Showbizreporting's Blog

June 2, 2009

SAG Solidarity Video

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 3:16 pm
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There is a video being circulated of a guy who speaks with sincerity and concern about webisodes and the like.   But I do take issue with his “facts.”   So – if you want the facts, read on:  

If even one covered performer is used in a webisode, (not only union members, but also many thousands of people who have worked in film, TV, and commercials and not members of any performers union), then the whole job is union (AFTRA).  Oh, and every job that the AMPTP companies do non-union they have to report to AFTRA on who they hired in any performing job, so AFTRA can verify there are no covered performers.  And they have to tell AFTRA what the budgets are, and be prepared to document the budgets.

What this means is that AFTRA (but not SAG, because we are still working without a contract) will be assembling a database of all this vital information about to what extent the studios are utilizing this non-union experiment, how much production is getting made, at what budgets, and who they’re hiring as actors.  And the WGA gets the same info in their jurisdiction, and the DGA in theirs.  But not SAG.

And the most important thing that the DGA, WGA and AFTRA have achieved, and SAG has not, is that they have been recognized by our employers (the AMPTP) as the collective bargaining agents for the work that their unions cover.  Since AFTRA members ratified the contract, only AFTRA has recognized jurisdiction over actors in New Media.  SAG may assert jurisdiction, but to this point, we have gotten no recognition from management. That means that under labor law the AMPTP doesn’t even have to discuss New Media with us.

Jurisdiction in NM is the big “get” of the 2008 negotiations.  Only SAG under Doug, Alan and MF have failed to recognize that, and achieve it.  Our narrator also fails to grasp the importance of what the DGA. WGA and AFTRA have achieved.

Some questions about the video:

How many of these “hundreds” of webisode projects  that he sites are being produced by AMPTP companies, non-union, under and AFTRA contract?  We don’t know, because he doesn’t say.  Seems that if WB, Universal, Paramount, Sony, or any other major studio were on those breakdowns, we would hear about it.  It seems that the vast majority of them have nothing to do with AFTRA or their contract or even SAG and our contract…. Because they are not being made by our employers with whom we are supposed to be bargaining.

b)  Let us assume that mine is a specious argument.  Let’s say for a minute that many of these are being made under AFTRA deals under the new agreement, non-union.  How would that lead us to conclude that we ought to have been working without a SAG contract for the past 8 months and that we should authorize a strike now? Even if we made an absolute dream deal – these webisodes would not be made under SAG jurisdiction.  Why would the producers produce these under union contracts when they could be made under AFTRA’s provisional contract?  This is the reality which Doug, Alan, seem strangely unwilling to acknowledge.  They let it get away.

d)  What exactly are these projects that average 3-5 actors/webisode?  They sure sound like small, short films.  Isn’t that what people have been making so far for the net?  We don’t know, do we?  Because he didn’t tell us.  He mentioned how many there were, and he mentioned how little they pay.  But he never mentioned what kind of projects they are, or who’s making them.

How many of these “hundreds” of webisode projects are being produced by AMPTP companies, non-union, under and AFTRA contract?   Seems that if WB, Universal, Paramount, Sony, or any other major studio were on those breakdowns, we would hear about it. But the guy in the video did not say.   It seems that the vast majority of them have nothing to do with AFTRA or their contract or even SAG and our contract…. Because they are not being made by our employers with whom we are supposed to be bargaining.

One of the reasons the studios cited for wanting to be able to experiment at these budget levels was that people were already making webisodes – primarily non-union.  Only a handful have been made under SAG contracts – 800 since 2001.  That’s about eight days of production at the current production pace, according to our narrator.  So, clearly, this has been a completely non-union area of production till now.

The studios wanted to see if there was a way for them to get into this directly… if the economics would make sense.  And the DGA (then WGA and AFTRA) decided that they would rather get these new filmmakers in under our tent, then leave them out there in the strictly non-union world.  

And just once I would like to hear someone say exactly how they think we have any leverage to get this life-or-death deal done.  They never do.  They just keep insisting it must happen.  I mean no disrespect to the guy in the video.  I will say it again:  AFTRA improved the tv series contracts and got their foot in the door on webisodes.  SAG doesn’t even have a feature film nor tv contract, let alone new media.  

Why that guy is not making a video supporting the need  for merger, I do not know.  Wait a minute – he DID.  If we want any piece of NM – we had better get it together and unite.

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