Pisano has dire warning

SAG board heats up battle on agent pact

SAG chief Robert Pisano has warned that one or more of the big five agencies would disenfranchise and operate without guild rules if the tentative deal with the Assn. of Talent Agents is not approved.

Pisano’s warning, issued during a discussion with Screen Actors Guild national board members, is a signal that campaigning over the SAG-ATA deal will be intense during the next few weeks with the proponents likely to paint a “lose-lose” scenario of uncertainty for actors if the deal is voted down.

At the conclusion of a 10-hour meeting, the board voted 57-44 late Monday to endorse the deal and send it to the 98,000 guild members for approval.

Pisano characterized his disenfranchisement forecast as a theoretical risk assessment if the board failed to back the deal. He did not offer any guidance as to which of the agencies — CAA, Endeavor, ICM, William Morris or UTA — would take such a step.

“It continues to be business as usual,” a UTA spokesman said in response to questions about Pisano’s comments. Reps for the other tenpercenteries were not available or declined to comment.

Although SAG’s master franchise agreement expired Jan. 20, the guild and the ATA agreed at that point to an informal extension. Key provisions cap agent commissions at 10% and either bar or place limits on investments in agencies by producers and advertisers; the tentative deal would ease restrictions on such investments.

Minority report

Ballots for SAG members go out April 3 for return April 18. With the board’s “no” votes topping 25%, the referendum will include a minority report detailing the arguments against the pact — a move that will trigger extensive pro and con lobbying campaigns.

In an indication of the ambivalence among SAG’s leaders about the deal, a substitute motion to send the deal back to the negotiating committee was narrowly defeated Monday night.

In its current form, the three-year deal swaps loosened ownership restrictions on talent agencies plus allowing agents $8 million in annual commissions in exchange for preserving the master franchise agreement and creating a pair of new funds to benefit actors.

Monday’s debate saw opposition to the revamp come mostly from Hollywood reps with some support from regional branches while New York reps supported the deal. In a significant reversal of his voting on the negotiating committee, 9th VP Esai Morales indicated he strongly opposed the deal after studying the provisions.

High-profile members opposing the deal on conflict-of-interest grounds included Harper, secretary Elliott Gould, treasurer Kent McCord and board members Seymour Cassell, Frances Fisher, Diane Ladd, Richard Dreyfuss, Sally Kirkland and Fred Savage.

Support for the deal has come from committee chief Tom LaGrua, 1st VP Mike Farrell and 11th VP Tess Harper, who made the motion for the board to approve the deal.

McCord, who is heading the “con” committee, said Tuesday that his group has not received responses from SAG staff on how much is being spent on outside PR specialists, whether the con group will be allocated funds and whether that group can use those funds to hire its own PR specialists and legal counsel.

“Since dues money is being used to promote this deal through spin doctors, we should have just as much right to get our message out,” McCord said. “This guild was founded to represent those who cannot represent themselves.”

Hollywood board member DeWayne Williams said Tuesday he will seek a vote of no confidence for Pisano at the April 19-21 board meeting. Williams cited Pisano’s support for the deal and his failure to reprimand employees who violated SAG rules in last fall’s invalidated election.

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