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Letter to the Editor: Michael Harrah

Rick Siegel’s full-page ad in Daily Variety(Sept. 25) points up all too clearly why the Screen Actors Guild wants to eliminate the Safe Harbor Provision in the California Talent Agency Act — it has been egregiously abused.

The intent of the Safe Harbor provision was to provide protection to personal managers who were working at the express request and with the specific permission of a licensed talent agent. Since then, many personal managers have used the cover of this provision to work almost exclusively without even the slightest involvement of a talent agent. Therefore, they are enjoying all the powers of a talent agent without any of the restrictions.

Meanwhile, SAG is faced with a dilemma: To allow talent agents to be involved as “financial interests” in production companies clearly threatens the agent’s fiduciary responsibility to its clients — SAG’s members. But to deny talent agents the opportunity to compete equally with wholly unregulated personal managers will probably mean the end of the talent agencies as we know them.

Therefore, the only sensible solution is to restrict the abusive practices of personal managers. If a manager wants the privileges of a talent agent, then he or she should obtain a talent agency license.

This firm has been in the personal management business for many years. Prior to the Safe Harbor provision, we operated strictly in an advisory capacity. Since the Safe Harbor provision was passed, we have been privileged to work with a number of wonderful talent agents in an expanded capacity. But we have never attempted to eliminate talent agents from the equation, and I never wish to.

Perhaps our lawmakers can find some way to preserve Safe Harbor, assuage the talent agents, protect the actors and still rein in the renegade managers. The Screen Actors Guild certainly hopes so, as do many personal managers who are appalled at the way in which some of our colleagues seem to have hijacked our profession.

— Michael Harrah

Personal Manager, JLO West

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