Back in 2002 in the early formative stages of an ongoing impasse between SAG and powerful ATA/NATR agents, it seemed obvious that there was an orchestrated plan between the two entities, to persuade members to let power hungry top ATA/NATR agents become our employers.
The campaign, between SAG’s Restore Respect/USAN leadership and the ATA/NATR, to instill fear in SAG members was just too similar to be a coincidence!
At the time President Gilbert uttered those infamous words “We don’t want actors to have to choose between their agent and their guild,” the ATA/NATR was lamenting the same sentiments in the trade paper ads.
The writer of the “agent or your union” catch phrase ranks right up there with the creators of “Pay me now, or pay me later” and “where’s the beef.” Hey, when you have 700,000 grand to “sell” the membership a bill of goods, you can afford the best! And there can be no doubt that former studio executive, then SAG CEO, and current MPAA head honcho Robert Pisano didn’t mind spending SAG members’ dues money when they needed a little convincing.
Despite, all the money spent, and fear mongering proffered, the ATA/NATR “deal” failed in referendum. But due to the then leadership’s lack of the enforcement of SAG’s Constitution, mandating that members could only be with franchised agents, and the following failure to enforce the “Memorandum to Agents Memo” which warned agents that any violation of SAG’s Codified Agency Agreement would trigger 16G enforcement against violators–nothing was done when members came to SAG with GSA’s proffered to them by offending agencies.
The ATA/NATR faced off with the guild, and SAG’s leadership blinked! And to cover their lack of resolve, and faith in the membership, they continued with the mantra of the failed resolution, but, but “We don’t want members to have to choose between their agents and their unions!”
In fact, they repeated it so often that even some of those who stood up against it, are beginning to believe it. And why not? After all when your leadership goes for half a decade without standing up to those who defy them, and lets them flaunt your Supreme Court mandated rules, it is only natural that members would harvest seeds of doubt.
I often wonder if the current scenario might have been different if the writer of the “Agent or Union line” had instead put it in its proper perspective, “It’s up to ATA/NATR agents to choose if they want to represent SAG members or NOT!”
But, alas, that never happened, and it appears that the lone answer SAG has to a resolution, is to convince our membership that the only solution to the problem, is to once again offer recalcitrant ATA/NATR agents residual giveaways similar to those previously offered in the 2002 referendum. A residuals giveaway more extensive than the one that a 2000 SAG press release proclaimed would take TEN PERCENT more out members’ pockets.
And I’m sure the current message of appeasement to ATA/NATR agents is not lost on Nick Counter and the AMPTP.
“How can SAG stand up to their employers when they can’t even standup to their employees?”
In regards to the aftermath of the NARC scandal post, first I’d like to thank all the Ol’ Dogs readers for their encouraging remarks, most were appreciative for the information. I’d also like to think all you readers for coming through the Watchdog Turnstile, over 115,000 to date.
Although, Watchdog readers’ response was overwhelmingly positive, the same can’t be said for some of the reactions on actor related bulletin boards.
One suggested that the Ol’ Dog didn’t have a dog in the Hunt because the bulk of his income didn’t come through his agent. (No! W2’s weren’t provided!)
Another NARC Committee poster characterized my post in the following manner.
“No matter what anyone thinks, including and maybe especially the likes of Mr. Millers tawdry allegations and insults against highly respected members of the NARC.”
A Hollywood board member had this to say about my story,
“Saying that most of these people are working for their Agents and against S.A.G is a pretty harsh suggestion.”
Just for the record, here’s what I said,
“Before continuing, let me say there are some extraordinarily dedicated members on this committee. However, the problem is not so much who is on the committee designated to come up with a plan of dealing with ATA/NATR non-franchised agents, but rather who is not on it.”
But, then there are those who only see what they want to see.
If you’d like to read the posts check out SAG Actor Bulletin Board
And, the Showfax Bulletin Board,
On, a brighter note, I heard from SAG General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. We had a cordial conversation, and I found him to have a keen sense of humor. (Translation, he chuckled at a couple of my quips.)
