The studios are fretting about a new strike-related headache: What actions are open to them if the Screen Actors Guild bars its stars from promoting their summer films?
Hollywood’s growing fear of a SAG strike is starting to cause headaches for publicists handling pics set for release in July and beyond, particularly on the broadcast side. “We’ve been trying to set junkets and taping interviews before the strike but there’s only so much you can do at this point,” one said.
Another said a SAG ban on promo work might cause shifts in release dates away from the July-September zone, now viewed as the most likely strike period.
SAG’s goal in crafting such a broad strike order would be to build pressure on studios to settle quickly.
However, barring promo activity could generate a backlash from high-profile members, particularly those with deals tied to box office performance. Additionally, studios would likely strongly oppose any such move by arguing that promo work cannot be covered by a strike order because performers have alreadly been paid.
“It’s somewhat ambiguous whether promo work really qualifies as struck material,” one exec said. Studios would probably file an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, but fast action from that agency would be a longshot.
SAG has been mum on whether it will allow members to continue doing promo and publicity for features if the union goes on strike after its June 30 contract expiration.
The issue could be decided at SAG’s upcoming national plenary meetings in Los Angeles at the end of next week. Spokesman Greg Krizman said the guild has made no decision, but added that the upcoming confab may give leaders the opportunity to spell out a specific policy.
SAG showed a surprisingly hard-line stance during last year’s six-month work stoppage against advertisers, and in 1980 it ordered its members to refrain from promo activity during a three-month strike that began in late July. But some leaders have indicated they might not impose such a ban this summer because promo opportunities could offer high-profile members a platform to voice support for a strike.
During the last months of the ad strike, stars such as Rosie O’Donnell, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Robbins, David Hyde Pierce and Tom Selleck, among others, made repeated appearances on TV and radio shows to endorse the work stoppage. Additionally, dozens of actors wore gold ribbons in support of SAG at the Primetime Emmy Awards last year.
SAG’s cause received a boost in August when “The West Wing” exec producer John Wells gave back a Family Television Award for the series after Allison Janney’s comments in support of the strike were edited out of the telecast.
” ‘The West Wing’ is not interested in an award from an organization that supports censorship of free speech,” said Wells, also president of the Writers Guild of America West.
SAG leaders are expecting plenty of fireworks at the plenary meeting, which will likely include several hot-button issues such as a recommendation to shrink the size of the board from 105 seats, the stalled negotiations with the Assn. of Talent Agents over operating rules and the possibility of issuing waiver agreements that would give independent producers a strike exemption.
Recent SAG board meetings have often seen outbursts and delays, so the guild has hired professional parliamentarian James H. Stewart of Los Angeles to ensure that the board adheres to Robert’s Rules of Order.