HOLLYWOOD — In what may be the first step back to the negotiating table, SAG has made an overture to restart negotiations with Hollywood agents over the now-expired regulations governing actors and tenpercenters.
As part of a fact sheet issued to members Friday, SAG admitted no talks have been scheduled with the Assn. of Talent Agents and the Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives, but added, “The Screen Actors Guild remains open to re-establishing a dialogue with these organizations.”
SAG also told its 98,000 members that it’s seeking to tighten state rules, which are now the only regulations governing interactions between thesps and tenpercenters. It urged caution in signing any new deals with agents, suggesting members consult with an attorney if offered an agency contract not in line with provisions of the guild’s expired master franchise agreement.
SAG members voted in mid-April against a revamp of their master franchise agreement, which would have eased agency ownership restrictions.
Agents not talking
For their part, the ATA and agency toppers have shown little interest in trying to hammer out another deal with SAG after three fruitless years in negotiations and have warned that the guild may be marginalizing itself.
Still, no agency has moved forward on an ownership transaction that would violate the expired SAG rules and invite potential regulatory scrutiny.
The “no” vote forced SAG to waive its rule requiring that members sign only with franchised agents. It announced Friday that it is seeking to beef up state laws in California and New York to incorporate the 16(g) master franchise rules.
“We’re not getting terribly specific at this point because we’re in the midst of strategy, but basically we’re looking for conforming a template to 16(g) through the state labor code or via state legislation that protects the members in the same manner that the franchise agreement did previously,” said Pamm Fair, SAG’s legislative director.
SAG said it has asked the California labor commissioner’s office and the New York Dept. of Consumer Affairs to consider enacting “additional layers of protection for all performers in the marketplace.”
And in a move likely to chill SAG’s relationship with managers, SAG reiterated its desire to tighten rules on managers in California. The guild disclosed it was lobbying California legislators for regulations “to curtail the unfettered and unregulated power of personal managers.”
That effort follows up on a vote by SAG’s national board last year to endorse the following reforms in the state’s labor code (Daily Variety, Aug. 22):
n Broadening the definition of who has standing to file complaints about agents and managers with the California labor commissioner.
n Toughening penalties for violations of the act. Current sanctions include license revocation and return of commission; previous penalties included jail time and fines.
n Repealing Section 1700.44(d), or what SAG calls the “safe harbor” provision of the act, which allows managers to work with agents. SAG asked for a provision specifying that managers not be allowed to seek employment for actors under any circumstances.
Hollywood agents had asked for the revamp of SAG’s master franchise agreement to level the playing field with managers and enable agents to attract more financing to projects.
Support for hearings
In what appears to be an attempt at mending fences, SAG noted in the announcement that it fully supports more hearings by John Burton, the powerful State Senate president pro tem, through his Select Committee on Agents and Managers. SAG leaders met last week with Burton after clashing with him over what the solon saw as distortions in the pro-deal campaign backed by SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert.
During last fall’s hearings, Burton had urged SAG and agents to work out a deal without involving the state. But he had also said during the hearings that the select committee would take up the issue of packaging, a key source of revenue for top talent agencies, although no date has been set for such a hearing.
Gilbert warned in March that agents could require actors to sign General Service Agreements with commissions up to 20% and an expanded range of thesp revenues that are commissionable. Since the “no” vote, SAG has told members not to sign GSAs if they have less protection than under the expired regulations in the master franchise agreement.
“If you are contemplating signing a contract whose terms do not mirror those of the standard SAG agency agreement, you should also ensure that the terms to which you are agreeing comply with relevant state law,” the guild’s latest announcement said.