Not only that, but he confirmed my position that according to Rule 16(G) of the SAG Constitution, it is a violation for a SAG member to offer “incentives and bonuses” to their agent–as one Hollywood Division NARC Committee Member has stated that he has always done.
Of course, if you are currently with a non-franchised ATA/NATR agent, I suppose you can give them a little on the side, platonically speaking of course.
I’m always amazed when someone speaks about SAG members choosing their agents over their union. Now, I have never actually talked to one who admits that they would do it, but, but it’s the other members they’re worried about.
My, my, wouldn’t it be just a dandy business, if only we let the ATA/NATR agents take over? We would ALL immediately be paying twenty percent, maybe even more if the labor commissioner decided that was reasonable. But, but, I’m sure that they would still let us share in some of those residuals. And, and, once they truly became our employers, and our collective bargainers, well, ah, come to think about it, maybe that part about giving them a little on the side might not be all that platonic.
Hey, forget about just some giving a little on the side. We’d all be screwed!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
The following is a Bulletin Board post I directed to those who criticized my NARC Committee Watchdog post.
It seems one thing that is missing in all of the rhetoric posted on this board, is that until my story, the Membership had no idea of the makeup of the NARC Committee.
Now that they do! A few on this board seem to be very unhappy about that, even though, some profess that the reason for the NARC Committee is to stimulate OPEN DEBATE. Apparently, that does not include posting FACTS, or opposing viewpoints.
My opinions are my opinions.
The fact remains that before my article, members did not know that the NARC Committee consist of THIRTY-FOUR members, only ONE of which has a franchised agent.
Apparently, some on this board do not subscribe to the adage that “an informed Membership is a strong membership!”
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
From LA Times
From the Los Angeles Times
Producers prepare for possible strike
Schedules for TV shows and movies are moved up ahead of contract talks with writers.
By Richard Verrier
Times Staff Writer
April 24, 2007
Gary Scott Thompson, writer and executive producer of the NBC show “Las Vegas,” won’t be taking a summer hiatus.
Instead of enjoying his usual three months off, he and his colleagues have been asked to write scripts and shoot most of next season’s episodes, presumably as a hedge against a potential Hollywood writers’ strike late this year. Starting Monday, new production for “Las Vegas” starts three months earlier than usual with the goal of shooting 18 or 22 episodes by fall.
The show “will be strike-proof,” Thompson said.
Anticipating a possible walkout, networks and studio executives are starting to take steps to keep production pipelines flowing. The contingency plans include pushing up shooting schedules, ordering more reality TV programs and renegotiating with writers to turn in their film scripts earlier than usual.
“They’re protecting their long-range business interests,” said chief studio negotiator J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The early preparations come three months before what are expected to be highly contentious contract talks between producers and writers, with the central issue being how writers are paid when their work is shown over the Internet.
Guild leaders have alleged that studios are trying to scare writers by suggesting they are stockpiling scripts and shows. There has been little evidence of a large-scale stockpiling like there was in 2001, when fear of strikes by actors and writers caused a major acceleration of production.
“We’ve never seen stockpiling to be a significant negotiating strategy,” said Chuck Slocum, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West. “We don’t see any reason a deal cannot be reached and we look forward to negotiating to that end.”
Nonetheless, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has started shooting its ninth season, two months earlier than usual.
“I firmly believe that the potential for a strike is much greater and more ominous than many people are saying,” said Dick Wolf, the show’s executive producer. “Therefore, we’re going to make as many episodes as possible before a strike takes place.”
Senior executives from the major studios met with Counter last week to discuss their strategies for negotiations, which will begin July 16. The current contract expires Oct. 31.
Rival networks and studio executives have been keeping their contingency plans under wraps not only from writers but also one another.
Although none would publicly discuss their plans, several Hollywood executives privately acknowledged that they were preparing for what could be the first writers’ strike since 1988.
