $200 commission [10 percent of $2,000], and that’s all SAG said that we got,” Lieblein says. SAG stipulated the agent couldn’t receive commissions on the actor’s back-end money or residuals from his 48 hours on the set. “In the first year and a half, [my client] made $80,000 from that two days of work. He sent me $8,000, saying, ‘You deserve this, this is 10 percent.’ But SAG says I shouldn’t have gotten it.”

Lieblein adds that GSAs can protect agents in such a case. “Technically, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on to protect an actor unless there’s a major dispute,” he explained. “We want to protect the commission that we earn while they’re with us. GSAs will help us do that. The union actors are taught by SAG, ‘Don’t sign them. Oh, it’s evil.'”

Managers Play Defense

Managers, on the other hand, have never been regulated by SAG. They are free to use their own contracts and set their own commissions: Nash says most managers usually earn 10 percent to 15 percent commission on all of a client’s gross income, which typically includes residuals. But while agents eye SAG as a potential opponent in drafting a new franchise agreement, West Coast managers today face a far more formidable foe: the California court system. Many are finding that although the Talent Agency Act doesn’t mention managers, they are nonetheless regulated by its rules.

According to the act, what differentiates an agent from a manager is the legal right to procure work for clients. The act, as revised in 1959, set the legal and still-standard definition of a talent agency as “a person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment…for an artist or artists.”

Therefore only talent agents licensed and bonded by the state can legally submit clients for auditions and draw up the contracts; it is illegal for California managers to procure work for their clients in any way. Managers are not required to be licensed in New York either, but they can procure work on an incidental basis for their signed, exclusive clients, according to the New York State General Business Law’s definition of “theatrical personal managers” as “individuals, partnerships, or corporations that place talented persons in employment, and all clients are under personal contract with the agency.”

Managers, however, say there is a huge difference between what the Talent Agency Act dictates and how managers, actors, and agents operate in the real world.

Nash says, in his role as “CEO” of his clients’ companies, he is “acutely aware, concerned, and focused on audition opportunities because that’s part of the big picture of managing an actor’s career.” That arrangement doesn’t seem to have worked for actors who invoke the TAA in lawsuits with managers who allegedly procured them work usually smaller parts that led to regular roles on TV series. If a manager is found guilty of violating the TAA by procuring work for an actor, the contract between manager and actor is considered void,releasing the actor from continuing to pay the manager commission on the booking. Throughout the past decade, big-name and no-name actors have routinely won those civil suits: Thomas Haden Church won his 1994 case against former manager Ross Brown, who was found to have procured the actor a role in a film called Stolen Moments; Arsenio Hall won a similar case in 1992 against his former managers at X Entertainment; and Sean Hayes triumphed in a 2001 case brought by his former manager Steven Vail.

Actor Rosa Blasi and her former manager Rick Siegel of Marathon Entertainment in L.A. are in the center of the most widely publicized and still unresolved case of a manager allegedly violating the TAA by getting work for his client. Siegel, who managed Blasi from 1998 to 2001, sued the actor in 2003 for unpaid commissions, breach of contract, false promise, and unfair business practices when Blasi ceased paying 15 percent to him for procuring her role as Dr. Luisa Delgado on Lifetime’s syndicated series Strong Medicine.

“[The TAA] says that no one without a license can either directly or indirectly procure for an artist. Well, what do you think a manager does?” Siegel said in a Back Stage article in August.

“It looks like one thing, but it’s not the reality,” Blasi said in the same article, explaining that Siegel was never entitled to commission from her Strong Medicine job because the show’s casting directors, Judith Holstra and Lori Sugar, got her the role. However, she said, she provided evidence of Siegel procuring or attempting to procure at least 100 other jobs for her. Blasi continued, “I had every intention to continue with Rick. [Firing him] was a very difficult decision.”

The California Labor Commission and the California Superior Court ruled in Blasi’s favor in separate 2005 hearings, but the 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the Superior Court’s judgment in June because “Blasi produced no evidence in trial court…linking the procurement of her Strong Medicine employment contract with any illegal activity or violation of the act by Marathon.” The decision prompted the ATA, SAG, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to send official letters to the Supreme Court, expressing support for Blasi. For managers, it was a sign that a legal precedent might be set, which could help them win similar cases.

