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Thursday, December 11, 2008

STRIKE TWO, WE'RE ALL OUT

THE QUALIFICATION I haven't blogged about the potential SAG strike for a number of reasons. The main one being that I have a LOT of opinions. Many are knee-jerk, overemotional responses. So I waited. When I read that the ballot for a strike authorization will be going out after the first of the year, jerking knee or not, I figured I’d weigh in. For the record, I am a member of SAG, AFTRA, WGA, DGA and a former Teamster. I, like most talent in this town, think AMPTP is an insidious, greedy affiliation that continues to diminish and undermine the creative force that IS entertainment. Recently watching the big three automakers squirm during their beg fest before congress, I couldn't help but superimpose Iger, Chernin, and Moonves’ faces on the bodies of Nardelli, Mulally and Wagoner. It was a sad, eye-opening examination, but there were moments where it was just plain fun watching the fat cats get bitchslapped. I qualify my affiliations and my belief in solidarity because I'm going to share some thoughts that will probably piss people off. They will question my loyalty and want me dead. Join the club (see previous death threat blog). I believe that it would be a huge mistake for SAG to strike in 2009. It would not only cripple this industry, it would deal a blow to the union that could create irreparable damage to actors’ leverage and reputation. THERE IS NO MAT In case you haven't noticed, we are in a full blown recession that's hurling toward another not-so-great depression. It's very fucked up; jobs are scarce. One of my struggles with getting behind the WGA strike was the impact the walk out was having on the whole TEAM. This business is not about the actor, writer or director, it's about the PRODUCTION; it's a huge collaboration. To ignore the ramifications of a strike on all the players affected is not only arrogant and selfish, it ultimately hurts the striking party. That was hard to swallow a year ago during a more stable economy, now it's just unthinkable. If the actors walk out in this economy it would put THOUSANDS of people out of work. Now more than ever, there is no place for those displaced folks to land. Not only is that fiscally and morally wrong, it's a PR nightmare for the union. I'm not saying what SAG is asking for is wrong or undeserved. I've see the "pro-yes" videos and I understand the needs. It's a sound and compelling argument and at any other time it would make sense. My argument is not about the content, it's about timing. Yes, I know AMPTP is using the same argument to demonize SAG and to scare actors into voting "no". But although their motives are twisted and of course void of any real concern for the working man, the facts are true -- a strike would do more harm than good. And SAG using the same fact -- gross unemployment -- as leverage to make a deal, is just as wrong. And if the sentiments in this blog end up in some Big Media propaganda -- “showrunner condemns strike” -- I apologize in advance. But I truly believe that this is not the time to go to the mat. There is no mat. INTO OBVIOUS ACTION Not that anyone asked, but here are the obvious things I think SAG needs to do. 1.) Go back to the table and get the best "comparative deal" you can get (the one AMPTP has offered which is equal to the WGA and DGA deal). 2.) Sign a two year contract so that the SAG contract expires in May of 2011 when the WGA and DGA contracts do. That way all three unions are renegotiating at the same time, giving us back the leverage we lost during the Gilbert administration. 3.) FIRE ALAN ROSENBERG. I’m sure he’s a nice man, but as a leader, I’m telling you kids, he’s a dangerous fucking dude. In a recent interview with the NY Times, Rosenberg said, "Aside from my family, I have two great loves in my life: acting and the fight for social justice." Um… forgive me for being callous, but let's look at this scenario. His wife just left him, his acting career isn't exactly booming, what's the guy got left? That’s right, THE FIGHT. And that's exactly what it is to AR. It's become very personal and very deep. It's his quest to make a difference. As a friend recently pointed out, SAG is renegotiating a contract, not fighting for human rights. The contract talks are not about injustice, they are about percentages and parameters. Do you really want your leader gearing up for a holy crusade when what you need is a determined diplomat? The biggest problem for Mr. Rosenberg now is that the longer this process drags on, the more the size of his dick is on the line. Meaning, he has taken such a strong stance up to this point that anything other than a “bold move” will make him look flaccid. So even though the evidence is piling up that makes a strike the wrong move, his penis will not allow him to acknowledge it (it's a guy thing). Alan no longer has true objectivity or a clear view of the big picture. The most dangerous thing about his leadership is that it becomes a dream scenario for AMPTP. Our leader appears desperate and extreme, so they will hang him out as a "desperate extremist". And unfortunately, he's easy to demonize because his behavior on more than one occasion has been a little, well…demonic. His inner circle of thesnazis are the Samuel French equivalent of eco-terrorists. I've been the victim of some of their threatening emails. When the news of Sons of Anarchy hit the trades, one of them actually called me "a fucking backstabbing asshole" for letting FX “strong-arm” me into an AFTRA contract. And threatened to "blacklist" the show. Really? Are your guest spot residuals from Judging Amy that important where you are actually willing to commit a felony? (BTW, after The Shield, all FX shows became AFTRA. There was no choice in the process.) Luckily, there are now several people recently voted in to the new board who are much more qualified to lead this union. Hopefully a Coup d'├ętat is brewing. 4.) Stay vigilant. Monitor residuals and new media. Take notes on the "gray areas" that will need to be revisited in 2011. It's very easy, once things have returned to normal, to bury your head in the sand, but awareness is one of our strongest weapons. 90 PERCENT PARTY I have no idea what will happen when the SAG strike authorization vote goes out next month. The general consensus is that the 90% of the union who do not earn their livings as actors have nothing to lose, so they will most likely vote to strike. It gives them something to do between temp gigs and it’s an opportunity to make friends and network. It's a fucked up voting system, but that's a whole other blog. Anyway, the point is -- if we strike now, we all lose.

