This article was corrected on May 10, 2001.

The Screen Actors Guild has narrowed its search for a top exec to about a half dozen candidates, signaling that a final choice is likely to be tapped within the next month.

SAG’s search committee, headed by prexy William Daniels, has interviewed candidates this week but kept identities under wraps. The panel is using executive search firm Korn Ferry Intl. to help find a replacement for longtime national exec director Ken Orsatti, who retired in January after two decades in the post.

The new SAG topper is expected to be paid in the range of $300,000 annually, based on Orsatti’s $240,000 salary plus $60,000 in expenses. SAG has not commented officially on the hiring since Daniels briefed the national board six weeks ago.

Insiders have said Brian Walton, tapped in February as SAG’s chief negotiator for upcoming film-TV contract talks, is not a candidate.

Challenges ahead

The national exec director will face a series of daunting challenges that could include the final weeks of negotiations over the film-TV contract, which will expire June 30. Although last week’s tentative deal between producers and writers lessened worries that SAG and AFTRA will strike, there is no guarantee that the negotiations will lead to a deal by the expiration.

Other key areas to be addressed will include:

  • Cost-cutting proposals to save $6 million a year contained in a SAG-funded Towers Perrin analysis. Opposition is intense, particularly outside Los Angeles, to recommendations to close many of the 22 branch offices and reduce the board size from 105 to 62; the national board nearly passed the latter proposal last month.

  • Ongoing battles in the board room between supporters of Daniels and former prexy Richard Masur, who Daniels ousted two years ago.

  • The ongoing stalemate with the Assn. of Talent Agents over the basic operating agreement,. The latest move by SAG came a month ago when it put the ATA on hold by convincing State Sen. John Burton to hold legislative hearings in July about the legal roles of agents and managers.

  • Staff problems including a pair of lawsuits by the former two top execs in the Affirmative Action Dept.

  • Filling slots for Hollywood branch exec director, now occupied temporarily by Jerre Hookey, and national associate exec director. John McGuire had held that post but became a senior adviser last month.