An Occupational Hazard

The Siegel-Blasi case has generated hope among managers, as well as passionate debate about whether they should and already do procure work for their clients.

For veteran manager and “We Are the World” producer Ken Kragen who counts Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton-John, and The Smothers Brothers among his former clients the answer is a resounding yes. “It’s a very touchy subject, but I will tell you that any manager worth their salt gets work for their clients,” he says. “I can’t imagine not getting work for my clients. I’ve been doing this 44 years; I’ve never had a client knock on wood go to court.”

According to Kragen, a manager’s role is to be the “eyes and ears” for client and agent, always looking for an actor’s next opportunity. At the same time, he or she is constantly thinking of the actor’s long-term career. “The manager serves a purpose that the agent can’t do,” says Kragen, who received the Talent Managers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in September. “The manager can design aspects of a career that the agent would never have time for or isn’t really trained to do.”

As an example, Kragen mentions current client Suzanne Whang, an actor who has appeared on shows such as Boston Legal and Two and a Half Men and has a recurring role on Las Vegas. Kragen helped her develop a secondary career in nonfiction TV as the host of HGTV’s popular real estate show House Hunters and its spinoff House Hunters International. Kragen parlayed Whang’s success as a personality by suggesting she write a book, Suzanne Whang’s Guide to Happy Home Buying. The manager says the book will lead to a promotional tour on the talk-show circuit, during which Whang can mention her upcoming acting roles.

But does steering Whang’s career in this way amount to procuring her work? Would Kragen, for example, violate the TAA if he booked his client an appearance on The View? Siegel pointed out that nearly everything a manager does for a client is done in the pursuit of work. “If we can’t procure, what can we do?” Siegel asked in the August Back Stage article. “Can I do rsums; can I help my client with their bios or with their black-and-whites? Can I do anything?”

“The word is ‘murky,'” says current independent manager and former agent Joey Edmonds. “It’s a hard thing. I know so many managers that do so much work, and because they have done one little thing where they got somebody a job, all of a sudden now somebody is suing them.”

Bickelmann agrees that procurement is a vital part of managers’ livelihoods. “In reality of course it happens every day,” she says. “To avoid being in violation of legislation, it’s important for managers to continue to operate within the parameters of collaboration with licensed talent agents.”

The managers interviewed by Back Stage say they haven’t been sued by clients and don’t worry about potential legal actions. However, the mere presence of such suits appears to be eroding the trust managers must have in their clients. “I think the litigiousness of people in the 21st century affects all of us. I mean, [in] how many different areas of our lives do we find that things are affected because of fear of lawsuits?” Nash opines. “I need to believe that the actor I’m going to invest my time, my wisdom, and my heart with is going to be respectful of their ethical and legal commitments within our business relationships.”

Kragen thinks it’s a matter of working with trustworthy actors. “I try to be sure that I manage good people,” he says. “And I always feel that if they’re good people, they’re never going to pull those kinds of stunts.”

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
www.sagwatchdog.com

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SAG members you’ll never guess how much this Turkey cost you!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

1164247181 69.230.217.40

You all remember the Vulich lawsuit. A suit most fowl that was born out of spite, vengeance, intimidation and blame setting.

It all started after the crushing defeat of CEO Bob Pisano’s brainchild “AIMA” Consolidation attempt — which was supported and championed by President Melissa Gilbert, Paul Christie and the rest of the Restore Respect/USAN bunch.

Prior to the AIMA referendum, SAG’s Restore Respect/USAN leadership spent millions of members’ dues dollars bombarding them with their Less Dues/More Muscle propaganda Blitz, while Membership First opposed the consolidation attempt using $80,000 of their own money.

Well, the propaganda blitz bombed, AIMA was defeated and Bob, Melissa, Big John and the rest of the gang pushing it were not happy campers.