17 comments:

Brittany Dyer said...

As someone trying to break into the production end of the business all I can say is I agree 100%.

A strike affects everyone including those straight out of college with huge amounts of debt but are working for free as a PA on some independent just so they can add it to their resume to maybe one day get a real paying gig so they don't have to defer those student loans anymore...

I'm just sayin'...

kickstart said...

You're right .
As i recall Anarchy grows in a recession :)

How do you vote him out ? - who makes him resign ?
If you can pass that by the members and they agree - then what ?

And : how does the other side of the table see him .

CadetheRevelator said...

Hi Kurt,
I am by no means involved in Hollywood (other than my aspiring actor friend who lives in Hollywood). I just wanted to express to you how much of a relief it is to hear you stand stong on this subject. I realize all workers derserve fairness and that for SAG to strike in order to get the fairness it deserves is something i can agree with. However, i feel like everything in your statement rings true to the current economical situation, and if the people in SAG are smart, they'd follow your lead. Again i am in no way bashing SAG, but when are some of these people going to realize that ALL of us, not just Hollywood, are in a bad state. Anyway, continued success to yourself and your family Kurt.

Sincerly,
Brian

Justin said...

Any victory from a strike would be a Pyhrric victory and a lot of people who are underserving of a major screwing would, indeed, get majorly screwed.

I hope it doesn't happen. It sounds like the blokes who really need those jobs would find themselves out of one.

"Blacklisting" SoA. Wankers.

"Thesnazis," lullz.

FYI for the PC gamer set... Fallout 3 will be releasing new content in January *fingers crossed* that will feature the "Battle of Anchorage" and a world-building program so you can design your own missions and share them, a lot like the DROM-ED for Thief II - may Garrett rest in peace.

Justin said...

I can't think of something that could be considered out of theme of the post but...

Betty Page just died.

Jason McDonald said...

As an active SAG member living in the 90028 zip I could not agree more with your posting. The idea of SAG striking now is crazy.
We want to work ( of course I want to work on your show ;-)

Its hard enough to make a living here as an actor as it is - lets hope SAG don't make it even harder.

