Plan proposes merging with manager duties

The ruling body of the Screen Actors Guild met late Monday to consider proposals by agents that would significantly expand how agencies operate.

The union’s national executive board for the western region met for several hours at SAG’s Los Angeles headquarters to discuss the issue, two months after a SAG committee agreed to fast-track a set of “partnership proposals” formulated by the Assn. of Talent Agents and a group of agents.

SAG, which regulates the agents through its charter, began meeting with agents last year in response to complaints that SAG’s agent rules are outdated in today’s environment. Agents claim the rules have placed them at a competitive disadvantage with personal managers, particularly with managers assuming the role of agents by seeking work for their clients in defiance of industry constraints.

A key part of the agents’ initial proposal asked that agents and media companies be free to invest in each other. In early December the agents also proposed new rules covering foreign residuals and relations with Internet companies as well as a code-of-conduct clause under which agencies would post a performance bond against the default of individual agents.

Negotiations between the two sides appear to have gathered momentum in recent weeks. Any agreement would have to be approved by both the board’s western and eastern regions.

SAG officials have indicated they are sympathetic to the pressures agencies face, but have remained cautious about changing the rules. In a recent interview, SAG president William Daniels said giving agents more power will have profound implications.

“Giving agents the right to deal as managers would change the lives of actors down the road,” he added. “The meetings are difficult. Some kind of workable formula has to be put into place.”

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