Their plans include having some shows come back early to shoot additional episodes that could air during a strike and pushing up production schedules of midseason shows to as early as July instead of their usual September start.
Networks typically decide which shows they’re going to pick up just before the key advertising sales period in May and June. But this year has seen an unusually large number of early pickups, evidence not only of changes in the television industry but also strike preparations, analysts say.
“There are clear signs that networks are preparing their fall schedules as early as possible as a hedge against a possible strike,” said Carolyn Finger, vice president of TVtracker.com, an Internet-based research and consulting service.
Network business affairs executives are combing their libraries to identify which shows they have the rights to rebroadcast and to compile alternative schedules jammed with movies, news programs, reality fare and game shows.
Hit shows such as Fox’s “American Idol” are not only hugely popular, but they are also cheaper to produce than scripted programs. And most reality shows aren’t covered under the Writers Guild contracts despite efforts by the union to organize the booming sector.
This season saw 56 unscripted series across all the broadcast networks, up from 51 last year, according to TVtracker.com. CBS has five game show pilots in production, including shows hosted by comedian Drew Carey and MSNBC talk show host Tucker Carlson.
“The ramped-up reality slate is part of our regular program development for summer, fall and midseason programming, but these projects could be utilized if a strike does occur,” CBS spokesman Chris Ender said.
Film studios also have begun making their own strike preparations. Studio executives are more worried about the prospect of an actors strike in 2008 that could shut down production and already are adjusting filming schedules to ensure movies wrap before June 30 of next year, when the Screen Actors Guild contract expires. Pulling the plug on films in mid-production is expensive.
Among the most aggressive is 20th Century Fox, which has renegotiated with certain film writers to turn in their scripts earlier than usual as part of a plan to accelerate production.
As for “Las Vegas,” Thompson said he and his colleagues weren’t sore about working through the summer.
“Everyone’s worried about a potential strike,” he said, “so they’re happy to be working.”
Times staff writers Lorenza Muoz, Martin Miller and Claudia Eller contributed to this report.
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.
Top bosses plot to prevent strike
Suits plan to propose study group
By DAVE MCNARY
Hollywood’s top execs are finally sitting down to discuss a possible strike.
With worries mounting that upcoming contract talks will be both contentious and complicated, heads of studios and networks have confabbed in recent days to hammer out strategies for heading off a work stoppage.
The planning was capped by a Thursday morning powwow led by Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Heavyweights in attendance included CBS topper Leslie Moonves, Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer, ABC’s Anne Sweeney, DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and NBC’s Marc Graboff.
Those at the meeting, Counter told Daily Variety, resolved to propose to the unions in the next few weeks that both sides agree to the creation of a jointly funded outside study group to generate a report — a showbiz version of the report from the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.
In this case, the panel would be staffed by entertainment industry experts and examine the intricacies of how performers are paid for reuse of their work — both for traditional residuals and the proliferation of new-media platforms — along with creating new formulas that could be retroactive.
Counter stressed that specifics of how a study would be conducted are still in the early stages.
“We’re not yet at the bargaining table, so all kinds of strategies are under consideration, but I’ve been instructed to talk about the possibility of a study with the guilds,” he added. “A question like retroactivity could be subject to negotiation.”
Counter noted that there are precedents for such a study: SAG and AFTRA agreed last year to a two-year contract extension of their commercials contract so an outside consultant could analyze revenue streams; and Canadian performers unions recently agreed to hold off on resolution of some new-media issues until they can by studied further.
The basic premise of the study SAG and AFTRA agreed to last year is that digital delivery platforms had so muddied the outlook for future revenue that an outside expert was needed to analyze the best method of compensating actors in commercials.
“We think that conducting a study is a very responsible approach,” Counter said.
The initiative comes with preparations in full swing for the AMPTP’s negotiations with the Writers Guild of America. Talks start July 16 for a contract to replace the current three-year deal, which expires on Oct. 31.
WGA West assistant exec director Chuck Slocum told Daily Variety late Thursday that the AMPTP hadn’t yet approached the scribe union — and he questioned the need for such a study.
