The advertising industry, attempting to demoralize striking actors, has reported that commercial session fees from mid-May to mid-June have fallen 73% from the same period last year for members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
“This almost three-fourths drop in union session fees demonstrates the already dramatic impact of the strike on union talent,” said Ira Shepard, a negotiator for the Assn. of National Advertisers and the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies. “This means a loss of tens of millions of dollars in residuals to SAG/AFTRA actors. It will substantially decrease SAG health and pension fund contributions.”
But the unions, continuing to dispute every point from advertisers, insisted the advertisers’ numbers are bogus and that session fees during May actually rose even though the actors began striking May 1.
The discrepancy is due partly to advertisers’ not including celebrity payments in their calculations, which show SAG members’ daily session fees declined to less than $800,000 from $3.61 million for the periods between May 17 and June 16 while AFTRA fees fell to $361,180 from $1.61 million.
The advertisers also announced last week that non-union actors made $3 million in session fees during the period; 15 times their payout in the same period of 1999.
The advertisers based their numbers on data from Talent Payroll, an independent firm handling payroll services for 80% of the industry. SAG continued to dispute the advertisers’ numbers and insisted that May’s session fees for actors rose 23% to $16.5 million, according to figures supplied by the pension and health plans.
Spokesman Greg Krizman said the increase was due largely to actors being paid in May for holding fee renewals that were agreed to before the strike.
Shepard said the monthly total from daily session fees prior to the strike, minus celebrity payments and renewals, never exceed $6 million.
Biz ‘as usual’
Shepard said Monday that the industry operated at normal levels during May 17-June 16 by shooting 862 commercials, or about 9% of 1999’s overall output of nearly 10,000 spots. “It really does demonstrate that we are operating business as usual,” he added. “It may not be 100% but it’s well over 95%.”
The unions have disputed that contention, claiming that production in traditional centers like Los Angeles and New York has dwindled and that the shooting in foreign and secondary domestic locations has not made up for the shortfall.
In another development, the advertisers said they will oppose a motion by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg that would bar producers from using public property for commercial shoots as long as the strike continues.
Chief negotiator John McGuinn said such a rule would unlawfully pre-empt the National Labor Relations Act, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that municipalities cannot pass laws regulating labor relations.