The state of California is in no hurry to swoop in and sort out the latest showbiz turmoil.
Labor commissioner Arthur Lujan and key state legislators have maintained a low profile since April 19’s vote by SAG members to reject a revamp of that guild’s master franchise agreement, which would have eased talent agency ownership restrictions.
That vote meant the only rules left are state regs governing agents and managers.
But state officials have shown no inclination to provide clarity, preferring for the dust to settle after the SAG vote and the Writers Guild’s recent proposal for franchising managers who rep writers.
“I don’t see a need for the Legislature to interfere — yet,” says State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a former child actress often involved in showbiz legislation. “The situation is too murky right now.”
Paul Bennett, prexy of the Talent Managers Assn., agrees. “I don’t think anyone knows how this will play out, and to speculate doesn’t serve anyone,” he adds.
Over the short term, it’s likely SAG and agents will remain in a “business as usual” mode due to the pervasive uncertainty.
But eventually Lujan and the Legislature will likely face pressure to update the rules for agents and actors, since there are widely varying views on how state law should be interpreted.
If the state changes rules for agents, it would likely also have to promulgate additional regs for managers — a step Kuehl believes won’t be easy.
She successfully carried legislation in 1999 to toughen rules protecting child actors from scams by unscrupulous managers, after narrowing the original bill to remove a licensing requirement in the wake of protests from hundreds of managers.
Kuehl foresees problems in formulating any legislative move in 2002, first in trying to reach agreement on exact definitions for agents and managers and then from securing formal pledges of sponsorship from key showbiz orgs.
“If no one within the business steps forward with a clear explanation of what the problem is and what the solution might be, that’s difficult,” she adds. “Right now, it seems half-cooked.”