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“Progress Being Made” At WGA Contract Talks!

March 17, 2017 (16:10) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

After a week of hard bargaining, a source close to the ongoing WGA contract talks told Deadline that “there is progress being made and it’s very cordial.” The negotiations, which began Monday, are being held under a strict media blackout at the Sherman Oaks offices of management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Rescuing the guild’s ailing health plan, which has run at a deficit in all but one of the past four years, is one of the hottest hot-button issues in the negotiations. Several sources have told Deadline that writers are “willing to strike” to maintain current levels of health coverage.

Another flashpoint for a potential strike is the downturn in weekly compensation for series TV writer-producers. The WGA West’s annual reports show that in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, TV writers earned $803 million in wages under the guild’s basic contract, which is over 75% more than the $454 million they earned in 2006.

But those numbers are only based on guild minimums and don’t include the money they make as writers employed in additional capacities, such as producers and executive producers. And that’s where TV writer-producers are taking it on the chin, according to a recent two-season survey conducted by the guild of some 2,000 working TV writer-producers, which found a 23% overall decline in their median incomes from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season.

The leading cause for the downturn is the shortening of many shows’ seasons, with fewer episodes meaning fewer dollars for writer-producers. And that has hit writing teams especially hard because they afford producers two writers for the price of one. Prior to the talks, the guild said that it intended to “address inequities in compensation of writing teams employed under term deals for television and new media series.”

Revenue from new media is another key issue in the talks. Before going into the negotiations, the guild told its members that “new models of development, production and distribution, while making the companies richer, have not worked to your individual or collective advantage.”

With this regard, as is customary in so-called “pattern bargaining, ” the WGA is expected to be offered a deal similar to one the DGA worked out during its contract negotiations in December, which established a new residuals formula that takes into account substantial subscriber growth in order to compensate members working on original content for established streaming services. According to the DGA, it “more than triples residuals for members working on original content in the highest subscriber tier, while also allowing new and emerging entrants to the market the opportunity to grow as they develop their services.”

The WGA is also bargaining to improve the lot of Hollywood’s screenwriters, who have been hit especially hard by the decline in the number of films released in recent years, and have seen a steady decline in their earnings. In fact, they earned more in wages 1996 ($364.4 million) than they did in 2015 ($362.1 million), according to the guild’s annual reports.

Other issues included in the WGA’s “pattern of demands” include:

  • Increased minimum compensation in all areas.
  • Increaser residuals for undercompensated reuse markets.
  • An expansion of the types of made-for new media programs subject to the contract’s minimums.
  • Increased contributions to the guild’s Pension Plan.
  • Stronger regulations of options and exclusivity provisions in television and new media employment contracts.
  • Paid family leave for writers employed under term deals for television and new media series.
  • An amended definition of a professional writer to include writing for new media.
  • Increased funding for the Showrunner Training Program and the Tri-Guild Audit Program.
  • A modification and expansion of all arbitrator panels.
  • Modified requirements for work lists and other information submitted by companies.

The talks are expected to last at least another week, possibly longer. The WGA’s current three-year contract expires May 1.

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Steady as you go!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

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‘Legion’ ‘The Affair’ ‘Lucifer’ & ‘The OA’ Among 15 TV Projects Receiving California Tax Credits!

March 17, 2017 (11:54) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Despite what Charlie Daniels claims, the Devil did not go down to Georgia after all, but rather California when it comes to tax incentives. Fox’s relocating Lucifer joins FX’s just-renewed Legion, Showtime’s The Affair and Netflix’s The OA among 15 TV projects that will receive big-bucks tax credits from the Golden State, the California Film Commission revealed today.

Deadline broke the news this month that the previously Vancouver-filmed Warner Bros Television-produced Lucifer was moving to Los Angeles for its third season, but relocating series have been a top priority for California’s TV and Film program since it was revamped and expanded more than two years ago. An untitled Seth MacFarlane series and Kurt Sutter’s Sons Of Anarchy spinoff Mayans M.C. are also among those who received tax incentives today.

Noah Hawley’s Marvel series Legion getting the biggest incentive at $11.03 million out of the $99.2 million available all in this round. Here is the full list of the latest allocations, with the amount of their individual tax credit:

This latest round sees the most relocating series the tax program has ever landed in one go, with two from incentive-rich Vancouver and two from New York. “We’re wrapping up Year 2 of Program 2.0 on a very high note with a record number of relocating TV series,” CFC executive director Amy Lemisch said. “The tax credit program is working as intended to reaffirm California’s status as the preferred choice for film and TV production.”

Last year, the self-titled Film and TV Credit Program 2.0 scored with HBO’s Ballers ditching Florida for Calicornia for its third season. This round saw 25 projects seek tax incentives, with more than half being approved.

