MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Another Nail In The Coffin For The Acting Middle Class

You know, this new AFTRA/SAG contract was never going to be a game changer. The big point of pride offered by “Unite for Strength” is that the negotiations weren’t contentious. Kinda like when a woman is abused enough by a thug to “unite” without any argument. It makes perfect sense that they leaked out this grease at 4am on a time-changing Sunday morning.

With a 2% a year increase in minimums, this United With AFTRA regime shows, again, that they don’t much care about actors who make minimum, even as the number of established actors forced to work for that number continues to increase. Of course, the game was already up when the last contract was pushed through, as those same actors are now facing the loss of most of their re-run payments.

Focusing on keeping Pension & Health solvent with increased payments is fine… but the bigger problem is members making the income cut to be eligible for the very good SAG healthcare plan. That was one place where the abandonment of the middle class by SAG took place.

I am fascinated that United for Strength has been able to create this fallacy that merging with/submitting to AFTRA is the moderate position when it’s a radical position. Thing is, they have slowly made this an inevitability. If you embrace AFTRA as AFTRA seriously undercuts what it took SAG decades to establish, then you end up with – and you now do have – serious competition between the unions.

AFTRA has become the studios’ choice, over SAG, for contracts with actors whenever possible. Why? Because they cut better deals for the studios/producers, at the cost of actors. It’s not complicated. But United and its ilk have conspired with AFTRA to undercut “Membership First,” authored the end of SAG as a sovereign union, and now, yeah, fighting off AFTRA is virtually impossible.

And that’s what passes for “moderation” these days.

Oy.

4 Responses to “Another Nail In The Coffin For The Acting Middle Class”

  1. clifton collins jr says:

    I said this very same thing, the last time around. It’s really sad David, I think of the beginning, Cagney standing up for all of us, and how we failed at carrying the torch. Can’t help but think somebody’s palm on the inside is gettin greased… thanks for the article.

    C

  2. Tom Ligon says:

    Both SAG and AFTRA have, over the years, undercut each other in various ways – all to the detriment of actor/members, who should be in one union for all performers’ who work in front of cameras or microphones.

    Presently, AFTRA’s TV broadcast rates for actors are SUPERIOR to SAG’s. They are not in any way “undercutting” SAG, nor do they “cut better deals for the studios/producers at the cost of actors.”

    You obviously are against actors uniting into one union, so you won’t be convinced by anything I say. Nevertheless, someone has to stand for the truth, and it might as well be me.

    Kudos to you if you have the integrity to publish my comment.

  3. David Poland says:

    It’s published. (I don’t actually keep any comments from publication unless they are profoundly offensive beyond their ideas.)

    But you’re wrong.

    Under AFTRA, there have been all kinds of deals made on residuals that reduce what actors take home. AFTRA gave away repeat periods and then the web for cheap. AFTRA has conceded on actors’ working rights issues. Etc.

    There is a reason why virtually every deal that can be under AFTRA or SAG has gone to AFTRA in the last 18 months. And it’s not because they are more stringent or more expensive.

    The idea that that first minimum payment is the primary issue is a misunderstanding of how the middle/lower class of TV actors have survived and qualified for health benefits for decades.

    Of course, we are now near the point where you are right. Because of the concessions made in the last deal – giving away the internet for almost nothing, not accounting for the end of reruns as a standard part of network TV, and leaving the horrible DVD deal pretty much as is – nothing really does matter, except for what you get paid up front. DVD doesn’t generate enough income for anyone to live on… and now, neither will streaming.

    And I don’t just blame AFTRA and merger supporters inside the union. I blame the other talent unions who made their bad deals as well. SAG has taken a right proper screwing and no one was there to fight for the future of the middle class actor, except for Membership First, which failed in many ways to make the case convincingly enough.

    I never had a horse in the issue of a merger. I can’t say that I see a lot of purpose in growing a union that is as huge as the merged one would be with as many different kinds of constituencies within its parameters. But I have no strong objection if people disagree.

