California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday released the long-awaited guidelines for restarting film and TV production amid the ongoing pandemic, allowing filming in the state to resume on June 12.
While no one expects cameras to start rolling this Friday, wheels in the industry are turning in hopes to get to that point before the end of the summer.
“To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers,” the California Department of Public Health said in the guidance released via the Governor’s office.
Reaching an agreement on safety protocols between the management and the Hollywood union and guilds is the next big hurdle following the Governor’s sign-off. That sign-off came just days after the industrywide labor-management safety committee talk force organized by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major Hollywood studios, submitted to the California and Los Angeles Governors a White Paper featuring health and safety guidelines for production during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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I hear AMPTP is currency in discussions with the major unions and guilds that represent essential on-set staffers and talent, including IATSE, DGA SAG-AFTRA and the Teamsters. I hear the producers are carrying separate negotiations with each union that are often intersecting.
The hope is to reach deals with the unions/guilds so pre-production could start sometime in July if the rate of coronavirus infections and hospitalization in Los Angeles County does not trigger another tightening of restrictions on businesses. Given the complexity of filming during COVID-19 due to detailed safety protocols that need to be followed, pre-production — as well as actual production — are expected to be lengthier than normal.
Of the four biggest Hollywood production hubs, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Vancouver, three, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Vancouver, have set provisional production restart dates, all contingent on local health conditions and studio-guild agreements.
While Georgia was among the first states to reopen their economies, I hear Los Angeles-based productions may start first because plane travel continues to be a deterrent for talent due to COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, British Columbia continues to impose 14-day quarantine to anyone entering the country, which would include Hollywood actors and directors flying in to work.
Along with the major studios and streamers, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE (including the Art Directors Guild and the Costume Designers Guild), the Teamsters and others were involved in the process of crafting of the recommendations in the White Paper submitted to the Governors.
In another promising sign, at the document’s reveal, the unions and guilds all lauded it as a “solid foundation” and “a critical first step” in the road back to production.
But they also cautioned that more needs to be done. “The discussions will continue between the Producers, the Unions and Guilds over how it affects our respective agreements,” Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399 said in a message to its members last week. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us to not only ensure the safety of our members on set, but also to ensure the jobs of our members and our collective bargaining agreements are protected throughout this process.”
So far, the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, has issued its own protocols. The other unions and guilds have said that they too are working on their own sets of guidelines which should be released in the coming days.
REXCLUSIVE: Olga Wilhelmine, SAG-AFTRA’s national board member from New Orleans, is on a mission. With so many of her fellow actors struggling financially during the pandemic, she’s trying to connect them with their unclaimed residuals.
The union is holding tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed SAG residuals for tens of thousands of actors and their heirs that it can’t locate. Wilhelmine wants to help find them and get them the money they’re owed.
She sent a letter to the union’s leaders this week asking them to establish a task force “to assist the Residuals Department with the location of members or their heirs and the distribution of their unclaimed residuals; and in establishing new procedures to expedite that distribution.”
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In the meantime, however, she’s been reaching out to actors on her own whose names she’s found while scouring the union’s unclaimed residuals website, and is encouraging others to do the same. So far, she has assembled a small cadre of supporters who also are poring over the site, looking for people they know who have money coming to them. She’s also reaching out to charities to whom actors have bequeathed their residuals but have gone unclaimed, including the Actors Fund, the Motion Picture & Television Fund and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.
“In two days I have found 20 people SAG-AFTRA owes money to,” she told Deadline. “I have spent my time explaining the process and putting together the best way to search and how to go from there. The amount of joy and gratitude expressed filled me with positive energy. It has been spiritually rewarding to be able to spend my downtime doing something positive for my peers instead of all the chaos, mayhem and stress. It is a way to pay forward and I am certain there will be many others inspired to take a crack at that long list to help find members who are due much needed money.”
Click here to see if you or someone you know is owed money – and how to collect it.