“My initial reaction is that the marketplace already has our product in it, so there’s a whole database of information already available that we can use at the bargaining table,” Slocum added. Negotiations are certain to be difficult given the WGA leadership, which is more aggressive than that at the other guiilds; its insistence on boosting members’ cut of revenues from new-media platforms; and its desire for jurisdiction over reality shows. As for the companies, they remain aggrieved over the WGA’s refusal to hold negotiations early this year in the face of Counter’s contention that the new-media issues are so complicated that both sides needed as much time as possible to hammer out an agreement.
The WGA’s elected leaders have insisted that waiting until July places them in a better position to evaluate the changes in digital platforms. And Slocum said new-media issues have become an increasingly prominent concern for guild members — particularly in light of such recent deals as those of CBS for a broad array of online distribution partnerships, announced April 12.
“We are happy every time we hear that they’ve found a way to make money off our members’ work because that means more money for our members,” Slocum noted. “The members are excited by what’s going on, and they want to know what we’re doing about it.”
The general problem, Slocum added, is that companies often contend that such Internet deals are promotional in nature — running for a limited time and designed to keep “bubble” shows on the air — rather than amounting to reuse, which would trigger residuals. Slocum noted that separate advertising has begun appearing on such shows, possibly deflating the argument that such Net programs are purely promotional.
“If it’s a whole show, then it’s a reuse,” Slocum added. “Companies like to perpetrate the idea that it’s all promotional.”
Joan Weise, AFTRA’s national director of entertainment programming, agreed.
“We are looking at these deals on a daily basis, and we’re scouring through them to find out which ones include reuse,” she said. “And we don’t agree with what the companies are saying about them being promotional.”
Weise also said AFTRA staff has received an increasing numbers of calls from members who discover their performances on the Internet, adding, “They’re frustrated that this is happening.”
Queried about the idea of a study, SAG exec director Doug Allen said the guild’s been discussing the suggestion but added that it’s too early for SAG to respond. Its contract expires in July 2008 along with the DGA’s.
The notion of revamping the entire residuals system has been broached previously by the companies, notably during the 2004 contract negotiations with the Directors Guild of America. During those talks, in response to the DGA’s proposal for a hike in the longstanding homevid formula, the AMPTP responded by proposing that such a change was only possible if the DGA were willing to change the basic formulas of the residuals system — in this case, switching to recoupment formulas, under which the most successful shows would have probably received even more money while the residuals for other shows would have likely been scaled back.
The DGA decided against taking that step, opting instead for a deal that included significant pension and health gains. The WGA and SAG agreed to similar terms a few months later.
The companies and the unions haven’t ever really been on the same new-media page, with the guilds routinely blind-sided over announcements about new platforms.
ABC and the unions had a well-publicized clash early last year over the network paying a lower homevid rate for “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” shows purchased through iTunes. The unions reached a pact at the higher pay TV rate with ABC over mobisodes for “Lost,” but that’s been mired in arbitration.
On the guild side, preparations for upcoming negotiations are accelerating:
? Top elected reps of the WGA West and WGA East are meeting this weekend about negotiations, with the negotiating committee expected to issue its “pattern of demands” within the next few weeks.
? SAG’s national board will be briefed on new-media issues this weekend by staff and by its new-media committee. It’s also expected to name the head of its new-media department soon.
? AFTRA announced this week that it had formed a new-media group of execs, which will report to the national board on April 28.
? The DGA has been conducting a new-media study since late last year.
SAG’s Allen told Daily Variety that the national board’s consideration of new-media issues is informational, with nothing attached as a voting item. He also stressed that SAG’s been active in sharing new-media info with the other unions.
“We want to be sure that actors are fairly compensated whenever their image is used,” he added. “Our internal research has been focused on new media and technology. We don’t have a higher information priority.”
Allen also brushed off the idea of SAG extending the film-TV contract for the purpose of conducting a study, adding, “I don’t think there’s a lot of interest in delaying the negotiations.”
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