The CFC estimates that the rewarded projects will spend about $620 million in in-state including $235 million in paychecks to more than 4,400 crew and cast members.

Once topped out at $100 million a year when first introduced in 2009, Gov. Jerry Brown greatly expanded the incentive when he signed the now-five-year, $330 million-a-year tax credit program into law in September 2014. As part of the emphasis to bring jobs back to the home of Hollywood, the expanded program laid particular weight on relocating series and projects.

To that end, besides Ballers and now Lucifershows such as VeepAmerican Horror Story and Screen Queens have been awarded California credits in recent years and moved from other states to go into production in and around Los Angeles.

The next application round for TV projects runs May 22- 29, with an announcement expected around the first of July on who receives incentives. The last film round was made public last month, with the latest version of A Star Is Born and a Clint Eastwood-directed pic among the projects getting a piece of the $100 million on the table. Another film round will be open from June 19-27 with winners announced around July 24.

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Well, an appropriate day to announce a little more green for California.

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

 

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Happy St. Patricks Day

March 17, 2017 (00:09) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

A Toast.  May your only Beef today be Corn!  Huh?  For those who want Corn they’ve certainly come to the right place!  But, but, but, By Golly!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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Slate Editorial Staff Votes To Unionize With WGA East!

March 16, 2017 (13:44) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Slate has become the latest in a long line of digital media outlets whose editorial staffs have voted to unionize with the WGA East. The union said that more than 90% of Slate’s editorial staff have signed cards declaring they want the guild to represent them in contract talks. Slate joins Huffington Post, Vice Media, Gawker Media, Salon and The Guardian U.S. whose staffs have voted to be represented by the guild.

“Slate’s editorial staff joins a labor movement that has proven to be the most effective way for creative professionals to have a seat at the table and build sustainable careers in the billion-dollar digital media industry,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “We call on Slate’s management to voluntary recognize their employees’ decision to seek workplace protections and benefits that can only be ensured by a collective bargaining agreement.”

The Slate Unionizing Committee issued the following statement:

Slate’s editorial staff has decided to unionize with Writers Guild of America East. We are delighted to announce this development, and given that 90 percent of eligible staff have signed cards affirming their commitment to the union after considerable discussion, we are confident this is the right step forward for us. We’re proud to work for Slate, and we feel that unionizing will help us ensure that it is the best possible place to work. We’re particularly excited about unionizing as a way for us to put our progressive values into action. We call upon Slate’s management, as well as the Graham Holdings Company, to voluntarily recognize the Guild as our collective-bargaining representative.

Slate has decided to unionize because we believe collectively creating a contract that ensures critical workers’ rights for all employees, to be applied universally across the staff, will help create a more fair and stable workplace. Digital media is an industry in constant flux, and given Slate’s recent growth, we feel that now is the time to solidify certain protections and rights that will not only ensure that our workers are fairly compensated, but will help to create better industry standards and make Slate more competitive in the field.

More specifically, there have been a few key issues that have brought us together and helped us decide to organize. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should help to illuminate why we believe now is the right time to begin this process, and what we hope to achieve.

Compensation and Benefits: Management took a step in the right direction this year by creating respectable salary floors for different positions. We hope to formalize these floors in our contract, while guaranteeing a cost-of-living adjustment for all staffers each year. We also hope to make bonuses clear and consistent. To ensure that employees can build healthy and sustainable careers at Slate, we believe we have a right to be involved in discussions and decisions that affect our benefits, and to clarify policies around health care, paid leave, parental leave, and book leaves. We believe that having a seat at the table will result in more security and fairness among workers.

Termination, Disciplinary Actions, and Severance: We work in a volatile industry, and we want to ensure that we have fair and appropriate protections and processes in place if layoffs are to occur again. We seek to establish transparent standards and procedures around discipline and termination that will ensure that all workers are treated equally and respectfully. Our contract will aim to set clearer standards to govern the termination process, as well as to ensure a severance package that guarantees a minimum and adjusts that amount in accordance with time served at Slate.

Diversity: We feel strongly that the best journalistic product is created by staffs that are representative. We have a great deal of work to do on that end at Slate, and we believe that unionizing will help us create standards for increasing diversity among the Slate editorial staff. We hope to create a mechanism that will hold management accountable to those goals, and we believe that formalizing a commitment to an improved and more inclusive hiring process will help us build a better magazine and live up to our principles.

Finally, we appreciate and understand that flexibility is essential to the success of our company and our site. We believe that as employees, we are equally invested in Slate’s health, success, and longevity. We feel strongly that we can create a contract that ensures that management is able to continue its work in making the site the strongest it can be, but one that also offers us essential protections while doing so. Ultimately, this contract will allow our employees to feel appropriately protected and compensated for our work, which will allow us to create the best product possible. We’re excited to gain a seat at the table and look forward to working together.

