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Agents strike blow for SAG

Recent scuffle does not deter ATA from giving strike 'full support'

Despite a much publicized dustup earlier this year, the organization repping Hollywood’s agents is backing the Screen Actors Guild in its strike against commercials producers.

In a meeting attended by about 120 agents this week, the Assn. of Talent Agents told leaders of SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists that the organization is in “full support” of the unions’ goals in the work stoppage, now entering its fifth day with no new negotiations scheduled.

The ATA also advised agents not to do anything to undermine the strike, which means that the ten-percenters have been asked not to send nonunion talent out to commercial shoots.

The association, which represents more than 100 agencies, had asked the unions for the meeting. SAG’s chief negotiator, John McGuire, presented an update on the status of negotiations and the strike during the get-together.

Recent conflict

The pledges of support from agents come in sharp contrast to a major dispute that broke out in mid-February between the ATA and SAG. The agents contended at that point that they had negotiated a two-year waiver of SAG’s financial-interest rules that would have given agents the right to own and be owned by production companies.

However, SAG president William Daniels balked at the deal, which promised enhanced protections for actors, and the ATA withdrew it in March in favor of reopening negotiations on the entire contract. The ATA officially filed to open a six-month negotiating window two weeks ago.

ATA executive director Karen Stuart said previous disagreements with SAG had not created difficulties in her organization supporting the unions’ goals in the strike. “These are two completely separate issues,” she added.

Business as usual?

Meanwhile, the unions continued to attempt disruptions of commercial shoots Thursday in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco while producers contended that the level of activity has returned to normal after a dip at the start of the week. Protesters targeted commercials for Lexus, BellSouth, AT&T and Nike.

It was the second consecutive day that the strikers had targeted a shoot for Nike, which also saw golfer Tiger Woods cancel a scheduled spot on Tuesday. The unions spent more than seven hours at a shoot for the shoemaker on a Hollywood street Wednesday afternoon and evening, leading to Teamster drivers honoring the picket line.

Producers of the spot said they responded by using non-Teamster drivers to deliver equipment and claimed the job had been completed on schedule despite the disruptions.

The unions have scheduled a demonstration today in New York City at the Worth Monument and plan to stage a show of support tonight at the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park to thank Nomar Garciaparra for canceling a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial this week.

Negotiations between advertisers and actors collapsed three weeks ago, mainly over deep differences on the issue of how actors should be paid for commercials on cable and network. Actors want to be paid based on the number of times a commercial runs while advertisers are seeking a flat-rate buyout for all work.

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