Following their crushing defeat, the Restore Respect/USAN dominated board passed a motion in an attempt to place the blame for the referendums failure on others. They managed to get the motion passed by misrepresenting the facts concerning six anonymous emails sent out during the referendum.

It was stated by a board member from Atlanta that the emails violated the laws of the United States. It was only later that SAG General Counsel, David White, informed the leadership that the emails were not against the laws of the United States.

By this time, however, it was too late. The Restore Respect/USAN board members had their motion–and they were set on vengeance and face saving. With CEO Bob urging them on, they filed a lawsuit against John Vulich, a makeup man who had helped a Membership First supporter anonymously forward emails opposing the consolidation attempt.

The reason given to the media for the suit was that Vulich had violated labor law, in that he was an employer interfering in a referendum.

But this was not part of the suit, which after fraud and libel charges were dismissed, amounted to little more than a nuisance suit: A suit that has dragged on for more than two years at great cost to SAG members.

How great a cost?

Well, according to a report given to the board at a recent plenary, SAG spent almost *moneya HALF-MILLION dollars !!

So what did our membership receive for all that money? An apology that they requested! NO!

Did they receive any money in damages? NO!

This ill-advised lawsuit was described to the board as a WASH!

Since, you and I just put out a half-million bucks with no return for our money, I’d say a better description of the suit would be a LOSS!

Will, Mr. Vulich sue SAG? And how much more might this cost us? Your guess is as good as mine. In the mean time, on this Thanksgiving, perhaps CEO Bob, Melissa, Mike, Jamie, Paul and the rest of the gang responsible for this very expensive debacle might start passing around the Ol’ Buckled Hats and Bonnets.

A.l. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

Happy Thanksgiving! All things said, the Ol’ Dog, a proud SAG member, has a lot to be thankful for. And on this Thanksgiving, is giving thanks to our forefathers who made it all possible.

Seated left to right: Alan Mowbray, Lucile Webster Gleason, Boris Karloff, Ralph Morgan & Noel Madison.

Standing, 2nd row, left to right: Kenneth Thomson, James Gleason, Richard W. Tucker, Clay Clement, Alden Gay Thomson, Bradley Page, Morgan Wallace & Arthur Vinton.

Back row: Ivan Simpson, Claude King. Undated photo, circa mid-1930’s.

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Golden Parachutes Dues to Open Soon! (Trio’s contracts worth 700,000 dollars )

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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Another pay fray for SAG?

Trio given one-year contracts worth a combined $700,000

By DAVE MCNARY

With Screen Actors Guild members about to be hit up for a dues increase, SAG’s elected leaders have quietly signed its three top execs to deals with golden parachutes — if they’re fired by new exec director Doug Allen.

Acting national exec director Peter Frank, deputy national exec director Pamm Fair and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland have each been given one-year contracts worth a combined total of about $700,000. Deals go into effect Jan. 8, Allen’s first day at SAG, with each receiving the full year’s compensation if Allen decides to opt for his own team and dismisses the trio.

Even though all three have been “at will” employees working without a contract, SAG’s national board approved the deals at last month’s plenary in executive session.

SAG had no immediate response to a request for comment Wednesday. But the deals are likely to provide opponents of the dues increase with ammunition for their contention that SAG’s been paying too much in exec salaries in recent years.
The key reasons put forward during SAG’s board discussion for giving new contracts to Frank, Fair and Crabtree-Ireland was to reward them for their loyalty and incentivize the execs to remain at SAG in the wake of a long string of departures of other top SAG execs.

Frank, who’s been designated to become chief administrative officer, is expected to be paid around $300,000 while Fair and Crabtree-Ireland will receive about $200,000 each.

At the same October meeting, SAG’s leaders approved a referendum on a dues increase that would boost receipts between $5 million and $7 million annually for the guild’s $55 million budget. SAG said the funds are needed for improved processing of residuals checks — often delivered several months late — along with bolstering organizing, a new tech department and financing research and campaigns for the upcoming TV/theatrical and commercials contracts, both of which expire in 2008.

Earlier this year, SAG reached a confidential settlement with former CEO Greg Hessinger, who had sued SAG after being fired a year ago with more than three years left on a four-year, $1.6 million deal.

