Hollywood’s agents are rewriting the rules on representation contracts.
The tenpercenteries have been taking advantage of the disappearance of Screen Actors Guild regulations that used to govern how agents handled SAG members.
In the wake of April’s “no” vote by members on revamping SAG’s master franchise agreement, agents have been issuing new General Service Agreements allowing agents to commission all actor revenues and extending the term of the initial contract from the previous one-year limit.
Since mid-April, SAG has advised its 98,000 members to spurn such deals and has asked agencies to adhere to the old rules, but admits those initiatives have not been entirely successful. It also has asked state regulators in California and New York to place the expired SAG regs — known as Rule 16(g) — into the state rules, but has put off a confrontation with agents by refusing to insist that agents re-sign the expired agreement. Instead, it has temporarily suspended its rule that members be repped only by SAG-franchised agents.
No figures available
“We believe use of the GSAs by agencies is very widespread, and we know that some members are signing them,” said Pamm Fair, SAG’s national director for policy, planning and external affairs. The exec said she could not provide figures because agents no longer have to answer to SAG.
Under the expired rules, SAG was able to restrict agents from commissioning some areas of revenues, such as video residuals and reruns on free TV. But a GSA offered recently by commercials agency Cunningham Escott Dipene — which notes the California labor commissioner approved the form of the contract in December — spells out that the tenpercentery will commission 10% of all “gross compensation.”
” ‘Gross compensation’ includes all forms of compensation, money, things of value or other emoluments (including, but not limited to, salaries, earnings, fees, residuals, royalties, bonuses, monetary consideration, securities and shares of profits or gross receipts) received by me,” part of the agreement reads. CED repped more than 1,700 Hollywood SAG members and 1,800 New York members prior to the expiration of the master franchise agreement.
The revamped SAG agreement would have opened up commissions on video and TV reruns, with a significant chunk of those revenues flowing into new SAG funds to replenish its pension and health fund.
Troubled times ahead
Prior to the no vote, SAG CEO Bob Pisano and SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert had warned that agencies would be able to use the less restrictive GSAs in repping SAG members. “It will be the Wild West out there,” Gilbert said.
The Assn. of Talent Agents and the National Assn. of Talent Representatives negotiated deals with SAG’s leaders in 2000 and earlier this year to revamp the franchise agreement, including easing ownership restrictions. But both deals became bogged down by concerns within SAG over possible conflicts of interest that the loosened rules might create.
ATA chief exec Karen Stuart agreed that the GSA approved by the labor commissioner now is widely used. “The terms are very fair and balanced,” she added.
Stuart also noted ATA has franchise agreements with the directors and writers guilds and with AFTRA, which agreed in April to a revamp of its regs along the lines of the spurned SAG deal. “My members are still governed by franchise agreements in addition to state law,” she said.
Since the SAG rules expired, no agency has moved forward on a transaction that would have been allowed under the proposed revamp such as selling a 20% slice of an agency to an advertiser, ad agency or producer. Such deals would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the California labor commissioner.
SAG’s national board has scheduled a vote next week on implementing a “working in the trade” provision to limiting voting rights on such issues as the ATA deal. But Stuart said Monday she has not been contacted by SAG about re-launching negotiations.
SAG’s nonconfrontational stance has prompted criticism among some members that Guild leaders should be more assertive on the issue.