For SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, the past year has been perhaps the most memorable of her three-decades plus career in Hollywood, which includes 147 episodes of “Beverly Hills 90210.”
She’s been in the spotlight since the October, 2017, bombshell revelations about disgraced executive Harvey Weinstein. She issued a condemnation of Weinstein a few days after the first story broke and has been working since then to ramp up efforts by the performers union to deal the increased awareness of sexual harassment. On the eve of the 2018 SAG Awards, Carteris and National Executive Director David White announced development of a code of conduct for its 160,000 members to deal with sexual harassment.
On Aug. 16, she announced a milestone for the union, following ratfication of its successor deal on its “net code” contract, which covers non-primetime work for the networks. The master contract includes language limiting auditions in hotel rooms and private residences — the first time the union has included those specific provisions in a master contract. The language was included subsequent deals for TV animation, sound recordings and Telemundo.
Carteris told Variety that the end result of spelling out those issues has become essential for SAG-AFTRA leaders.
“We have to have a very strong process to deal with issues of conduct,” she said. “We’ve embedded Guideline 1 regarding meetings in private locations within our master contract on the net code, animation and sound recordings and our first Telemundo contract. It is beneficial for our members and others to have a structure to follow. We are also celebrating new, stronger sexual discrimination and harassment laws in California.”
Carteris particularly pleased with the array of nominated feature films and TV programs that earned SAG nominations last month — though she’s careful not to name any by name. “A Star Is Born” led the way with four SAG feature film nominations, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ozark” each scored a quartet of TV nominations. “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Favourite” both took a trio of film nominations; “Barry,” “GLOW,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “The Kominsky Method,” each scoring three TV nods.
“The films and shows that were nominated are reflective of greater diversity across the board,” she said. “I think scripts are more inclusive and there are more diverse roles available now than ever before. Not as many as we would like, but it’s a welcome increase. More diverse nominations are a response to increasingly diverse storytelling and we definitely need to see more of that.”
Carteris also asserted that it’s crucial for SAG-AFTRA specifically and the supporters of diversity and inclusion generally to keep on pushing for change.
“This change in attitudes and conduct cannot be just a moment,” she said. “It must be ongoing. We’re seeing some evolution in inclusive hiring and in conversations around pay equity where it’s no longer being decided according to gender. There’s no more hiding problems under the rug.”
Carteris is also prepping for what will probably be a complex negotiation on a successor deal on SAG-AFTRA’s master contract with the ad industry. SAG-AFTRA unveiled a video with Bryan Cranston to back its “Ads Go Union” campaign to persuade advertisers to stop using non-union actors.
The message was released on the same day that SAG-AFTRA held a demonstration in Times Square against the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, three months after the union struck the company for its refusal to honor the contract. Contract negotiations will start in mid-February with a March 31 contract expiration.
“We do have an active and engaged membership as we head into the commercial negotiations with support from high-profile members,” Carteris noted. “I was able to ask Bryan Cranston to film a spot for us while he was working on Broadway on ‘Network.’ JK Simmons is on board and we’ll see more and more of that important participation from across our membership.”
Carteris has also been working on prepping members for technological change — even going to the Consumer
Electronics Show earlier this month, recording segments for a SAG-AFTRA new podcast, which debuts next month.
“This episode looks at some of the technological changes affecting our business,” she said. “Members are excited as the new platforms emerge, but also a bit concerned. We want to weave of these technological changes into the work lives of our members and help them understand the opportunities and challenges. We want to help members re-invent themselves as they evolve in their careers.”
Carteris said that she knows the unknown can be frightening. “It’s our job to make the union responsive to those changes as they happen and to look ahead with as much foresight as we can, she said.