SAG's next issue will be with agents

Even though a new film-TV deal is in hand, the Screen Actors Guild won’t disappear from the radar any time soon.

The key issue now facing the guild and recently named CEO John Cooke is its stalemate with the Assn. of Talent Agents over financial interest rules.

Agents are demanding that SAG ease rules barring them from having an ownership interest in or being partly owned by production and distribution companies. They argue that the rules are outmoded; SAG contends that loosening the ban will create an unacceptable conflict of interest even with ATA-proposed protections for actors.

Last month Zino Macaluso, SAG director of agency relations, invited the ATA to jointly host an open forum on the subject. The ATA has not yet replied, but Macaluso said recently that he was “confident” the agents’ group would participate.

SAG prexy William Daniels has said the Guild will participate in state legislative hearings, tentatively set for August or September, covering talent agents and managers before it returns to the bargaining table with ATA. The two sides have not negotiated for seven months and SAG’s agency operating rules expire Jan. 20.

SAG will also attract attention in other areas in coming months:

  • Its election campaigns culminate in October and prexy Daniels, 74, has not yet indicated if he will seek another two-year term.

  • SAG still has to fill key slots including Hollywood branch exec director and national associate exec director.

  • Finances continue to be a problem. Towers Perrin consultants last year recommended cutting $8 million from SAG’s $50 million budget, including shrinking the national board from 105 members and shuttering 19 regional offices; SAG execs disagree on whether the guild should commit to a $56 million lease for a new Gotham branch ( Daily Variety, June 27).

  • The guild must work on improving relationships with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which jointly negotiates with SAG in areas of common jurisdiction. SAG members voted down a merger in 1999.

  • SAG is pushing for federal legislation to stem the tide of runaway production.
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