Brian Walton, who served as SAG’s lead negotiator for the new film-TV contract, has offered a strong endorsement of the union’s nascent efforts to extend its contract beyond the United States.
Walton, appearing at a forum organized by the Morrison & Foerster law firm to review the negotiations, said the “global enforcement” campaign of Screen Actors Guild contracts could represent progress toward stemming the trends of runaway production to lower-cost locations.
SAG’s national board has launched an informational push on the issue by asking high-profile members to refuse work on non-SAG contracts outside the United States. Although Rule One of SAG’s constitution explicitly bars members from working for producers who are not signatory to SAG agreements, SAG’s enforcement has been lax when it comes to foreign work.
“My suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to challenge members to do that,” Walton said. “They understand that unions can elevate the price of labor.”
When SAG presented its initial film-TV contract proposal to studios and networks in May, it included expansion of the “scope” of the contract beyond U.S. borders. Union negotiators subsequently contended that rising levels of foreign shooting in less expensive locales have led to safety problems and declining pension and health contributions.
But the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers responded by saying the idea was not a “mandatory subject of bargaining” because the producers in question are not AMPTP members even though they are affiliated with the same parent companies. Walton admitted that progress on the issue will be complex.
“The goal is to have some sort of a universal standard so it requires an international approach,” he said.
Walton, who served as chief exec for the Writers Guild of America West between 1985 and 1998, also plans to continue living in Paris for now and has not yet decided on his next step.
“I can see the Eifel Tower from my apartment and I always get allergies when I come to Los Angeles,” he added.