Film-TV contract talks for Hollywood’s actors remain on the slow track, with formal negotiations not set to resume until Wednesday.
The talks began May 15, recessed for two days, resumed on Friday for six hours and then recessed for five days.
The second delay was not unexpected as key members of the negotiation teams are required to attend meetings as trustees for industry-union pension and health plans.
Reps for both sides said the recess would be used to evaluate the proposals revealed six days ago. When talks resume, the contract for the 135,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists will be less than six weeks away from expiring on June 30.
With the news blackout in place, union negotiators continued their campaign Saturday at a members meeting where they described their proposal as an effort to improve compensation for middle-income actors. However, the reps — including SAG chief negotiator Brian Walton and AFTRA lead negotiator Stephen Burrow — refused to disclose specifics about the offer. About 100 union members attended the two-hour meeting at the Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles.
“It’s my impression that we are not asking for the world,” SAG member Spider Madison said following the meeting. “What the negotiating team is asking for seems very reasonable.” SAG board member Aki Aleong added: “Nobody wants a strike. At this point, I’m very optimistic.”
The tone of the actors’ statements and the relatively light turnout contrasted sharply with the militancy that emerged last year during the six-month strike against advertisers. Before the strike began in May, the unions held raucous meetings that drew 700 to SAG headquarters and 1,500 to the Hollywood Palladium.
Deal no slam dunk
However, veteran observers caution that a deal is not a slam dunk. Negotiators for the unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers face a complex task in crafting an agreement even though the actors insist that they have “streamlined” their proposal and both sides point to the recent deal between the Writers Guild and the AMPTP as being helpful.
Reps for the studios and nets are likely to continue pointing out, as they did at the WGA talks, that industry margins continue to shrink. Potential stumbling blocks could include the SAG/AFTRA demands for changing residuals formulas, Internet jurisdiction and contract language to tighten jurisdiction over foreign-based productions.