SAG Gets the Indie Spirit

April 17, 2008 | Law Abiding Citizen News

Actors are used to working for scale on indies. Now they’re just glad they’ll be working.

The Screen Actors Guild sealed an interim deal with independent film producers on Wednesday that ensures its members will be able to finish some upcoming features even if the union authorizes a walkout.

According to Daily Variety, the pact doesn’t apply to major Hollywood studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with whom the guild launched contract talks on Tuesday. Instead, the new deal is with those indie producers employed at the Film Department, which is not an AMPTP signatory.

The “guaranteed completion contracts” means thesps will be allowed to fulfill the terms of their employment even if the Screen Actors Guild calls for an industry-wide strike when its contract with the studios expires on June 30.

Such a work stoppage, like the one authorized by the Writers Guild of America earlier this year, could paralyze film and television production and cost Tinseltown untold millions.

SAG hopes the interim accord will pressure the majors, giving actors a chance to draw an income outside the studio system. It also suggests the guild may be preparing to dig in for the long haul until its demands are met.

The strategy follows the WGA’s game plan; writers made side deals with indie producers while fighting the AMPTP for better working conditions and a larger share of the new media pie.

The big five studios—Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount and Universal—and their affiliated production companies have opted not to greenlight principal photography on upcoming films until both sides agree on a new contract.

Among the nine films which the Film Department have in the pipeline over the next several months: The Rebound, a romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and directed by Bart Freundlich set to shoot in New York next week; The Other Side of Paradise, a drama chronicling the love affair between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda set to roll in late summer or early fall; Law-Abiding Citizen, a thriller headlining Gerard Butler beginning Aug. 11; and Brothers in Arms, helmer Marcel Langenegger’s World War II drama slated to start production by mid-August.

SAG and AMPTP kicked off formal contract negotiations Tuesday and so far both have remained tightlipped about the progress, if any, that’s been made at the bargaining table.

Talks are scheduled to continue six days a week (no Sundays) until April 26. At that point the studios will turn their attention to sitting down with rival union the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose leaders voted to withdraw from a 27-year-old agreement to negotiate jointly with SAG.

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