Showbizreporting's Blog

June 2, 2009

FILM WORKERS PROTEST AGAINST STRIKE AT SAG MEETING

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 12:37 am
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Film workers protest against strike at SAG meeting
By RYAN NAKASHIMA


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A dozen film industry workers protested outside a town hall meeting of the Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday night, pleading with actors not to authorize a strike that would bring the entertainment business to a halt.

The workers held up signs saying “Please No Strike Now — The Crew” in the rain outside the complex housing the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.

SAG is preparing to send out strike authorization ballots Jan. 2, which could imperil the gala awards night on Feb. 22 if actors boycott.

The group of protesters, location scouts, technicians and camera-equipment vendors said work has dried up since the actors’ contract expired in June because studios have delayed making new movies for fear of a damaging walkout.

“Since the last contract expired in June, it’s basically killed the feature film business,” said Rob Frank, a 48-year-old location manager from Los Angeles. “People are losing their homes. I just think the timing is off for a strike.”

Since wrapping location shooting on Disney’s “Bedtime Stories” in August, Frank said he has been out of a job. “I’m usually going from movie to movie to movie with no break in between,” he said.

The demonstration was the latest sign of unhappiness with the guild. On Monday, some SAG members at a meeting in New York chastised President Alan Rosenberg and asked him to resign.

“Being in New York, it was very discouraging,” said Anne-Marie Johnson, an actress and spokeswoman for the Membership First faction of the guild that supports Rosenberg.

The New York group of SAG board members issued a letter Friday calling a strike vote irresponsible and demanding the negotiating committee be replaced.

More than 130 A-list actors including Cameron Diaz and Pierce Brosnan also came out against a strike in a letter made public this week.

In contrast, Wednesday night’s meeting in Hollywood was “the exact opposite of the New York meeting,” Rosenberg said afterward. Among the some 500 actors in attendance, he said, “we had overwhelming support in there.”

He said he remained confident that the guild would win the required 75 percent approval for strike authorization.

“Right now, we’re talking about putting that tool in our hands to get a deal,” he said. “We’ve never not gotten one before.”

According to several people in attendance, more than half of the several dozen speakers supported giving the board the authorization to call a strike, though several were fearful about losing work in a weakened economy.

Actor Ed Asner, 79, said a strike was necessary to achieve the guild’s goals and that the length of a possible walkout depends on the Hollywood studios. “It all depends on how greedy they are for product.”

Comedian Rob Schneider denounced fellow high-profile actors such as George Clooney, who have repeatedly called for the guild to agree to a deal without a strike.

“It’s a shame these high-profile actors are undermining their own union,” Schneider said after the meeting.

The guild is seeking union coverage for all Internet-only productions regardless of budget, residual payments for Internet productions replayed in ad-supported platforms online, and continued actor benefits during work stoppages, including those caused by strikes by other unions.

The studios have said a formula for payment in new media formats has already been agreed upon by directors, another actors union and writers, whose 100-day strike derailed the Golden Globe Awards in January.

It is urging SAG’s 120,000 members to agree to the same deal.

Elliott Gould, a 70-year-old actor who played one of the plotters in the “Ocean’s” movie series, said he confronted the group of anti-strikers outside.

“I said, ‘Look, we respect you as much we respect ourselves,” Gould said. “‘But don’t threaten me.'”

The strike vote must be approved by 75 percent of voting members to succeed. If it is approved, the SAG national board can call a strike. Votes will be counted on Jan. 23.

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