SAG-AFTRA said today that they’ll sit down with the studios and networks on May 5 to start negotiations on a new 3-year contract. This is the first truly big contract to be worked out by the union since SAG and AFTRA …
The union’s new voluntary Personal Managers Code of Ethics and Conduct really isn’t going over well with some managers. Just a day after the code was unveiled, SAG-AFTRA today sent an email to members over the “uninformed lobbying” against the new scheme by the Talent Managers Association. SAG-AFTRA claimed that its former partners in crafting the code had “reached the level of direct misrepresentations being sent to union members in an attempt to frighten them about the true intent of this Code.”
“Managers have been asked by SAG-AFTRA of the guild if we intend to help them get work,” reads one email from a personal manager obtained by Deadline. “I’m afraid that if we want to stay in the guild’s good graces we must turn away all guild members who approach us with agency representation.” The latter sentence refers to state labor laws in California and New York that limit personal managers’ ability to procure employment for their clients. SAG-AFTRA said today that the verbage in their code “closely mirrors” the laws of the Golden State and the Empire State – something the TMA obviously wants to use as wedge.
Half a dozen years in the making, the new ethics and conduct code marks the first time the union has attempted to exercise some control over managers even though it has, as do other guilds, long mandatorily regulated talent agents.
Here is the email SAG-AFTRA sent to its members today:
It’s totally voluntary and the Talent Managers Association is against it but SAG-AFTRA today introduced a Personal Manager Code of Ethics and Conduct. The new code (see below) is the first time the union has attempted to exercise some control over managers even though it has, as do other guilds, long mandatorily regulated talent agents. The union also announced that it would change the name of its Agency Relations Department to the SAG-AFTRA Professional Representatives Department. Years in the making the new Code doesn’t jibe with some of the people who were initially involved in crafting it. “After thoughtful review and consultation with legal counsel, our position is to advise members against signing the SAG-AFTRA code in its current highly restrictive and regulatory form,” said the TMA board in a statement. The announcement today by SAG-AFTRA comes just weeks before the union is expected to announce the beginning of talks with the studios and networks for a new 3-year contract. DGA members approved their deal with AMPTP in January and the WGA, who started negotiations on February 3, returns to talks today after break of a couple of weeks
Just hours after a new multi-sponsored bill to expand California’s current $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program was introduced today in Sacramento both …
UPDATE: SAG-AFTRA President Slams Union Faction, Praises NED David White For Upcoming Contract Talks
UPDATE, 7:45PM: EXCLUSIVE: SAG-AFTRA Executive Director David White may be a candidate to head up the NBA players union, but he’s still got a big supporter in the head of the Hollywood union. “Just as it was with their opposition to merger, MembershipFirst remains out of touch with members,” SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard told me tonight of the faction’s slam of White’s potential new gig. “Executives of David White’s caliber are rare, and informed SAG-AFTRA members are thrilled to have David leading the preparations for our upcoming contract talks,” Howard added. The SAG-AFTRA chief gave no indication of what the union’s plan would be if White got the NBA players union job. However, with SAG-AFTRA still in its mandated wages and working condition consultation with members and likely weeks away from even setting a start date for its talks with the studios and networks over a new three year contract, the union has time to regroup as it heads into the first such negotiations since its spring 2012 merger.
Almost two years after merging SAG-AFTRA still haven’t melded their pension and health plans, but the SAG Plan now has a new CEO. Michael Estrada, former Executive Director, Investments and Finance, will take over the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension & Health Plans “effective immediately,” SAG-PPHP said today. The scandal-plagued plans saw Christopher Dowdell announced last year he was exiting the CEO gig after just more than a year in the job. The former COO stepped in after previous controversial CEO Bruce Dow exited in April 2012. Both SAG and AFTRA’s separate plans are expected to be a major topic of discussion in the union’s upcoming negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers over a new 3-year contract. SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP have not yet set a start date for those talks, but the current contract expires June 30 — the same day as the DGA, who struck their new deal with the producers late last year.