Felicia said...

It wouldn't be the first time foolish decisions were made by those in power in a desperate attempt to promote the illusion of possessing a gigantic pee-pee.

Maybe the SAG president should go into politics. I hear Illinois is looking to fill a couple of positions.

Grizzly Kaz said...

Kurt, Bravo!

Of all the posts regarding your life in the industry I think this is the best one yet.

You give valid and important reasons for SAG NOT to the strike (hell-o the ECONOMY people!) and valid options to make things work.

I am not in the industry (yet), but I respect your concern for the livelyhood of everyone involved in a production.

And then there is the consumer: we need entertainment to get us through crap like this recession.

You know officially remind me of another entertainer whose care for his crew and the industry as a whole has earned oodles of respect from me.

Thank you once again for being courageous to speak your mind, let the rest us understand WTF is going on and proving how important it is to THINK before you act.

Tom A. Hawks said...

I don't know about the politics involved. And I think solidarity is a fine enough thing. But I really only care about myself, because... well, because I'm a fucking American. So I can say as a fucking American from Ohio, who enjoys getting away from the real world at night for a couple of hours before bed, the Writer's Strike pissed me off as TV sucked without the writers.

An actors strike that lasted any length of time could very well find me cancelling the cable. Especially as I'm not sure I can keep affording it if the price of food doesn't come back to earth. Seriously... $5 a pound for chicken? wtf!

TV is all well and good, but if I want to leave this world for two hours a night before bed I can just as easily pop in a movie. Or there is a shitload of books I've been telling myself to read.

Now where is that Faulkner? I know I put it in one of these boxes...

Joanie said...

Kurt, totally agree with your comments. Not a smart time to be out on strike for any industry. I'm in the financial industry and things are pretty bleak.

I just hope those in the union see reason and get Rosenberg out asap. He's not doing the union or himself any favors by his behavior.

Luck to you and yours.....

Crafts n Etc said...

Kurt, I love the show, don't let them do that to you. Alot of my friends are in you know and I think its about time for a change and let people know. Good Job you tell them off.

irish said...

I love the show because it takes my mind off the murderous mayhem we here in NJ experience on a daily basis in "The Soprano State" All while paying the highest property taxes in the entire country. I better wear my bullet proof vest to go to the Cherry Hill Mall.

Oh yes do you think any of the NJ celebrities can come down heavy on the bosses (you too Springstein) and get us some safety and relief? Bonjovi, Willis, Maher, and K.S. and anyone else. We are dying here!

Murder outside Camden bar brings city's homicide total to 50
by South Jersey News Online
Sunday December 14, 2008, 12:20 PM
CAMDEN, N.J. -- A shooting that occurred overnight outside a Camden bar located in the 2900 block of Adams Avenue brought Camden's homicide total to 50.

According to 6ABC, a man in his 30's was shot in the neck while sitting in a car outside the Waterview Inn. Neither the motive nor the victims identity have been determined.

NJ Corrections Officer shot during Camden carjacking
by South Jersey News Online
Sunday December 14, 2008, 4:46 PM
CAMDEN -- A NJ State Corrections Officer was shot during a carjacking incident that occurred in the 1000 block of Sycamore Street, according to 6ABC.

The officer was shot in the leg during a scuffle after an armed man forced his way into the car, but managed to escape to safety and call 911 for backup. The officer's car was later found at 6th and Pine Streets, but the suspect has not yet been apprehended. The officer was treated at Cooper Hospital and released.

2 shootings we know about in less than 24 hours.

We are looking to move, we only have 1 vest!

Lakota said...

Kurt I certainly hope the SAG doesnt strike,and admire you on your stance.I can say that being a lower midle class person that if the Big Three Auto makers go belly up it isnt gonna bother me,they need to be restructured and the UAW needs to go bye-bye,then maybe a lot of people who cannot afford a new car can get one.If the SAG does strike I hope it's a quick settle to the differences,finaly after many years of crap on TV,your show SOA has gotten me watching again,well at least SOA,not much else on worth watching.The best to you and your Mrs., Respects.
Lakota

Sarah K. said...

