RSA helmer, exex dismissed after protests

RSA USA, following a week of outraged reaction over a mocking ad aimed at striking actors (Daily Variety, May 17), announced Wednesday it has severed its business relationships with director Marcus Nispel and two other executives associated with the spot.

RSA, which is owned by directors and brothers Tony and Ridley Scott, said Nispel had resigned. The German-born director has been RSA’s highest-profile helmer and had generated an estimated $30 million in billings last year.

RSA also ended its relationships with managing director Linda Ross, sales arm Creative Management Partners and CMP’s Tim Case.

The ad featured a bare-breasted elderly black woman with the declaration “In South Africa, this is what SAG means.”

In interviews with Daily Variety, Ross and Nispel both defended the ad, which appeared in Shoot magazine. Nispel claimed that his friends “got a good chuckle” from the spot.

The Scotts apologized last week for the ad, calling it a “huge mistake,” but SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists — now in their 25th day of a strike against advertisers — had insisted that the apology did not go far enough.

The union had also been provoked by news that Nispel had set up an office in South Africa “where production is cost effective and they’ve never heard of SAG.”

The unions had labeled the ad as racist, sexist and tasteless along with an attempt to engage in union-busting. Two protest rallies have been held at RSA’s West Hollywood offices and union picketers attempted to disrupt RSA shoots this week.

RSA’s publicist said the dismissals were only related to the ad and not to job performance.

Nispel is known as a demanding director, in part due to the considerable notice he gained two years ago after publication of his 64-page “Manifesto” setting down detailed guidelines for shooting and crew behavior on the set. He had been set to direct “End of Days” but left the project a few days before shooting started.

Some members of the ad production community said Wednesday that Nispel’s influence had caused the atmosphere at RSA to become strained even prior to the ad. Nispel was not available for comment.

RSA also announced that Jules Daly, a producer with RSA for more than 10 years, had been named to replace Ross. Additionally, it said Andrea Marcucci had been transferred from RSA’s United Kingdom office, where she had been responsible for inhouse sales, and will take sales inquiries at RSA’s New York office.

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