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Labor Law Expert Criticizes SAG-AFTRA As “The Merger That Solves Nothing”

By | Monday January 30, 2012 @ 12:11pm PST

Actors Largely Support Proposed SAG-AFTRA Merger At SAG Awards
SAG Will Include Anti-Merger Statement With Voting Materials

Scott J. Witlin is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Barnes & Thornburg and a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department and the Entertainment and Music Practice Group. His bonafides to comment on the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger include serving as chief negotiator on behalf of a group of leading videogame companies in their negotiations with the AFTRA and SAG. He is frequently quoted in the media on issues involving labor and employment law. Deadline is posting opinions on all sides of this issue in the weeks leading up to both memberships’ referendum vote:

SAG-AFTRA: The Merger That Solves Nothing

by Scott Witlin

The Screen Actors Guild’s National Board has approved its merger agreement with the AFTRA, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. If approved by AFTRA’s Board and the membership of both unions, the new union will be known as SAG-AFTRA.

Merger of these two unions with overlapping jurisdictions has been attempted several times in the past without success — most recently in 2003. However, this attempt has fed off a significant rank and file sentiment to address two key concerns: 1. Having to pay dues to two unions; and 2. Split benefit contributions. However, the proposed merger addresses neither of these issues.

The proposed merger agreement does nothing to streamline the staff of the newly merged union. As a

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Can Actors Be Sold On The VOD Business Model? Sundance Buyers Ponder That…

By | Monday January 23, 2012 @ 9:35pm PST
Mike Fleming

The longer the 2012 Sundance Film Festival deal-making stalemate continues, the more VOD-centric deals will take center stage as they did in Toronto. A lot of the movies that came in with visions of theatrical releases are considering overtures from bidders who intend to emulate the Margin Call model where video-on-demand is equal to or more important than theatrical.

If VOD is to become a viable business that leads films on the margins to being widely seen, some obstacles have to be worked out of the system. The biggest: convincing actors accustomed to seeing their work play on 2,000 movie screens that the VOD model doesn’t mean their careers are on the downswing and that they’ve been relegated to pay-per-view. The only real equivalent actors have had for this was when they made a stinker that went straight to video obscurity. Will those actors spark to the potential of VOD riches and embrace the idea of promoting films to cable delivery systems instead of the ego-boosting traditional selling system of commercials and print ads? This is a psychological hurdle for stars. When Margin Call sold at Sundance last year with the Lionsgate/Roadside Attraction distribution VOD deal, veteran actors like Kevin Spacey had to be convinced this wasn’t necessarily a step down from a traditional theatrical release.
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