The suit stemmed from SAG’s refusal to pay out the balance of his contract, based on the legal contention that unions couldn’t be liable for paying fired execs with employment contracts.

SAG also reached a confidential settlement with Bob Pisano, who was receiving more than $400,000 a year, when he ankled early last year and became president of the MPAA.

During his tenure, Pisano signed five of his top execs — including Fair, Frank, general counsel David White and deputy national exec directors Sallie Weaver and Seth Oster — to two-year deals that expired last June. By that time, White and Weaver had departed; Oster ankled a few months later.

In recruiting an exec director to replace Hessinger, SAG leaders first insisted candidates agree to work without a contract, but later changed that approach due to lack of interest among candidates. Allen, who’s currently second in command at the National Football League Players Assn., agreed in October to a three-year deal.

Allen’s appointment was approved unanimously in what was a rare show of unity by the oft-fractious SAG national board. The move by SAG came three months after Allen was passed over for the top exec slot at the WGA West; David Young was promoted internally, instead.

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My only comment about this little deal is why do we always have to learn about these things in the press. Look, if this is worth doing, and good for the membership, it’s worth informing them. So, much for the openness we were promised. From where the Ol’ Dog sits, it looks like more of the same Ol’ same Ol’!

A message for President Rosenberg and the National Board: the SAG treasury ain’t your Candy Store, so please stop treating it as such, especially when you are about to ask for a dues increase.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief

WOOF !

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IATSE Gives the WGA the Short End of the Stick!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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IATSE ‘Model’ leaves WGA in the cold

November 10, 2006

By Carl DiOrio

A new Teamsters pact and advanced talks with IATSE have execs boasting that production on “America’s Next Top Model” is almost fully unionized, effectively freezing out the WGA for now from organizing efforts on the CW reality show.

“We’re close to making an agreement with IATSE on certain positions,” CW spokesman Paul McGuire said. “(So) almost the entire production is going to be unionized.”

The IATSE negotiations would be for work at the heart of the WGA’s organizing efforts, which involve 12 so-called storytellers on the show. Those employees walked off the production in July in an effort to join the WGA, with exec producer Ken Mok insisting the matter be referred to the National Labor Relations Board.

The strikers claim that they recently sought unsuccessfully to return to work on the show, and an NLRB decision is awaited on a related WGA charge that the storytellers’ jobs were eliminated illegally. But IATSE, which already represents several editors on the show, argued in a separate labor hearing that the work once done by the striking employees comes under its existing jurisdiction (HR 11/8).

On Thursday, the CW announced an agreement covering about a half dozen or more drivers and location managers on “Top Model.” Local 388 business agent Steve Dayan had suggested this week that the Teamsters would mount a job action against the show if Mok resisted its organizing efforts.

“We appreciate the professional manner and spirit of cooperation Local 399 demonstrated in working out this agreement,” Mok said. “These employees play an integral role in the weekly production of our show, and we appreciate the contribution.”

Said Dayan: “We’re also very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement, and we thank (Mok’s production company) Anisa for their professionalism in making an amicable deal. We hope to reach additional agreements covering other reality television series in the future.”

Terms of the Teamsters’ collective bargaining agreement weren’t disclosed.

“Top Model” is the highest-rated program on the fledgling CW network. The show is hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks, whose Bankable Prods. is a co-producer.

The storyteller jobs involved in the WGA-IATSE tug of war are sometimes also referred to as writer-producer slots. Although “Top Model” is unscripted, such employees sort through reams of film and video to create story lines for the show.

The striking employees said they believe they qualify as WGA writers, but IATSE contends the work is essentially an editing function.

So, the 12 storytellers strike in an effort to join the WGA, and Tom Short steps in to fill those positions with IATSE members, in what could best be discribled as Unionized Scabbing! Short justifies his poaching by contending the storytellers are essentially Editors.

In the meantime, SAG is joining this guy in the AFL-CIO’s ICC binding organizing committee. Hell, he’ll probably try and gain jurisdiction over actors by claiming we’re props.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief

WOOF !

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