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As we say in the VO biz: Slate and Go!  

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

^Photo selected by Watchdog

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The Race Is On: Peter Antico First To Announce Candidacy For SAG-AFTRA President!

March 14, 2017 (17:03) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Peter Antico, one of the most outspoken critics of SAG-AFTRA’s leadership, has announced he’ll be a candidate for president of the 160,000-member performers’ union. The election will be held in August, and he’s the first to announce his candidacy.

Antico, a veteran actor and stunt coordinator, split with Membership First, the union’s “loyal opposition,” and is running independently because he feels MF has not been vocal or active enough in fighting the waste, malfeasance and incompetence that he says is rampant at the union.

He’s a particularly harsh critic of David White, the union’s national executive director. “If David White was the CEO of a publicly traded company,” he told Deadline, “he would be fired for negligence and incompetence for wasting $16 million of the members’ money for renting empty office space in New York, including $1 million in new Italian furniture that was unneeded.”

A vocal critic of the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, he accused White and Unite for Strength, the union’s pro-merger ruling party, of never having filed a pre-merger jurisdictional complaint against AFTRA “when they stole/poached SAG’s jurisdiction” by undercutting SAG’s TV contract. He also accused White and UFS, which was then headed by SAG president Ken Howard, of not performing a per-merger audit of AFTRA’s financial records, which he said would have shown that AFTRA was “close to bankruptcy.” This, he said, “damaged the finances of SAG as they borrowed $3 million from the members’ unclaimed residual trust fund and an additional $3 million from the general investment fund to shore up their spending deficit. White never disclosed this to the membership and national board members controlled by UFS also did not disclose this information.”

He’s also made numerous demands for a forensic audit of the SAG Pension and Health Plans after a pre-merger embezzlement of some $2.5 million brought down the Plans’ chief administrator and led to the conviction of the head of its information technology department. “If White had disclosed that AFTRA was close to bankruptcy and SAG’s Pension and Health Plan was embezzled for millions of dollars, do you think the merger would have passed?” he asked. “White did not allow the membership an educated vote.”

And after the merger, he said, White and UFS “fired 40% of the staff at SAG-AFTRA and closed 10 regional offices, and White had the audacity to take a $60,000 raise. Top-down Wall Street arrogance at the expense of fired employees demonstrates his lack of regard for ethical business practices.”

He also accused SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and her Unite for Strength allies on the board of being little more than a rubber stamp for White and the union’s executive staff, who he says are overpaid and have a better pension plan than the union’s members.

“Unite for Strength and Gabrielle Carteris believe that White and the executive staff are so valuable that they have no problem making sure they have double our pension cap ($210,000) and that staff can retire after only 20 years of service with a full pension based upon an average of 75% of their five best consecutive years of earnings,” he said. “Members have to work 10 additional years to receive a full pension. Any staff member who earns $100,000 for five consecutive years would earn a better pension than Tom Cruise, at age 55, who earned hundreds of millions. This is neither fair nor ethical.”

He said the union needs to rewrite its constitution “to put checks and balances in place to keep the president’s position from having the powers of a dictator. “We must shift from a constitution that is now AFTRA-biased to the much improved financial structure of the old SAG. AFTRA was nearly bankrupt before the merger and should have been forensically audited before we merged to protect the SAG members. David White and the UFS-controlled national board neglected their duty in this regard. If you fail to study history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

Antico also takes the union’s leadership to task for failing to unionize broadcasters at CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC and NBC News, which decertified from AFTRA in 2006 and whose anchors and correspondents are still not represented by SAG-AFTRA.

“When I am president,” he said, “any SAG-AFTRA member who is employed at any of the aforementioned nonunion networks who refuse to abide by the terms and conditions of SAG-AFTRA will be expelled forthwith.”

“We are run by lawyers and actors who ‘act’ like businessmen/women,” he said. “Ethical leadership should mandate transparency, honesty and integral behavior as the law of the land. I would replace unethical executives and actors with MBA’s in corporate finance and restore fiscal responsibility and use the capital where it belongs – to provide service to the membership.”

The solution, he said, is to “vote out all Unite for Strength members and restore ethical leadership and financial responsibility back to SAG AFTRA. As far as David White doing a ‘great job and we are lucky to have him’ – you be the judge. I believe the facts paint a different picture.”

On his Facebook page, he states: “SAG-AFTRA is run by actors who are not educated in corporate finance, nor governance. We must restore ethics and sound business practices to SAG-AFTRA, through education, transparency, love and forgiveness. We are all responsible, good or bad, for what has taken place in SAG-AFTRA to date.  Join me in affecting a change that benefits the ideology of the highest good for all.”

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And…they’re off!  Huh? And so am…yeah, well same to you!

Arl

The Of…ah,..Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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