HOLLYWOOD — In a major show of support to union actors, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg has asked the council to bar filming of commercials on public property as long as actors remain on strike against advertisers.
“We think there’s a lot of support on the council that they don’t want public property used for activities that negatively impact working people,” said Sharon Delugach, Goldberg’s chief of staff.
Goldberg, whose district includes Hollywood, submitted the proposal Friday to the council as part of a motion to tighten requirements for off-lot filming in the city. The full council is scheduled to consider the motion next week.
Goldberg asked that the LAPD and the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. be instructed specifically to prohibit commercial filming on public and city-owned property while actors are on strike against the ad industry. Shoots conducted with union actors under interim agreements would be excluded from the ban.
If the council approves such a move, it would represent a huge boost for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists in their efforts to pressure advertisers into returning to the bargaining table after over two months without negotiations. Off-lot shooting of ads in Los Angeles is down 66% this month from June 1999, with producers shooting at studios, where costs are significantly higher, or outside the Los Angeles area.
SAG and AFTRA have already received similar backing from the mayor and film commissioner in Hoboken, N.J., who recently pledged to block commercial shooting in their city. The unions formally complained last week that the EIDC, which issues permits for off-lot shoots, is allowing producers to mislead union protesters through bogus filings.
“Producers have attempted to avoid union picket lines by providing false or in other ways inaccurate information on film permit applications required by the city and county of Los Angeles.” Goldberg said in her motion. “These tactics not only create a problem for the union pickets but they mislead the public and pose unnecessary burdens on the city and its residents.”
Goldberg’s motion requires film companies to request film permits only for the sites they will be using and also requires producers to provide accurate information about the type of filming. Permits for multiple sites would have to be issued for different times of day.
The motion cites accusations that producers have been requesting permits for five or more locations and then using only one; mislabeling commercial shoots as musicvideos or films; and requesting excessively large location sites, such as 10 city blocks, and then using only two blocks.
The EIDC has maintained the number of false permits is small and insisted that it will not take sides in a labor/management dispute.
The strike is entering its ninth week with no signs of a resumption in negotiations, which collapsed in mid-April, with both sides repeatedly attacking each other. SAG and AFTRA have accused the advertisers of union-busting, while the ad industry has portrayed the unions as greedy and unrealistic.
In a new foray, advertisers’ chief negotiator John McGuinn warned last week about the strike’s long-term impact on SAG’s health and pension fund.
Health fund health issue
“SAG’s leadership is irresponsibly endangering its own ability to continue what has been viewed by scale actors as its most important benefit, i.e., a stable health plan and a future retirement fund,” said McGuinn, who is also a member of the SAG pension and health fund board of directors. “Ad payments represent 38% of all payments to actors, so there may be a significant impact if the strike continues to the end of next month.”
SAG members make a 13.25% contribution of earnings to pension and health funds, which have assets over $2 billion. During 1998 — the last year for which figures are available — payments for ad work totaled over $600 million to SAG members.
Strike coordinator Todd Amorde responded by saying that the ad industry’s proposals — which include elimination of residuals for network TV spots — will threaten the viability of the pension and health funds because of the reductions in actors’ pay. “They are the ones being irresponsible,” he added.
Pickets in L.A., Gotham
Union pickets demonstrated Friday at the Los Angeles Coliseum at a DirecTV shoot involving several thousand extras and the San Diego Chargers cheerleaders, an Allstate shoot at Universal Studios Hollywood and at a Jeep shoot in the Antelope Valley.
In New York, more than 100 supporters demonstrated outside the midtown Manhattan Niketown store on Friday. The footwear giant was targeted because it has convinced Olympic sprinters Michael Johnson and Marion Jones to cross picket lines to shoot Nike commercials. “Michael Johnson, Shame on You, Nike Scab,” said one protester’s sign.
SAG and AFTRA members also participated Saturday at a “summer of solidarity” labor rally that drew nearly 2,000 in L.A.’s Exposition Park.