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Hollywood Should Balk at Prospect of a Strike Two
June 30, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 

One minute after midnight tonight, the contract expires between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). There's no imminent strike threat, but when another Hollywood union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), announces its separately negotiated deal with AMPTP on July 8, SAG may reject the particulars of that deal and seek strike authorization from its own membership.

Bottom line: There could be a strike two, another crippling Hollywood work stoppage in the same 12-month period. Bottom line to the bottom line: Anyone else who goes on strike in Hollywood this year is a certifiable idiot.

What's at stake, in the small picture, are the same issues for which the Writers Guild of America (WGA) walked out in November 2007 -- chief among them, clearer and fairer compensation for new media. What complicates the picture, this time around, is that the WGA settled for a fairly paltry deal, and AFTRA is said to be about to do the same.

So the choices by the SAG membership are either to follow the WGA and AFTRA lead and settle for less, or go on strike and not settle at all. Meanwhile, there's the additional complicating factor of a SAG-AFTRA membership overlap. SAG, by far the bigger gorilla in this fight, has 120,000 members to 70,000 for AFTRA -- And 44,000 of those AFTRA members, more than 60 percent, also belong to SAG.

04_tom_hanks_b.jpg

Messy, messy, messy. And AMPTP, the greedy land baron in all of this, is stirring up the pot, and the press, by putting famous faces to the feuding factions. Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon are on the AFTRA side. Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen are siding with SAG.

But a second strike would be so crippling to the flow of Hollywood entertainment right now that whatever gains negotiated by a protracted strike would most likely be offset by long-term losses. Not only in revenue, but in momentum. In audience loyalty. In audience numbers, period.

Many movies, right now, are hitting the pause buttons on their production remotes, waiting to see what will happen next. Many TV shows, on the other hand, are diving headlong into production to stockpile whatever they can -- even though, if a SAG strike becomes a reality in August, the fall TV season will be even more pathetic than it already threatens to be.

jack-nicholson-picture-1.jpgAnd that, my friends, could throw the entire broadcast TV equation into free fall. Deny and anger the audience one more time, and the networks may never get them back.

 

2 Comments

 

Talbert said:

I, too, am not happy about television turning into more of a desert. When the writers struck, the unscripted shows grew. With actors out, would they grow all the more? What alternative programming have you heard about?

But a thought about strikes: If you had access to such a defense when the newspaper that never will be mentioned started acting out, would you have used it? That company wanted to jack around your creative work and severely modify the promises it previously had made to you. With some more muscle on your side, would you have used it?

Many of the actors in the two unions make more it a day than I make in a year. They could last out a strike pretty easily. And some are on about the same financial plane as I, and a strike would hurt them pretty much, I guess. But if they jump onto the producers' laps, they'll be making even less over the course of the contract. It's tough to eat out anymore. How many waiter jobs are there out there for actors on hold?

We loved your creative work and we expected you to be treated fairly by that hairball newspaper. We love many of the actors' work, and we expect them to be treated fairly, too. Just as we have supported your response to unfair treatment, I think we need to support the request for reasonable treatment on the part of the actors.

If they walk, prime time will get worse for a while and we will have to rely on you and Ms. Werts all the more to point out what remainders are worth watching. But in a couple of years, when a new actor breaks out because he/she was able to hold out for reasonable treatment, we'll thank the system for not forcing them into a deeper financial hole.

Comment posted on June 30, 2008 9:49 AM


anchorgirl said:

I'm an AFTRA member who's SAG-eligible, but am in no hurry to join that union. When the two unions voted on consolidation several years ago, SAG flicked us off like so much lint. I've always admired Martin Sheen, as an actor and a person, but I'm afraid his position on this vote has earned him an asterisk in my hall of fame. (This sort of thing would've been grist for the Insight mill, and Sheen could've starred as the guy who undergoes a change of heart. Geez, I miss Father Ellwood Kieser.)

I'm lucky enough to have a steady gig, but, because so many of us don't, and rely on the income (and, with enough earnings, health insurance eligibility) provided by freelance bookings, I sent out my ballot today in favor of the proposed deal.

Comment posted on June 30, 2008 11:01 PM

 
 
 
 
 
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