Daniels plays it close to the vest

SAG to play prominent role in negotiations

The Screen Actors Guild will return to the spotlight soon, adding volatility to Hollywood’s already troubled labor outlook.

Thanks to Thursday’s suspension of contract talks by the Writers Guild of America, SAG will play an increasingly prominent role in negotiations with studios and networks. Officially, SAG has only been an observer at the WGA’s six weeks of film-TV contract talks, but some of its leaders and members are ready for a strike.

Officially, SAG played it close to the vest. Prexy William Daniels expressed both disappointment and solidarity at a WGA news conference while still saying a strike can be averted by the time SAG’s contract expires on June 30. “There is a deal to be worked out,” he added.

But SAG insiders were distressed about the apparent hardline from studios and nets on financial issues and may become much more vocal about their displeasure, partly because the offer to SAG will likely feature what are perceived as similarly minimal gains. The companies’ last proposal to the WGA included no hikes on video/DVD or basic cable residuals.

Although Daniels said no timetable has been worked out, SAG leaders expect a proposal to be ready early April, a few days after the SAG national plenary meeting. SAG’s national board appointed former WGA West negotiator Brian Walton as its chief negotiator in a sign that the actors are likely to follow the WGA’s lead closely.

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