HOLLYWOOD — Kevin Spacey, asserting that runaway production could wipe out the Screen Actors Guild, has reiterated his plea for SAG members to refuse work on non-union contracts.
“Our response to this situation should be clear and simple: No SAG contract, no SAG actor,” Spacey said in a letter to the 98,000 SAG members. He labeled the missive “On Being a Member in Good Standing” and said the issue is a “matter of extreme urgency.”
“We must remind ourselves and give this industry a gentle reminder: There has never been filmed entertainment produced without the actor,” he said. “If we stand in solidarity, we have the power to achieve what we’ve fought to achieve over the past 68 years — residuals; health and pension benefits; safe working conditions and fair wages no matter where our work takes us.”
Spacey made the appeal in SAG’s latest member newsletter and again at a Sunday night party to honor SAG’s Emmy nominees at Deep in Hollywood. The event marked the kickoff of an informational push by SAG’s national board for enforcement of Rule One of SAG’s constitution, which explicitly bars members from working for producers who are not signatory to SAG agreements.
SAG’s board has not yet decided whether to toughen enforcement, and SAG staff has looked the other way when it comes to disciplining members who violate Rule One by working non-union contracts to foreign work on films and TV.
“It is no secret that many of our members find themselves in a position where they must negotiate a contract for employment under a non-SAG contract outside of the United States,” Spacey said. “As part of the inducement, they are sometimes told that they will be given SAG working conditions but at the same time they must give up their residuals and their health and welfare contributions to this union. I can understand how difficult it is for an actor to resist an offer to work.”
Spacey said SAG members need to spurn such work because its growth has led to reduced contributions to the SAG-industry pension and health plan. The toll of runaway production was cited as a factor in the tightening of eligibility requirements for the plan (Daily Variety, July 31).
“The practice of forming offshore shell companies in order to sidestep the SAG agreement has become prevalent by almost every signatory to our basic agreement,” he asserted. “Producers are trying to reduce the production budgets on the backs of our members.”
SAG also launched a petition drive of its members on in its Web site Sunday with a letter signed by Spacey, Lawrence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Valerie Harper and Holly Hunter. “Now is the time to recognize that global enforcement equates to survival,” part of the letter said.
During this year’s film-TV contract negotiations, SAG sought to expand the “scope” of the contract beyond U.S. borders and contended that rising levels of foreign shooting in less expensive locales have led to safety problems and declining P&H contributions. Sources said the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers responded that the proposal was not a “mandatory subject of bargaining” because the producers in question are not AMPTP members.
Spacey issued a similar appeal in January at SAG’s national membership meeting, leading to the 300 members present approving an advisory motion that the national board to step up Rule One enforcement. Tess Harper, who was part of SAG’s negotiating team, made a similar pitch in March for a campaign to reach name actors who carry enough clout to get projects greenlit.