    What I do object to is the idea that the unions cannot seem to get out of their own way and seemingly forgetting the purpose of the union in the first place… not to fight for those who are already massively successful to keep working without interruption, but to protect the members who are not protected by their significant success.

    WGA, DGA, AFTRA & SAG got EXACTLY what AMPTP was happy to give them. Scratch that… they got less than AMPTP would have been willing to give them. WGA was so obsessed with getting something for the internet now that they did exactly what they wanted not to do… they got DVDed again… and DGA did the little fighting they always do… and SAG was left hanging with a split union and AFTRA committed to sucking up every show that a weakened SAG wouldn’t fight to keep.

    Is there a reason to trust a fellow union that just stabbed you deeply in your back? I guess you think so.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Twice, shame on me.

    SAG has been so weakened that there is practically no choice but to merge. Revenues the union collects on will just keep going down.

    Is that a victory? Does that feel like a good turn of events?

    And aside from your belief that “should be… one union for all performers’ who work in front of cameras or microphones,” what is the upside of the merger? How does this make working actors safer or better cared for?

    I don’t get it, Mr. Ligon.

  4. David Poland says:

    P.S. If you are the Tom Ligon who has been a working actor since the 60s, you should be getting your SAG pension benefits now. Congrats. Great system over these last 40+ years and I bet you are in good shape financially on that basis.

    Can SAG assure young members today that there will be a similarly funded pension plan in place in 40 years? Will the merger insure this?

    Looking at your imdb page, I see a number of 3 TV appearance years. This is not about you, specifically. But my concern is, will someone who got into SAG in 2005 be able to make the Health cut on that in 2012, as you probably did in the 70s?

Leave a Reply

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

Dear Irene Cho, I will miss your energy and passion; your optimism and joy; your kindness towards friends, colleagues, strangers, struggling filmmakers, or anyone who randomly crossed your path and needed a hand. My brothers and I have long considered you another sibling in our family. Our holiday photos – both western and eastern – have you among all the cousins, in-laws, and kids… in the snow, sun, opening presents, at large dinner gatherings, playing Monopoly, breaking out pomegranate seeds and teaching us all how to dance Gangnam style. Your friendship and loyalty meant a great deal to me: you were the loudest cheerleader when I experienced victories and you were always ready with sushi when I had disappointments. You had endless crazy ideas which always seemed impossible but you would will them into existence. (Like that time you called me and suggested that we host a brunch for newly elected mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti because “he is going to president one day.” We didn’t have enough time or funding, of course, only your desire to do it. So you did, and I followed.) You created The Daily Buzz from nothing and it survived on your steam in spite of many setbacks because you believed in a platform for emerging filmmakers from all nations. Most of all, you were a wonderful mother to your son, Ethan, a devoted wife to your husband, and a wonderful sibling and daughter to your family. We will all miss how your wonderful smile and energy lit up the room and our lives. Rest in peace, Irene.
~ Rose Kuo Remembers Irene Cho on Facebook

“You know, I was never a critic. I never considered myself as a film critic. I started doing short films, writing screenplays and then for awhile, for a few years I wrote some film theory, including some film criticism because I had to, but I was never… I never had the desire to be a film critic. I never envisioned myself as a film critic, but I did that at a period of my life when I thought I kind of needed to understand things about cinema, understand things about film theory, understand the world map of cinema, and writing about movies gave me that, and also the opportunity to meet filmmakers I admired.

“To me, it was the best possible film school. The way it changed my perspective I suppose is that I believe in this connection between theory and practice. I think that you also make movies with ideas and you need to have ideas about filmmaking to achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve through your movies, but then I started making features in 1986 — a while ago — and I left all that behind.

“For the last three decades I’ve been making movies, I’ve been living, I’ve been observing the world. You become a different person, so basically my perspective on the world in general is very different and I hope that with every movie I make a step forward. I kind of hope I’m a better person, and hopefully a better filmmaker and hopefully try to… It’s very hard for me to go back to a different time when I would have different values in my relationship to filmmaking. I had a stiffer notion of cinema.”
~ Olivier Assayas