“As we face truly unprecedented times, the strain on all of us – every member of this great creative union – has taken a toll in ways unimaginable: on our lives, on our careers, on how we provide for ourselves, our families, our future,” she wrote in a letter to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White. “And now, more than ever, we must also provide for each other and stand together as union brothers and sisters – as never before. And as the country finally begins the slow process of returning to normalcy – the immediate future remains uncertain. Even with the unwavering support and financial assistance of our venerated union and industry charities and foundations, we believe there is more that SAG-AFTRA can do to ease the continuing financial pain for many of our fellow members.”
SAG-AFTRA’s residuals department is dedicated to finding members and their beneficiaries have unclaimed residuals. The guild’s website tells members that “If the union is holding unclaimed residuals, it is because we can’t locate you. We may not have current or updated information in our database or we may not know you are the rightful beneficiary/heir.”
In 2016, the guild teamed up with the Association of Talent Agents to make it easier for thousands of actors to collect their unclaimed residuals. At that time, the union was holding nearly $50 million in unclaimed SAG residuals for more than 100,000 performers it can’t locate.
“With the help and support of the Association of Talent Agents, SAG-AFTRA has introduced an additional process to help performers collect unclaimed residuals,” the union said at the time. “ATA has volunteered to provide its member agencies with instructions on how their clients can determine whether they are owed unclaimed residuals and, if so, how they can get this money released. By partnering with the ATA in this way, SAG-AFTRA will be able to ensure that even tough-to-find members are able to collect the residuals to which they’re entitled.”
Wilhelmine believes that an unclaimed residuals task force could aid that effort. “Please consider exploring the implementation of what we consider to be this essential new task force,” she said in her letter to the union’s leaders. “Our members, past and present, are due this money and we should, as a community of professional performers, do the right thing and exhaust all efforts in distributing these funds – in the spirit of true union solidarity. Let’s make this happen together.”
The letter was co-signed by Chuck Slavin, a New England local board member; Chip Carriere and Lance Nichols, members of New Orleans’ local board; Peter Antico, a Los Angeles local board member; Julia Schell, a New York local convention delegate, and New England members Andrea Zangla and Lori Vozzella.
LOS ANGELES – SAG-AFTRA today released the following statement regarding the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force Production Health and Safety Guidelines Submitted to Governor Newsom and Governor Cuomo:
“SAG-AFTRA, working jointly with our sister unions, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has officially signed on to the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force Production Health and Safety Guidelines, which were submitted today to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and which will be shared with other governors and government officials.
“This document is an initial set of principles and guidelines that we all agree form a relevant and realistic first step to protecting cast and crew in the reopening of the entertainment and media industry in its two largest markets.
“As we have reported previously, our draft protocols are being developed with advice and input from our epidemiologist and industrial sanitation experts, with guidance from member leaders, staff, our fellow unions and labor relations and sanitation officials. Our protocols will be completed and released in the coming days.
“We thank all of the organizations whose member representatives or appointees contributed to the work of the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force and are especially grateful to SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, and National Director of Stunt and Safety Cedric Jackson for guiding SAG-AFTRA’s contributions to the Task Force and document.
The Big 3 talent agencies, having already won a partial victory in their yearlong legal battle with the WGA over packaging fees, now are asking a federal judge to dismiss all of the guild’s remaining claims.
In a 25-page motion filed Wednesday, WME, CAA and UTA asked U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. to toss out the WGA’s remaining claims of price-fixing, unfair competition and breach of fiduciary duty.
On April 27, the agencies declared that they’d won a “resounding victory” after Birotte dismissed major portions of the WGA’s case when he ruled that the WGA lacks antitrust standing to pursue its federal price-fixing claim; lacks organizational standing to bring claims for breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud on behalf of its members; lacks standing to bring an Unfair Competition Law (UCL) cause of action on its own behalf; failed to plead racketeering activity by the agencies, and failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted with respect to its group boycott claims.
WGA Accuses Big 3 Talent Agencies Of ‘Multiple Misrepresentations’ To Judge Hearing Their Packaging Fees Dispute
The WGA filed an amended complaint on May 11 that sought to reinstate many of the claims the judge had dismissed, asking the court to “declare that packaging fees constitute a breach of the agencies’ fiduciary duties to their writer-clients,” and to find that “the agencies’ packaging fee practices constitute constructive fraud.”
