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Let’s Make A Deal: SAG Strike Looking More Likely

The continued standstill between the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to re-negotiate a new contract makes a strike look increasingly likely. The previous contract expired June 30, 2008.

On October 1, SAG’s negotiating committee asked its 120,000 members to vote to allow strike authorization for its national board, reassuring members that said authorization won’t necessarily lead to a strike, but it will give SAG more leverage in its negotiations. The board will need 75% of the vote to be granted strike authorization.

To this, the AMPTP responded in a written statement: “SAG negotiators seem determined to force another unnecessary, harmful strike. Why else would SAG negotiators be unreasonably insisting, at a time of national economic collapse, on a better deal than the ones achieved by the other Hollywood Guilds much earlier this year, during much better economic times?”

The Writers Guild Association, Director’s Guild Association, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have all signed new studio contracts within the past year, which doesn’t make AMPTP likely to concede to SAG anytime soon. SAG’s main dissatisfaction with the proposed contract regards online film and video rights and fees for Internet and DVD content, among others, and they don’t appear to be backing down.

What does this mean for almost everyone in the film industry? Two things: It looks like we’re in it for the long haul. And it’s great to be independent.

Last October, SAG’s National Board of Directors approved The Guaranteed Completion Contract Policy, which allows independent productions to keep filming in the event of a strike, provided they don’t have any financial ties or distribution deals with an AMPTP-repped company. Also, they must agree to accept in advance any deal SAG might negotiate. Guaranteed Completion Contracts (GCCs) are granted at the sole discretion of SAG and interested producers will have to complete an application form.

SAG has not confirmed which productions have received GCCs, but an August 15 press release posted on its SAG’s website confirmed 658 waivers had been signed. Some of these independent projects include: Edge of Darkness, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Mel Gibson; W, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Josh Brolin; My One and Only, with Renee Zellweger and Chris Noth; Bad Lieutenant, starring Nicholas Cage; Labor Pains, starring Lindsay Lohan; and Brooklyn’s Finest, with Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle.

In the same press release, the guild notes that 1,296 SAG-covered feature films were shot in 2007, and that SAG-GCC agreements have allowed more than half of that number of potential films to shoot to completion this year.

SAG may hope the waivers pressure big studios, such as Paramount and Warner Bros., to renegotiate quickly, as each release proves the film industry can move on without them.

In a typical Hollywood twist, a strike could actually benefit indie filmmakers, as big-named actors may have little else to do besides star in independent productions

Related Links:
SAG: www.sag.org
SAGIndie: www.sagindie.org
AMPTP: www.amptp.org

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