ENTERTAINMENT NEWS: ANOTHER STRIKE BREWING?

ACTORS’ DEAL EXPIRES WITH NO PACT ON THE HORIZON

July 1 has come and gone with no deal in place which would prevent another crippling strike in Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reportedly reached an impasse in their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the previous agreement, which expired at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning. While the two sides are scheduled to meet today, public statements by AMPTP representatives make clear that the studios are unwilling to consider any changes to their final proposal which they transmitted on Monday, June 30.

For its part, SAG has acknowledged that the studios’ final proposal is “generally consistent” with the agreements that the studios brokered with other guilds, including SAG’s sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The studios first reached agreement with the Directors Guild of America in January. That agreement helped facilitate a resolution with the Writers Guild of America after an extended writers strike which halted production virtually across the board. Recently, the studios reached agreement with AFTRA on a new agreement with that union. The voting results of the AFTRA membership should be known some time next week.

Apparently, those deals are not good enough for some at SAG.

SAG HARDLINERS WANT MORE

SAG, with thousands of members who are also AFTRA members, has lobbied for the rejection of the proposed AFTRA-AMPTP deal. In that vein, SAG’s chief negotiator, executive director Doug Allen, immediately criticized the studios’ offer. At the heart of the criticism lies proposed compensation for new media, advertising woven into content and DVD residuals. Jack Nicholson, among some A-list actors, support SAG’s criticism of the proposed AFTRA deal, claiming that AFTRA could do better.

Others like Tom Hanks support the AFTRA deal, fearing what another prolonged strike could do to the industry. In fact, if you believe the studios, production is already being impacted by the mere possibility of an actors strike. The AMPTP warns that SAG members would lose millions a day in wages while the impact on other industry guilds would be equally devastating.

THE REALITY

While there is never a “good” time for a strike, an actors strike could not come at a worst possible time. The economy is in terrible shape. The California economy specifically, long reliant upon a healthy entertainment industry to provide jobs and other economic opportunities, would suffer yet another devastating blow if the actors were to shut down production for the second time in twelve months. Naturally, the effects of any work stoppage are felt more by those who are unable to withstand the economic fallout. So while most A-list actors (and directors, writers, etc.) could probably weather another halt in production, the less established talent and crew would likely suffer. I know casting directors, assistants, producers — all of whom depend on that next gig to pay their bills. With rising gas prices, falling real estate values and the consumer credit crunch, another entertainment industry shut down would tax an already overburdened California economy.

So while it’s certainly understandable that there is a faction of SAG officials and members who view this as an opportunity to get concessions that would benefit their membership, I agree with Hanks and others who counsel a more temperate strategy. The DGA, WGA and AFTRA have all reached a middle ground with the AMPTP. By many accounts, the studios gave concessions in those deals that (in previous years) they were never willing to give to the guilds. SAG would give the entertainment industry a boost if it follows a similar path as these other guilds and avoids a work stoppage. No matter what concessions SAG might ultimately gain after a strike (if any), no one wins if there is another prolonged industry shutdown. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that.

That’s my $.02.