The agencies, however, are now asking the judge to throw the WGA’s case out entirely, arguing that the counterclaimants – the WGA East and West and seven of their members – “fail to correct any of their prior pleading defects and assert a revised collection of counterclaims based upon substantively unchanged factual allegations.”
The judge allowed the guilds to proceed with their price-fixing claims under California’s Cartwright Act, but the agencies now argue that that claim “fails for a lack of antitrust standing,” and that “the guilds cannot bring claims for breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, or a Cartwright Act claim on behalf of their members.”
The agencies also argue that the Cartwright Act claims should be dismissed in their entirety “because neither the guilds nor any of their members have standing under California law.”
The agencies also told the judge that he should not reinstate the constructive fraud claims – which he already dismissed – that have been re-submitted by the seven individual writers in the case, because they have made “no new factual arguments” in their amended complaint – “just more rhetoric about how packaging constitutes fraud all of the time.”
Arguing against the WGA’s request for a court-ordered injunction that would bar packaging fees outright, the agencies also took issue with the WGA’s claim that it’s been harmed because it had to install a staffing submission system to help find jobs for its agentless members who in April 2019 were ordered by the WGA to fire their agents who refused to sign the WGA’s code of conduct, which banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities. Those mid-tier agencies that have signed the guild’s revised code can now continue packaging until the end of next year, unless any two of their competitors at the Big 3 and ICM Partners agree to sign the code before then.
“The Guilds allege that they have spent money to create a self-designed staffing system to replace services formerly performed by talent agents, including those at the Agencies here,” the Big 3 said in their latest motion. “Running an independent staffing service is of course a decision made by the Guilds, not a choice forced upon them by any conduct of the Agencies. This fact alone dooms any claim of Article III standing” under the Unfair Competition Law.
“Further, it is pure speculation that the Guilds’ ostensible need to provide this staffing service would be cured by an injunction to end packaging or to require the Agencies to make more specific packaging disclosures. Indeed, many talent agencies have already succumbed to the Code of Conduct, have resumed representing writers, and agreed to eventually cease providing packaging services to their writer-clients. Yet, the Guilds nonetheless allegedly continue to provide their staffing services. Further still, there is no way to know whether one or more of the Agencies here would ever agree to the Code of Conduct, which bans not only agency packaging but also content affiliates. Thus, it is not at all clear how an Unfair Competition Law injunction against Agency packaging would redress the Guilds’ purported need to provide staffing services.”
The agencies, noting that the issue of the WGA’s negotiations with these other talent agencies who have signed its code is not before the Court, said that the WGA East and West “also contend that they are suffering ongoing harm because ‘the Guilds have been required to accept Code revisions that phase out the ability of Guild-franchised talent agents to accept packaging fees on future projects instead of immediately barring such fees, and that are contingent in part upon at least one of the Agencies agreeing to the revised Code.’
“More specifically, the Guilds allege that because of their decision to permit other talent agencies — i.e., not the Agencies here– to temporarily continue packaging, the Guilds have been required, at least temporarily, to continue to ‘monitor’ packaging by other agencies and ‘educate’ their members about packaging.
“Putting aside the extraordinary nature of the Guilds’ acknowledgment that they are franchising agencies who continue to package – a practice that the Guilds purport to believe always amounts to a tort – it hardly supplies Article III standing. For one thing, it is hard to imagine a more obviously self-inflicted harm. For another, these allegations center around franchise agreements that the Guilds negotiated and executed with third parties who are not before the Court, and the conduct of third parties is insufficient to confer Article III standing as a matter of law.”
The agencies also told the judge that the packaging they still do involving actors and directors is not even involved in this matter, and will continue no matter the final disposition of this case. “Finally, the Guilds allege that packaging fees paid in deals involving other parties, e.g., an actor or a director, reduce Guild dues revenue. But the injunction the Guilds seek – against the Agencies packaging writers – does not even purport to stop the Agencies from continuing to package actors and directors and thus would not redress the purported – and implausible – harm of which the Guilds complain. Nor would the Guilds conceivably have standing to seek any injunction to stop the Agencies from providing packaging services that their non-writer clients continue to desire. This is yet another implausible over-reach to try to manufacture non-existent Article III standing under the UCL.”
A hearing of both sides’ motions has been set for July 10.