SAG has continued to baffle Hollywood on the murky issue of talent agency regulations.
The Guild’s agency relations committee met Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks but issued no comment about the confab even though SAG’s master franchise agreement has not been in force since April 19, when SAG members surprised Hollywood by spurning a revamping of the agreement that would have eased agency ownership restrictions.
It was only the second meeting of the panel since the “no” vote was announced. No negotiations between SAG and agents have been set amid low expectations that formal talks can be revived.
SAG has left Hollywood in a state of extended uncertainty during the past three weeks, the first time in 63 years that showbiz has operated without the SAG rules on talent agent operations. The “no” vote meant that only state rules remain in governing agents in their handling of thesps, but SAG and the Assn. of Talent Agents have disagreed on the interpretation of those regulations and the California Labor Commissioner has remained silent so far.
Although ATA has threatened to sue SAG if it interferes with any agency transaction, no agency has yet taken advantage of the changed landscape and gone ahead with accepting an investment that would violate the expired SAG rules. The only support for SAG has come from the Writers Guild, which has said it doesn’t want its master franchise agreement revamped.
SAG’s only guidance so far has been an April 21 warning to members to not sign new agency agreements if terms provide less protection than the expired rules; and an April 25 memo to agents that it expects them to keep following the guild’s rules even though the rules no longer are in force.
SAG might lose clout
Observers believe SAG’s inaction may reduce its clout within Hollywood and open the door for AFTRA — which has OK’d agents’ demand for eased ownership restrictions — to challenge SAG’s jurisdiction in film and primetime TV. Leaders of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have insisted that is not their plan and that negotiating a revamped master franchise agreement was simply a prudent step.
AFTRA’s national board voted 63-15 on April 13 to go ahead with a deal that mirrors the spurned SAG pact in two key areas: boosts in revenues subject to commission and loosening of ownership rules to allow ad agencies, advertisers and indie producers to invest up to 20% in talent agencies along with granting talent agencies permission to invest up to 20% in indie producers. ATA and the Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives have formally endorsed the AFTRA revamp, which will take effect June 30.
At a meeting Wednesday of AFTRA’s Hollywood board, deal opponents accused AFTRA leaders of trying to undercut SAG by not waiting until after SAG had completed its vote. They also warned that some of the 40,000 thesps who are members of both unions have been filing for “honorable withdrawal” from AFTRA so they pay dues only when working AFTRA contracts.
AFTRA posted a summary of the agreement on its Web site on Thursday. SAG’s national board approved creation of a special committee to meet with AFTRA three weeks ago.