On December 15, SAG-AFTRA that it was going to begin “the first steps” to partially merging the plans this summer but typically gave almost no details. While we wait for that, here’s today’s SAG-PPHP release:
SAG Pension & Health Plan Rocked By Lawsuit: Targets CEO Bruce Dow
Feds Probing SAG P&H Embezzlements/Cover-Ups Allegations
UPDATED: In a not-unexpected ruling, a federal judge has dismissed the multimillion-dollar foreign residuals suit brought by former union boss Ed Asner and more than a dozen others against SAG-AFTRA. The ruling (read it here) filed yesterday comes just weeks before the actors union is expected to begin negotiations with producers on a new three-year labor contract, the first since SAG and AFTRA merged in 2012. It lifts what could have been a black cloud over those talks – a June 24, 2014 trial date had been set.
“We are pleased with the judge’s order and believe the complete dismissal is fully warranted,” SAG-AFTRA Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said today in a statement. “The Court acknowledged SAG-AFTRA’s ongoing cooperation with the plaintiffs. SAG-AFTRA has more than 1,000 pages of annual disclosure documents available online to anyone. Despite this unfortunate and unnecessary litigation, we remain focused on collecting and distributing foreign royalties and unclaimed residuals, programs of which we are justifiably proud. We hope that this dismissal will mark an end to such lawsuits that needlessly expend union resources.”
In November, the union moved to have tossed the remaining elements of the suit originally filed in spring 2013 by Asner and the 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee. Despite protests last month from the plaintiffs (they called the union’s check-converting practices “willy-nilly”), U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real on Monday ruled for the union. Asner and the United Screen Actors Committee first filed suit in May 2013 for more than $130 million over allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals. In October, Real granted the union’s motion to dismiss a large portion of the suit — though he did not cut the residuals aspect of the claims, giving certain plaintiffs the right to move forward. An amended complaint was filed October 23.
Nearly a month after DGA members ratified their new three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers, the WGA today announced that it will sit down for their talks with the producers on February 3. The negotiations are set to take place at AMPTP HQ in Sherman Oaks. While the Writers Guild took the step to announce its negotiating committee on November 13, up to today, neither they nor SAG-AFTRA had set a start date for their respective talks with AMPTP. Not like the melded WGA West and WGA East committee doesn’t include some heavy-hitting scribes. There’s recently re-elected board members Billy Ray and David S. Goyer as well Damon Lindelof among the group. The committee will serve under WGAW Exec Director and Chief Negotiator David Young. The WGA’s latest contract is set to expire on May 1.
Yesterday my colleague Pete Hammond said there were “no surprises” in the DGA Awards Film nominees. Well, today the Directors Guild of America delivered even less of a shock as its members ratified the new three-year deal its negotiating …
Year-End: Legal Battles Of 2013 And Beyond – Aereo, ‘Hobbit’ Sequels, ‘Walking Dead’ Vs. Frank Darabont, Prospect Park & ‘Godzilla’
One in a series of Deadline stories that look back on 2013 and ahead to 2014.
It was a year that saw the Weinsteins and Warner Bros clash over the title of The Butler and then get into the ring again for The Hobbitsequels. 2013 also witnessed the first fired Walking Dead showrunner wanting to take a bite out ofAMC for his piece of the cable blockbuster, a Ray Donovan EP nailed by the feds in a big-time gambling scheme right out of the Showtime Hollywood fixer series and a monster of a legal drama in the making as Legendary Pictures tried to swat some seasoned producers off its Godzilla reboot. In the end, with those cases and more, the Hollywood legal landscape of 2013 proved to be a stringent reminder of why they call it show business and not show friends.
With money and rights at the basis of most of the disputes, the complaints and motions were as numerous as locusts and as prevalent as rats, with many of them spilling over into 2014 and perhaps beyond. Just ask Barry Diller and Les Moonves as streaming service Aereo and CBS and other broadcasters suit up for a potential Supreme Court winner-takes-all showdown next year. Or Prospect Park as it fights ABC in a $125 million suit over licensed soaps All My Children and One Life To Live while having to contend with a complaint from co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz seeking a declaratory judgment from the court over non-compete clauses in his contract with the company. Sure, sometimes weapons are lowered like when Paramount and asset management firm Content Partners reached an undisclosed settlement on December 12 in their $45 million film financing slate dust-up after three years going at it in the courts. With a pivotal hearing looming, that was realpolitik in action as the sudden deal allowed the studio to sidestep dragging JPMorgan Chase, which corporate parent Viacom has significant banking dealings with, into the protracted case despite the blessing of the presiding judge. However, with the grinding duration of a lot of the legal disputes in this town, such resolution is rare, even when the end seems in sight.
