Move reps step to establish independence from actors

Raising the stakes in the dispute with the Screen Actors Guild, the chief negotiator for agents plans to ask state agencies in California and New York to broaden regulations to include many rules from the expired operating agreement with SAG.

Move by Karen Stuart, chief exec of the Assn. of Talent Agents, will represent a step by agents to establish independence from SAG following the collapse of talks Nov. 7.

Stuart noted that agents will be able to voluntarily decide whether to offer clients contracts that include the additional rules rather than the current “general service” agreement.

“We have a duty to protect our clients’ interests by creating new state guidelines, since the SAG regulations have expired,” Stuart said. “That is the whole reason why ATA would create a new model for terms and conditions that will offer many of the protections from the SAG agreement.”

The announcement also underscores the continuing rift between SAG and agents over the timing of the expiration date of the agreement, which entered into a 15-month termination period on Oct. 20. SAG insists the rules remain in effect; the ATA and Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives — while declaring that their members will continue to rep clients as they always have — claim the agreement has become defunct.

Stuart plans to meet with California Labor Commissioner Art Lujan and with the Dept. of Consumer Affairs in New York. The goal is to make available an enhanced version of those states’ “general service” agreements governing agents. Key additional components from the SAG rules will include regulations over the 10% commission, continuity of management and actors’ rights to terminate contracts after 91 days.

Stuart said the revised state agreements could be in place as early as March, once they have been approved by state regulators following clearance by ATA and NATR boards and members.

SAG ready to talk

Last week, SAG announced plans to reopen negotiations shortly with the agents over the expired agreement but gave no timetable for resuming the talks. Stuart said Thursday that SAG reps have not contacted her about setting up a meeting.

SAG spokesman Greg Krizman reiterated the union’s position that it wants to relaunch the talks. “We are anxious to restart the negotiations and resolve these issues in a manner that is mutually satisfying,” he said.

That may be difficult since the SAG committee that negotiated with the agents has insisted it cannot give in on the agents’ key demand to loosen financial-interest restrictions and allow agents to own noncontrolling interests in companies engaged in production and vice versa. The agents’ most recent proposals included 11 protections, including waiver of the commission, but SAG has maintained that relaxing those rules would create conflict-of-interest problems.

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