SAG members seek huddle

H'wood board prods CEO, prez on agent pact

A majority of SAG’s Hollywood board members, thwarted from setting a “drop-dead” date for agents to re-sign the franchise agreement, are seeking an emergency meeting this week to move forward on the issue.

Thirty-two of the 52 board members signed a letter Friday to CEO Bob Pisano and prexy Melissa Gilbert, noting that the Hollywood division represents the “vast majority” of working members who have agents.

“This directly and most seriously affects our constituency,” the letter said, underscoring the resentment that concerns of Hollywood members are ignored by reps from other regions even though Hollywood generates the majority of SAG’s earnings.

The missive, delivered three days after Pisano and Gilbert canceled an emergency meeting of SAG’s national board, expressed frustration over perceived stalling and high-handedness on the issue. Pisano, a former studio exec, was tapped a year ago as SAG topper in the hope his high-powered connections could help the guild resolve long-standing conflicts, but elected reps have become particularly impatient with his handling of the agent issue.

Who signed

High-profile signers included secretary Elliott Gould, treasurer Kent McCord, Tom Bosley, Seymour Cassel, Valerie Harper, Sally Kirkland, Diane Ladd, Esai Morales and Fred Savage.

“Confusion and misinformation abound,” the letter said. “We know very little about the plans that SAG leadership has.”

Pisano was not available for comment, but setting the meeting could enable the Hollywood board to endorse the agent relations committee’s recommendation that a Jan. 1 “drop-dead” date be set. The document also pressed Pisano to disclose the tenor of recent discussions with the Assn. of Talent Agents, and it criticized efforts by Gilbert and her allies to avoid a potentially damaging confrontation with tenpercenters.

“Some of our board members and offices have been waging a campaign of ‘choose between your agent and your union,’ which places unnecessary doubt in members’ minds,” it asserted.

Disciplinary measures

Last week’s canceled meeting followed a concerted campaign with 56 board members — including 10 Hollywood reps — to put off until Oct. 12 the national board vote to force adherence by talent agents to SAG’s expired master franchise agreement. If SAG sets a “drop-dead” date, members would face discipline if they are signed with a talent agency that refuses to endorse the agreement.

SAG’s agent regulations expired April 19 when members voted down a proposed revamp of the rules over concern about eased agency ownership regs. The only specific action taken by the SAG board came on the day after, when the board suspended the requirement that members be represented only by franchised agents.

As a result of the expiration of the franchise agreement, agents have been able to sign SAG members to general service agreements with less favorable terms to actors. At its last meeting in July, the national board avoided voting on the issue as Gilbert delayed consideration of setting a “drop-dead” date.

“We are most especially eager to hear your thoughts and recommendation about how we should proceed to gain a win/win situation for all concerned,” the letter concluded.

The Hollywood board employed a similar tactic after the SAG national board’s 57-44 endorsement last March of the proposed revision of the franchise agreement. The Hollywood board then voted 32-1 against the revamp.

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