66 out of 70 TV pilots this year will be shot under AFTRA jurisdiction, reports the Hollywood Reporter today. That’s 94% for AFTRA and only 6% for SAG. Meanwhile, I’ve been told somewhat different numbers that calculate out to about 87% AFTRA. Either way, it’s a 180 from typical figures, as I’m told that AFTRA typically has 10% or fewer pilots.
Who’s to credit for this development? Primarily Membership First, the SAG hardline faction whose obstructionism over the last year has also led to SAG members working under 2007-2008 rates, while AFTRA members have enjoyed a 3.5% raise since June 30 of last year. The pilot flip-flop is also due to the cost advantages of digital production as opposed to film, but the SAG hardliners’ tactics have clearly accelerated the transition, and the studios are unlikely to turn back in years to come.
It’s ironic that Membership First, whose partisans generally hate AFTRA, has turned out to be one of the best things to have happened to that union in a long time. By holding out for the best deal imaginable, rather than the best deal achievable, MF boosted its rival.
Now SAG’s new management is left with seven expired (or, in one case, nearly expired) contracts, as well as TV/theatrical negotiations so stale that contract expiration date has become a major issue. Cleaning up MF’s mess will be a tall order: not only have the hard-liners driven pilots (and thus series) away, they’ve educated the industry that it can function without SAG, at least in TV. Nick Counter, the retiring head of the AMPTP (studio alliance), could scarcely have asked for a better going away present.
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