July 11, 2000
1:04 PM   Subscribe

Speaking of artists' rights, one of the less obvious front lines in that war is the current Actors' strike against ad agencies (yep, Zach, it's still on), where the union is insisting on extending the concept of Residuals to cable TV and the web, while advertisers want to do away with residual payments altogether. The unlikely union leader in this battle is America's answer to David Tomlinson, and now drawn into the fight is a certain Presidential candidate who's putting non-union "real folks" in his ads. And if you don't think this is a pivotal battle, Hollywood's writers do.
posted by wendell (2 comments total)
I wanted to be a character actor at one time. SAG did nothing to help me. It does nothing to help a lot of people. Maybe less than ten percent of talented people actually make any headway in this industry. The studios are doing it wrong, treating talent like cattle and using up a face only to spit on it the next day. However, the Screen Actors Guild is also going about it the wrong way.

Why should anyone have to be in SAG before they are inlcuded in a commercial? Or anything behind the camera? Why can't I just grab a camera and go make a short or full-length with friends and aquaintences who wanna play along? What if I can't afford scale? The present 'rules' regarding all this crap protect the wealthy, and makes true moviemaking for the average American cost-ineffective. It turns freedom of expression into big business, when it should be just as easy to do this in Montgomery Maryland as it is in Hollywood California.

I'd like to see both big studios and SAG stop looking at the political ramifications of this, get the hell out of the way and just let talented performers do their damn job.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2000

Zach, SAG doesn't get you work. That's what agents are for. SAG creates a situation where a vast commodity -- people wanting to appear on camera -- becomes a meritocracy, because you can get a good actor for the same price as a bad one. I think Daniels is seizing the right moment for this fight: the corporations want to completely control vast reams of content forever, and they are not above buying off Congress to extend copyrights 20 years when they feel the need. Okay, they get to SELL that content for 20 more years -- but do they have to pay anyone else for it? That's what this argument is about.

As for low-budget productions, SAG has both a low-budget agreement for movies under $2M and a modified low-budget for budgets under $500K. There's even a limited distro budget and ones for experimental or student films.

If your friends have no intention of ever working professionally, you're entitled to one-off hires. Instead of the restrictions you see, I see the opening up of opportunities. Blair Witch and American Movie prove it.

I got entangled in a free-for-all in alt.tv.commercials with a couple of Ayn Rand goons who tried to simultaneously argue that the advertising houses were being unfairly coerced AND that the strike would utterly fail because nobody wanted to pay for an "artificial" raise in labor costs. (If nobody wants to pay, how are they being coerced?) Interspersed with invective against people who "sit on their asses all day" before "saying a few words in front of a camera" was sheer contempt for the very idea that anyone except INVESTORS (whom they defined as the people who make all things possible ... like God?) ought to derive benefits from their efforts. (They also made use of weaselly logical confusion between "advertisers" like McDonald's or GM -- defined as "producers" in their Howard Roark fantasy world -- and "advertising production" which is hundreds of small businesses that employ freelancers.) Basically, this line of reasoning drove me to wholehearted support of the actors. This is an intellectual property issue as important as any other.

Who will earn money from their efforts? The money men? Or the people who do the work?
posted by dhartung at 9:39 PM on July 15, 2000

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