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HOLLYWOOD — The Screen Actors Guild has ramped up a new push to stem runaway production by lobbying the White House, setting aside a bitter campaign spat with President Bush.

SAG reps reported positive response from a recent meeting with Adam Goldman, associate director of the Office of Public Liaison, and Chris Hennick, deputy assistant to the president.

“Our position at this point is that we are open to a number of options to solve the problem and we emphasized our willingness to look for solutions,” said Lance Simmens, SAG’s national director of government relations.

Campaign friction

The move comes less than a year after the guild blasted Bush for using nonunion actors on campaign ads during a strike against advertisers, resulting in the filing of unfair labor practice charges against the campaign. The charges were withdrawn after the campaign signed an interim agreement allowing use of SAG members during the work stoppage.

The White House confab was part of a recent Capitol Hill campaign by SAG, the Directors Guild of America and the Creative Coalition to start crafting legislation to keep producers from taking productions to less-expensive overseas locations. The meetings included get-togethers with Reps. Mark Foley, R-Fla.; Jerry Weller, R-Ill.; and Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee.

Stay-at-home incentives

Previous legislative efforts have featured a 20% income tax credit for each worker’s wages (up to $20,000) on productions with budgets up to $10 million along with a research and development tax credit for purchases of digital post-production equipment. Such initiatives are designed to blunt foreign efforts to lure U.S. producers through tax breaks and lower wages.

SAG and the DGA commissioned a 1999 Monitor Co. study that showed that runaway production was taking away 20,000 U.S. jobs and $10 billion in annual economic activity. The Film & Television Action Committee, a coalition of below-the-line industry employees, has been circulating a petition asking the Intl. Trade Commission and the U.S. Intl. Trade Administration to impose a countervailing tariff on Canada for “unfair trade practices” in subsidizing U.S.-based producers.