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SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris Talks Netflix Deal, Union Politics

SAG-AFTRA’s newly executed three-year TV and film contract with Netflix could provide a template for the union’s contract talks with Hollywood’s major studios next year, according to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.

The performers, writers and directors unions are heading into what are expected to be tough master film and TV contract talks in the coming months. Like her peers at the Writers Guild and Directors Guild, Carteris is quick to point out that the boom in streaming on-demand video and industry shift toward shorter-episode TV series has changed the way actors are paid in television, but the contractual compensation formulas haven’t kept pace.

SAG-AFTRA hasn’t released many details of the Netflix pact. But Carteris said it addresses key concerns that the union will face again in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Netflix “came forward in partnership to create a contract that I think speaks really to where we’re going” as in industry,” Carteris said Wednesday. “It really answers some of the things we’ve been challenged with at the AMPTP. It’s an exciting thing for our members.”

Carteris said she could not elaborate on SAG-AFTRA’s priorities for the upcoming AMPTP talks. But she added in regards to the Netflix agreement: “I have no doubt that there is a form of a template in there.” SAG-AFTRA and DGA contracts are up June 30; the WGA’s current pact expires May 1.

Carteris spoke to Variety while she promoted her new show, “BH90210,” the latest iteration of “Beverly Hills 90210,” during Fox’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. Carteris was an original star of the teen sudser that was a signature series for Fox from 1990 to 2000.

Carteris is facing a challenge to her presidency from Matthew Modine in SAG-AFTRA’s upcoming election. Modine has accused Carteris of mismanaging the guild and failing to take an aggressive stance with Hollywood’s major employers. The campaigning marks a return to bare-knuckle faction fights within the performers union, which has about 160,000 members. Carteris said she’s trying to stay above the fray and focus on the union’s legislative and contractual priorities.

“I’ve never enjoyed the politics of the union. I think we’ve been doing such a good job in terms of our record. I think sometimes people struggle with wanting power. You have to remember it’s the work — it’s all about our members. Whatever we do today, it must support the changes that are going on (in the industry). All I can say is we’re going to continue the good work.”

Carteris also declined to weigh in on the standoff that has gone on for four months and counting between the WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies over packaging fees and other issues. But she did note that SAG-AFTRA is in active conversations with the Association of Talent Agents on its own agency franchise rules. If the WGA is successful in banning packaging fees, many more actors on TV series will have to pay 10% agency commissions that were previously waived under the packaging system.

“We’re watching and listening. We support the best outcome for (WGA) members,” Carteris said.

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