Thursday, December 4, 2008

Studios Release Final Offer to SAG

In their ad in the trades Monday, the AMPTP (studios) included an intriguing line “We hope that every concerned member of our industry will study carefully the terms of our offer [to SAG].” I noted this, and asked the AMPTP to release the offer so we could do just that. I didn’t expect a positive response, since offers are not generally released — an exception being the July 2007 AMPTP and Writers Guild proposals, which I analyzed in detail last year.

Lo and behold, to my pleasant surprise, the AMPTP has now released the offer, along with a summary of key points, just in the last few minutes. You can find it at UPDATE: Here are the key points, with my analysis. I’ve identified differences from the AFTRA deal (in television, including new media) and from the WGA deal (in new media where not covered by AFTRA). Remember, in theatrical (outside of new media) there is no other deal to compare to, because AFTRA doesn’t cover theatrical.

Updates are indicated by “UPDATE.”

  • Expiration Date. The revised SAG Agreement would expire June 30, 2011. This is big, and surprising, because the WGA Agreement expires May 1, 2011. That means that the two agreements expire almost simultaneously, allowing the two unions to coordinate strategy — and threaten a joint strike. SAG’s leverage will be much greater then, which is an argument for accepting the offer, and deferring further attempts to improve incrementally on new media (the main factor that has led SAG to reject the offer and put the industry in stalemate).
  • Minimums. Same as AFTRA deal. Increase minimums by 3.5% in 1st and 3rd year, 3.0% in the 2nd year.
  • Prospective Loss of Income. UPDATE: As has been widely known, the AMPTP offer would have been retroactive to July 1, 2008, if SAG had ratified by August 15, which it didn’t. The AMPTP website has a ticker on it that counts how much money SAG members have lost as a result, in the AMPTP’s view. However, here’s another loss to SAG members which has not been reported: the increase in minimums in the 2nd and 3rd years (3.0% & 3.5%, respectively; see previous bullet point) are delayed since SAG didn’t ratify by August 15. In other words, the 2nd and 3rd bumps will not occur on July 1, 2009 and July 1, 2010. Instead, they will occur 1 year and 2 years from ratification. That means that the higher pay will be delayed, and that the highest pay level may not last for a full year (depending on when the contract is ratified and when the deal expires). For instance, if the deal were ratified January 1, 2009 (unlikely), then the 2nd year bumps would occur approximately January 1, 2010 and 2011.
  • P&H. Same as AFTRA deal. Increase Pension & Health rate from 14.5% to 15%.
  • Guest Star Premium (Major Role Performers). Same as AFTRA deal. Increase guest star premium from 7.5% to 10%.
  • Background Actors. Same as AFTRA deal in television. In theatrical, covered background increases from 50 to 52.
  • Trailer Money Break. Increase trailer money break from $2,500 or more per week to $3,000 or more per week. UPDATE: This is the same as the AFTRA deal.
  • Overtime Money Break. Increase the overtime money break for three-day performers from $2,700 per day to $3,000 per day. UPDATE: This is the same as the AFTRA deal.
  • Guaranteed Weekly Salary Figure (Schedule Break). Increase the guaranteed weekly salary figure for Schedule B performers in features from $5,500 or less per week to $6,000 or less per week, and in television from $4,400 or less per week to $4,650 or less per week (the television change is same as AFTRA deal).
  • Force Majeure. Eliminate force majeure protection/compensation, and provide instead that this will be the subject of individual negotiation between producer and actor. That means no protection or compensation for most actors, since most won’t have the leverage to negotiate. This is a major sticking point for SAG. (UPDATE: The AFTRA deal deferred this issue to SAG.) Meanwhile, the studios are also disputing the application of force majeure to the writers strike. This is an arbitration under the existing contract, not a proposal for the new contract.
  • Meal Periods. Eliminate guaranteed meal periods and allow “French Hours” (meals are catch as catch can) if majority of actors on a theatrical movie or long-form TV movie so vote. UPDATE: This is a difference from the AFTRA deal.
  • New Media Jurisdiction. UPDATE: Same as AFTRA deal, including an exception to jurisdiction in many cases that involve original content made for new media, unless a covered performer is employed. This is a major sticking point for SAG.
  • Covered Performer for Purposes of New Media Jurisdiction. Same as AFTRA deal.
  • Shared New Media Jurisdiction. AFTRA deal has a provision that acknowledges that they share new media jurisdiction (i.e., with SAG). SAG, however, refused to agree to a comparable provision, and instead reserves it position that it doesn’t share jurisdiction. This could lead to arbitration complaints and to friction with AFTRA.
  • New Media Residuals. Same as AFTRA deal, including an exception to residuals in most cases that involve original content made for new media, which is a major sticking point for SAG.
  • Clip Consent and Clip Compensation in New Media. UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Essentially the same as AFTRA deal, meaning that actors would have no true consent rights for product produced after 7/1/08 (but would have consent rights for product produced prior to that date) and would have low compensation (none in some cases) for clip use.
  • Product Integration. UPDATE: No new terms proposed re product integration, meaning that actors would not have consent rights or receive additional compensation for product integration. This is a sticking point for SAG. The AFTRA deal is the same (i.e., the issue was not addressed in the AFTRA deal either).
  • DVD Residuals. UPDATE: No new terms proposed re DVD residuals. In contrast, SAG wants the studios to pay P&H on DVD residuals. This would represent an approximately 15% increase in DVD residuals.