Look for instance at Warner Bros and the seemingly never-ending Superman heirs’ rights battle. After a string of seemingly conclusive legal wins this year, WB and subsidiary DC Comics now could face more Krypton courtroom drama in 2014. On December 10, the co-creators heirs’ attorneys Marc Toberoff and Keith G. Adams petitioned the 9th Circuit for either a rehearing by the panel that found in the studio’s favor on November 21 or by the full court itself. If that effort fails, they could take the matter to the SCOTUS. Even with all the billings that O’Melveny & Myers get to make to WB after years of litigation, the sharp-elbowed Daniel Petrocelli and Matthew Kline must want to be able to declare a super-lawyer victory and move on – after all, they also have the Trouble With The Curve copyright suit to handle for the studio and a February 24 hearing on a summary judgment motion in that case by plaintiffs Ryan A. Brooks and Gold Glove Productions to fend off.
Joseph Ruskin, veteran television, film and stage actor and longtime SAG board member, died Saturday of natural causes at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, according to a statement from SAG-AFTRA. He was 89. Ruskin’s television credits number more than 120 including appearances on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Murder She Wrote, L.A. Law and most recently Bones. His film work includes roles in The Magnificent Seven, Prizzi’s Honor, Indecent Proposal and Smokin’ Aces. Ruskin began his career in theatre, performing over the years at the Mark Taper Forum, UCLA’s Freud Playhouse and Theater 40. His final performance came this year as a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company.
The staffers at Chicago Public Media voted 40-7 today to have SAG-AFTRA as their union. The deal covers professionals who produce, report, host and present content for Chicago’s National Public Radio outlet WBEZ, Vocalo, Sound Opinions and related digital services. …
Almost a month ago, SAG-AFTRA sought to toss out of court the remaining portions of a multimillion-dollar residuals suit filed by former SAG President Ed Asner and 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committe. This week, the plantiffs rejected that idea and fired back at the union, which they say has “clearly taken advantage of its role as a fiduciary” and it members. “SAG-AFTRA simply does not record what is earned but it willy-nilly converts checks as it sees fit, by either endorsing checks made out to performers and placing same into its purported Trust Account, or by holding onto performers checks for months if not years on end to the ongoing detriment of its members who depend on these earnings to live,” Tuesday’s 26-page federal court filing says. The union must be “held accountable for misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance in these and other regards,” it adds. Asner and the United Screen Committee first filed suit over more than $130 million in allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals on May 24. A hearing on the union’s November request for dismissal and motion to strike is scheduled for January 6 in front of District Judge Manuel Real. In the fall, the judge set a June 24, 2014 trial date in the case.
Members of the DGA have three weeks to vote on a new three-year deal its negotiating committee reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers late last month. Ratification packages were sent out this week to the 15,000 DGA members with a January 7, 2014 due date for returning ballots. “This ballot represents your highest responsibility as a Guild member and the core of why the Guild has existed and remained strong for over 77 years – to protect your economic and creative rights and freedoms. The Negotiations Committee and the Guild’s National Board unanimously – and enthusiastically – recommend that you vote YES for ratification of the Agreements,” said guild president Paris Barclay in an accompanying letter. In his first contract agreement as DGA boss, Barclay didn’t go soft on selling the deal to his members, playing up the wage increase provisions. “We successfully achieved critical gains for DGA members in a number of significant areas – the most important of which was to increase wages significantly for members by “breaking the 2s” – the pattern set after the economic downturn of 2008 that affected labor negotiations throughout the industry and resulted in 2% annual wage increases, at best”, he wrote in pitch to members dated December 13. “We succeeded – resulting in what will be 3% wage increases annually.”
