Job status unclear for actors

TV thesps await strike fallout

Primetime thesps are about to find out how the WGA strike will affect their own employment status.

Studios have sent or are about to issue letters detailing how they will handle compensation for actors on shows affected by the strike.

As productions began shutting down last week, thesps were placed on unpaid hiatus. Their numbers will continue to grow over the next few weeks as series run out of scripts and more shows go dark. Under SAG rules, the studios are contractually obligated to notify thesps of their employment status in the case of a major disruptive event like a strike.

In SAG’s view, studios have three basic options for dealing with TV series contracts under the force majeure rules: put actors on hold at full salary; put them on a five-week suspension at half their regular salary; or outright terminate them, though they can be recalled when production resumes. Complicating matters is that studios may deal with various shows and thesps in different ways.

SAG is said to be wrestling with its options for dealing with the majors’ characterization of the strike-related shutdowns as unpaid hiatuses.

“If a suspension of a production is the result of a strike, it will not alter the rights or obligations of either producers or performers by labeling a suspension of a television series as a hiatus,” SAG said in an advisory sent to members late last week. SAG reps declined further comment Thursday.

The expected scenario at most studios is that series regulars will be informed that they’ll still be paid their traditional minimum episode guarantees — in most cases that’s six or seven segs for new series, 12 or 13 for returning shows.

At 20th Century Fox TV, letters haven’t gone out yet, but could shortly. ABC Studios is poised to send letters this week, but it’s unclear what route the studio intends to take.

Universal Media Studios has already suspended actors on shows that have shut down production and will continue to do so with every show once the final script is shot. NBC U is “complying with SAG provisions related to a force majeure event,” one insider said.

Warner Bros. has notified guest actors that their services won’t be needed, and actors on shows that have already shut down are on unpaid hiatus, just as they are at the other studios. Warner also distributed a letter earlier this week to some TV production employees and studio facilities staffers warning them that they may be laid off in the near future.

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