Actors, studios reach deal

A sigh of relief could be heard around Hollywood on Tuesday night when the two actors unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The deal, sealed three days after the old actors’ old contact expired, follows the on-again, off-again bargaining sessions that started May 15, with last week being the most intense with late-hour negotiations. Union leaders were quite pleased with the settlement, fulfilling their main objective–securing more money for the “working-class” actors, a group that comprises over half of the union members and who earn anywhere between $30,000 – $70,000 a year when employed.

SAG spokesman Greg Krizman told Variety that the agreement provides for a hike in the minimum pay scale in the ballpark of 3 percent to 3.5 percent annually over three years. There also will be substantial increases in salaries for TV guest stars and stunt performers and residuals for shows on basic cable TV and shows sold overseas.

An elated SAG president William Daniels told reporters at the news conference, “I was right, there was a deal to be made, and for that I am entirely grateful.” He credits both sides for setting the tone for the talks.

Shelby Scott, president of AFTRA, added, “Our main goal in these negotiations was to help the middle-income actor-the actor that you all recognize but sometimes you don’t know their names. They are the backbone of this industry. And I think we have helped them.”

Carol Lombardini, Senior Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for the AMPTP, said in a statement, “We commend SAG and AFTRA for their dedication, hard work and commitment toward reaching solutions. This agreement is focused upon the special needs of actors while addressing the economic realities of the industry today.”

The deal must still be approved by the governing boards of the two unions and ratified by the rank-and-file, a process expected to take a little over a month. However, it’s expected to go fairly smoothly.

The entertainment industry feared the worst earlier in the year, when both the Writers Guild of America and the SAG contracts were due to expire in the same six month period. The studios braced themselves, rushing production start dates and holding back on any new ventures. Everyone from prop houses to craft services to advertising agencies were affected. Now, finally, they can put all the concerns to rest and start moving forward with new projects, even though it will take some time to gear back up again.