New agent agenda

SAG to consider percentery proposals

A committee of the Screen Actors Guild has agreed to fast-track a set of “partnership proposals” governing relations with talent agents that was put to it by a group of agents and the Assn. of Talent Agents at a special confab last Saturday.

That’s the assertion of several on the agent side who attended the meeting and sought to broaden the way percenteries do business.

The proposals cover a range of issues, including foreign residuals, relations with Internet companies and a code-of-conduct clause covering agents under which percenteries would post a performance bond against the default of any individual talent rep.

Under the proposals, talent agencies would be allowed to invest in media companies and vice versa — a logical next linkup, according to those who attended.

Significantly, however — and contrary to earlier published reports — no such investments would be permitted involving networks or traditional studios. Nor were there proposals on the table which would allow agents to produce films or TV shows the way personal managers are allowed to do.

The Saturday confab at the Sheraton Universal marked the first time in 70 years that a delegation of talent reps was invited to go before a national SAG body (which regulates talent agencies) to discuss issues of mutual interest. The meeting involved some five agents and 150 SAG delegates.

In the free-ranging discussion, the agents debated the impact of foreign monoliths like Canal Plus and Kirch on their business and how these investments would affect foreign residuals. Also discussed was the potential boost in employment thanks to the Internet.

The agents emphasized that they were “union guys,” but that every day agents were defecting to the ranks of managers, thus becoming effectively part of “management.”

Media reports seeking to portray the agents’ proposal as an inherent conflict of interest were widely refuted Monday by attendees who insisted the agents were “not seeking to be producers” but merely to upgrade their businesses the same way the TV and exhib businesses have been extensively reformed in the last five decades.

Examples cited were the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, which prevented “undue concentration of TV and radio ownership,” according to the bill, and the 1948 Paramount Consent Decree, which revoked studios’ right to own movie theaters. In explaining the need for continued dialogue, one attendee said agents currently operate in a system that won’t fit the way their business is going unless it is modernized.

The Saturday discussion was “open and collegial,” one attendee concluded, expressing optimism over the practical results.

A SAG spokesman confirmed that the ATA made a proposal and that the board referred it for further comment, but that “beyond that, there’s nothing else I can say; it’s just too premature to make any predictions.”

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