SAG vs. SAG 2: The battle of the words

fight-bear-cubsPreviously, I said that I’d wanted to hear about how the average actor is affected—or shafted—by the AMPTP’s stalling of the resumption of negotiations over residuals for new media projects. Leave it to super-awesome child actor-turned-writer-and-blogger Wil Wheaton and the actors who follow his blog to grant my wishes:

From Wil:

Allow me to give a little perspective on where I’m coming from: I’m a former member of SAG’s Hollywood board of directors. I’ve chaired committees, and I’ve sat in on negotiations. I’m about as pro-union and pro-actor as you can get, and I hate the insulting offer the AMPTP has given us. But I’m also a realist. If we go on strike in February, we won’t hurt the moguls enough to force them to negotiate with us, they’ll just fill up on “reality” programming and produce new works under the disastrous contract those idiots at AFTRA agreed to, while SAG’s health and pension plans are destroyed. We’ll definitely hurt our own members, and all of our friends from other departments who work with us on the set. Yeah, I realize that SAG’s first responsibility is to its own members, but we don’t exist in a vacuum, and we have to acknowledge that fact.

A commenter on this post linked to a letter of disagreement from actor Eric Bogosian (who recently appeared in the Golden Globes-nominated Cadillac Records), which has been reprinted on Deadline Hollywood Daily:

Firstly, we are a union, we are a voting membership. The producers are a commercial entity. The people with whom we negotiate are hired guns. They can be replaced if they don’t do their job. And up to now they haven’t done a very good job finishing this contract and their bosses know it. There are major motion pictures waiting to start shooting. They cannot proceed until there is a contract (and no possibility whatsoever of a strike). AMPTP is threatening us with a punitive situation. But the sword cuts both ways. This is our strength.

Secondly, the Internet is going to be vastly profitable to the AMPTP on a scale never before seen. The costs of doing business will go way down. The middle-men in foreign markets will disappear (you don’t need a distributor when you do down-loads and streaming). And the “units” will be exactly accountable. The advertisers will know exactly how many viewers will watch the TV shows and movies downloaded or streamed. And if we do this right, so will we. Our contracts have established that we should receive a percentage of revenue as “residuals,” why are we giving that up now?

Keith Coogan (one of Wheaton’s co-stars in Toy Soldiers) himself showed up in the comments to disagree with Wheaton:

The economic situation is not likely to improve significantly in the next three years. Now is the time to fight for a fair wage and working conditions.

Is S.A.G. there to worry about the public, the producers, the studios, or their performer members? Then let’s stand tough and resolute that these terms need to be met today. There will just be another excuse to not stand tough three years down the line.

What haven’t we learned from past negotiations with producers for VHS and DVD residuals? We got punked then, and we are getting punked now.

What would the motivating factor be for those 130 actors to ask us not to authorize a strike? Maybe they aren’t actually affected by these low level deals, and rarely ever work for scale or have to rely on residuals to pay the bills.

And finally, an airman who is also an actor joined in the fray:

I’m a military man, but I’ve done some acting on the side. I’m SAG-eligible from my work on ARMwSL (Alien Robot Movie [aka the live-action Transformers movie]with Shia LeBeouf). I’ve done stage and television as well. If I had the spare cash, I would absolutely join SAG. However, I’m with [the commenter named VDO Vault] on this.

Years ago, AMPTP swore that if actors took the home video residuals at the rate they were given, they would be readdressed in the next contract. Never happened. AMPTP in the WGA negotiations asked the writer’s to take the DVD residual increases off the table and didn’t offer a SINGLE thing in return. So, my currency with believing the AMPTP is spent. They say, sure we’ll talk more about new media next time around… but in the meantime, we’d like to take force majeure away from you. It’s hard to know which direction to be facing when you bend over because there is no shortage of studios who want to frak actors in the arse.

Now, if only someone could get me those actual numbers

Posted on December 17, 2008 at 22:36 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Around the Intertubes · Tagged with: ,