SAG confronts its doomsday scenario

Pisano has no plan for dealing with agency deal

What happens if SAG members vote down the deal with agents?

The voting results, to be announced Friday, will come on the heels of a bitter campaign that has split the already fractious membership. Guild staff, which has been promoting the deal partly by warning that agents may disenfranchise and won’t be willing to renegotiate, won’t say what it will do beyond noting the matter will be on the agenda of the next day’s national board meeting.

SAG board members were astounded a month ago when CEO Bob Pisano told them that there was no plan if the members gave a thumbs-down to the deal, which eases agency ownership restrictions within the SAG master franchise agreement.

Proponents claim agents will have the power to sign actors to new deals (General Service Agreements) lifting the current 10% limit on commissions and greatly expanding the range of thesp revenues that can be commissioned; opponents say such contentions are far-fetched and a fear-based tactic to persuade members that they are powerless over agents.

SAG execs will give no hint of what they will recommend to the national board, which split 57-44 in voting for the deal. “We would never disclose a contingency plan to the other side, much less the press,” Pisano said Monday. “That would not serve the interests of SAG members.”

The Assn. of Talent Agents and the Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives, which negotiated the deal with SAG, won’t say what they will do if a “no” vote comes either. SAG’s master franchise agreement was unofficially extended by both sides once the Jan. 20 deadline passed; deal opponents have proposed that SAG simply reoffer the franchise and tell agents they must sign it in order to rep SAG members.

Some indication of possible moves emerged Monday as Hollywood board member Gordon Drake proposed five options if the vote goes against the deal:

  • SAG can offer those who want to remain agents the existing franchise agreement without change.

  • The existing franchise agreement can be offered with the understanding that changes will be made within a set period.

  • SAG can continue to allow the agents to work without a franchise, as it is doing now, and launch negotiations with interested agents.

  • The SAG board could offer “waivers” to the franchise agreement on a case by case basis.

  • A new franchise agreement could be revised on an ongoing basis until a final draft is made through negotiations.

“There are always options,” Drake concluded. “Needless to say the membership (and the board) has been misled regarding the possibilities if the membership turns this down.”

But ATA exec director Karen Stuart disputed Drake’s interpretations and declared SAG would be legally precluded from taking such steps. “I agree with almost nothing of what Gordon Drake said,” she added.

If the three-year agreement gets approval from the members, it would go into effect July 1.

AFTRA protest

In another development, SAG 7th VP Laird Stuart announced he had filed for “honorable withdrawal” status from AFTRA to protest the AFTRA national board’s approval of a similar deal with ATA/NATR over the weekend rather than waiting a week for the results of the vote by SAG’s membership.

Stuart’s step essentially means he will pay AFTRA dues only if he performs AFTRA work. “I do not want to give AFTRA my dues when I’m not working,” said Stuart, a former member of the AFTRA national board.

Stuart said he objected to AFTRA’s board endorsing eased financial interest restrictions for talent agencies and for voting on the agreement even though it was only available in summary form.

AFTRA prexy John Connolly said of Stuart, “He has a perfect right to do this.” Connolly has contended that AFTRA is not trying to undercut SAG or start a jurisdictional battle.

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