Amid pervasive uncertainty over which rules apply to Hollywood actors and their agents, SAG’s top officials will meet today with legislators in Sacramento.
The confabs come five weeks after SAG members voted down a revamp of their master franchise agreement, which would have eased agency ownership restrictions. Since then, SAG has asked agents to re-sign the agreement, but major agencies have refused to do so, claiming the only rules governing agents and actors are those contained in state regulations.
Still, none of the agencies has gone ahead with a transaction that would be at odds with the now-expired SAG rules.
Chance to mend fences
The meetings will provide SAG an opportunity to mend fences, since its official position prior to the vote was that it should not rely on state rules. Prexy Melissa Gilbert had warned a no vote would create a “Wild West” scenario, with agents unfettered in their dealings with thesps.
Gilbert, CEO Bob Pisano, deputy national director for policy and planning Mark R. Steinberg and legislative director Pamm Fair will meet with California Senate president pro tem John Burton, Senator Kevin Murray and director of industrial relations Stephen Smith. Labor commissioner Arthur Lujan, who reports to Smith and has responsibility for licensing talent agents, has remained silent on the controversy.
“We are going to review the state protections for actors, absent a master franchise agreement with the agents,” Fair said.
Pisano and Gilbert campaigned actively for the deal and clashed with Burton after he accused SAG of extensive distortions in its hard-sell tactics. Burton, who conducted hearings last fall on the issue, even urged SAG to correct the information, but his suggestion was spurned.
The decision by Burton, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, to insert himself into the SAG controversy was a reflection of the high stakes attached to the issue. SAG staff and leaders warned during the campaign that agents would have the power to sign actors to new deals — dubbed general service agreements, or GSAs — that lift the current 10% limit on commissions and expand the range of thesp revenues that can be commissioned.
Burton asserted that SAG was overstating the impact of the new GSA approved by the state labor commissioner in December. He noted the committee counsel had asserted the new GSA could not replace the protections of the California Labor Code and that the labor commissioner could not exceed statutory authority.
SAG has asked members not to sign GSAs if they have less protection than under the expired regulations in the master franchise agreement. It also has said agents have been asking actors to sign the GSAs but have been vague on details.