The union today began tentative moves to keep its pre-merger promise to join the separate SAG and AFTRA health care plans for members. SAG-AFTRA announced Sunday that beginning next summer, members with earnings of less than $15,100 split between SAG and AFTRA contracts “may be able to combine their earning to qualify for health insurance.” The SAG-AFTRA announcement is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2014, which, no coincidence, is when the new contract between the union and the producers is set to take effect. The DGA last month was the first guild to wrap up its contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers and is preparing to send out the agreement to its members for ratification. During the campaign to merge the two unions in 2012, proponents of the merger promised that the separate health and pension funds would be merged into one eventually if the merger was approved. Despite an overwhelming vote to unite the unions, in March 2012, movement on the combining of the health care plans has been extremely sluggish up until this point with closed-door committee meetings dictating the slow process. “Please understand that this is only a first step and the SAG P&H and AFTRA H&R Trustees are individually and jointly actively exploring additional options to qualify the greatest possible number of participants for health coverage through SAG-AFTRA work,” the union said today.
DGA Board Approves New Contract With Producers; 2.5% Wage Increase For 1st Year, 0.5% Pension Increase, Some SVOD & AVOD Increases
As expected, the Directors Guild of America Board today unanimously rubber-stamped the new three-year deal its negotiating committee finalized with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers on Friday. …
(A version of this story first appeared Sunday.)
Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was a defining moment of the 20th century. That is even the case for someone like me, who was born after November 22, 1963, in the shadow of the president’s murder. Most of my generation can tell you where they were when they learned of the shooting of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, but everyone of a certain age can tell you where they were that tragic day in Dallas. With the passing of the WWII generation and memories of Pearl Harbor, only 9/11 is as seared into our souls now as much as 11/22. In remembrance of the 35th president, I asked some of the industry’s most notable and insightful individuals — a few of whom had seen JFK just before his death — where they were when they heard the news of the shooting and what they experienced that day. Here’s what they told me:
Ron Meyer – Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal
I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps and I was living in LA. I was working at a men’s clothing store and we heard this news. You know, I was in the Marines during the Cuban missile crisis, during the blockade, so we really felt we knew him and that you had direct involvement with him because, at least during that time, everything that happened to him affected us. We could have gone to war if he’d ordered it. So when he was killed, you felt that someone who had been an integral part of your life, my life, was gone. I was young, 20 years old, but it was the most unexpected loss. You know, my family escaped from Nazi Germany – so to us, he represented the hope of the world. It was tragic.
Jeffrey Katzenberg – CEO, DreamWorks Animation
I try to focus less on November 22nd and more on November 8th, the date in 1960 when Kennedy was elected president. I was only 9 at the time, but that election, with its down-to-the-wire finish, suddenly made me aware of the excitement and possibilities of politics. Three years later, Kennedy’s assassination was devastating beyond words. But, for me, it further heightened the impact of his 1,000 days. While I was still in middle school, I went to work for another dynamic young leader, New York Mayor John Lindsay. JFK’s example inspired me then, and it inspires me still.
Bill O’Reilly – Host, The O’Reilly Factor; Author, Killing Kennedy
Back in November of 1963, I was a 14-year-old freshman at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York. I was sitting in Brother Carmine Diodati’s religion class when the loud speaker crackled, and the school principal announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. He then put the CBS radio report on the loudspeakers all over the school. The students were stunned. Few of us said anything.
When I got home that afternoon, my mother was watching CBS on television. Her mother, my grandmother’s name was Winifred Kennedy. So the O’Reilly family had a direct emotional tie to the much more famous Kennedy clan. In the weeks that followed, life got back to normal for the teenagers on Long Island. But my friends and I will never forget the first time we heard of the treacherous assassination.
In a legal move that comes as no surprise, the union today moved to have the remaining elements of the multi-million dollar suit filed by former SAG President Ed Asner and the 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee tossed out of court. In filings (read them here and here) Wednesday in federal court, SAG-AFTRA lawyers said that the amended complaint by the plaintiffs is covered by federal labor law not state law as they are asserting and should be dismissed. The union also says Asner and the United Screen Committee, who first filed their suit on May 24, are over-reaching in their claims of representation. “While Plaintiffs can maintain a cause of action on their own behalf alleging that their own funds have been converted, Plaintiffs have no right to possession or transfer of amounts allegedly owed to others and therefore their claims for others must once again be dismissed,” says the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s first amended complaint. A hearing on the dismissal and motion to strike is scheduled for January 6, 2014. That hearing could see this case come to an end or allow Asner and crew to file another amended complaint.
Well, looks like Ned Vaughn won’t be following former union boss Ronald Reagan to Sacramento after all. A rare Republican in a heavily Democratic town, the former SAG-AFTRA EVP today pulled the plug on his campaign …