At 'Produced By' conference, union leaders are cordial, resolute

Leaders of the merged SAG-AFTRA presented a friendly-but-firm face to an industry gathering of producers.

“We’re easy to work with and hard to fight,” said SAG-AFTRA national exec director David White at the Producers Guild of America panel at the “Produced By” conference Sunday on the Sony lot.

SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Reardon, noting that the event marked the first industry panel since the merger went through on March 30, emphasized that the org wants to secure as much work as possible for its 160,000 members — rather than having producers opt for the non-union route.

“We want to be the one-stop shop,” she added. “We’re here to work with you. And that’s much easier with one union.”

Execs touted the ease of the union’s online production center and emphasized the flexibility in dealing with producers — but admitted during the hour-long event that the union carries a fairly fearsome rep among producers as being a stickler for adhering to the rules.

“Producers look at the union like the IRS,” SAG-AFTRA national contracts co-exec director Ray Rodriguez said.

But he also said as long as producers are upfront about their situation, the union can be flexible. “Our reps are there to work with you,” he said.

Rodriguez pointed out that if producers meet the union’s diversity requirements — up to 50% casting from women, people of color, seniors and performers with disabilities — the budget cap on its modified low-budget contract rises from $625,000 to $937,500. Meeting that cap keeps the daily pay rate at $267, he noted.

“A lot of producers are already doing that and don’t know it,” Rodriguez added.

SAG-AFTRA board member Jason George (“Grey’s Anatomy”) said the union’s regulations are in place to heighten the ability of performers to deliver top-rate acting by setting the ground rules.

“I don’t care what size my trailer is or if I have to share it with six other people,” he noted. “The rules are there so that our relationship is good.”

SAGIndie national director Darien Michele Gipson urged producers to sign an “assumption agreement” when they make a distribution agreement — assuring that the distrib rather than the producer is on the hook for paying residual obligations.

“That’s your failsafe,” she added.

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