As much as I have always supported the SAG and the WGA on their fight against Goliath, I mean the AMPTP, I am sharing the same concerns regarding the current economic crisis and the struggle it will be for the members who unfortunately won't be able to bounce back from the strike. It took me a certain time to emerge on this side of the debate and your post really helped make up my mind about this.

Regarding AR... this is sort of frightening...

You're right, it takes balls and brains to line the stuff up like you just did - and I respect you all the more for it.

j. lombardi said...

Mr. Sutter:
Just read all of your comments regarding the SAG strike. It is refreshing to read your concerns and to find someone considering the whole of the Production not just the actors. Thank you.
So many of the very hardworking people involved in a production are invisible to the public. However they all will be deeply effected by a SAG strike.
I have heard the SAG president say that a recession (is that what this is...sure feels like the beginning of a depression to me)is no excuse to delay or abandon a strike call. However, many things do need to be considered in these difficult times. Three follow:
1) the enormous cost to California for the unemployment that would be paid to those members of 'the business' who are not strikers but will be out of work. I realize that these monies are insurance funds paid by the employer. However, is this shaky system ready for an enormous influx of new claims?
2) how would a debt burdened California deal with a further loss in income tax revenues?
3) the loss to (and of) companies that supply the productions: florists, caterers, trailer rentals, etc. etc.
I noticed that you suggested the alternative possibility of a collapsed date contract that would permit SAG to revisit this question in 2 or so years. Perhaps by then the economy would be more stable (Go Barak). Time might clarify the questions regarding what the new media revenue streams might be and how to fairly compensate ALL involved.
Another advantage could be to allow cooler (and, as you suggest, more diplomatic) heads to prevail.
Perhaps the recent news of a delay in issuing the strike letters is a good sign.
p.s. love SOA, quite a scene with Ally

surrounded by carnivores said...

Hello Mr. Sutter:
the following shows more craziness from SAG. I am sure that you know of this but I find it hard to understand. I am aware of quite a few waiting and hoping for some sort of resolution to this mess...preferably as you mention in your bolog:the two year contract with a re-examination then. SAG sounds leaderless and rudderless.

SAG Letting Contracts Lapse, Says Lawyer

7 January 2009 1:38 AM, PST | From Studio Briefing

Even as the Screen Actors Guild continues its battle with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (and fights a civil war among its own membership to boot), it has allowed other significant contracts to expire, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel has observed on The Huffington Post blog. "Where do SAG contracts go when they expire? Who knows, but wherever it is, it's getting more crowded by the day," he writes. Among those already expired are the union's agreement with talent agents and its basic cable agreement. About to expire are the TV animation agreement and the basic cable animation agreement, which run out on January 15 and the contract for commercials, which winds up on March 31.

surrounded by carnivores said...

The threatened SAG strike continues to have an effect. I know people in L.A. who have commented on the lack of "shooting signs" on the streets and neighborhoods.
I thought the following would be interesting:

14 January 2009 1:41 AM, PST | From Studio Briefing

Film L.A., the group that co-ordinates issuing permits to studios for location shooting in Los Angeles, said Tuesday that filming in the city in 2008 dropped to its lowest level ever recorded. (Its record books date back only to 1993.) For the year, location filming fell 14 percent -- but it was down 46 percent in the fourth quarter. Film L.A. blamed the downturn on the lasting effects of the strike by the Writers Guild of America, the threat of a second strike by the Screen Actors Guild, and accelerated shooting in other cities and countries (so-called runaway production). "California is not competitive in the marketplace," Film L.A. President Paul Audley said in a statement. "We must create an environment that brings back high-dollar film productions, the thousands of jobs they generate and the revenues they pump into our local economy."