Monday, 1 December 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #198: The Moguls Speak, But What Are They Saying?

The AMPTP, the association of movie studios, has released the following statement (h/t Nikki Finke) concerning their non-going negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Read it, and then I'll let you know what I think about it.

1. The first thing I've learned is that negotiations between labour and management should never be handled by labour-management negotiation "experts."


Because, no matter what side of the issue you are on, the "experts" earn the big money by making problems worse. Face, how many billable hours can one get if they both negotiated like real businessmen, found a mutually beneficial deal, shook hands, and settled everything in less than a week? That won't put your kids through Harvard.

So you get "experts" advising the union to raise the black flag, man the barricades, and strike a blow for the workers revolution, while the "experts" advising the studios are telling them that they can break the union, replace it with one that's more malleable to their wishes (AFTRA I'm casting a hairy eyeball in your direction), and rule the world transforming the industry into one huge Dickensian workhouse where the top management are the only ones that get paid.

That's why you get negotiations getting turned from business into war.

Sadly, the studios are being told what they want to hear by their experts, and are perfectly content to let those experts run the show. Basically because these experts are paid with other people's money, and that money to the moguls costs way less than actually getting off their pampered behinds and doing something for themselves.

The Actor's union feels that it doesn't really have much of a choice in the issue of hiring their own experts. These are actors after all, and very few of them have the education and background needed to understand the arcane mysteries surrounding labour laws and negotiation tactics. Which is why I think both sides should each get an agent. Two obnoxious type-A bulldogs who can't be bribed, bullied, or bullshitted, and will not give up until they get a deal that makes both of their clients happy, and a nice fee package in their own bank accounts.

2. The AMPTP are still trying their same old "divide & conquer" strategy claiming that what SAG wants will somehow put them over the directors, writers, and other trades. But the statement neglects to mention that sticking point that actually does separate actors from the rest.

Their faces.

The AMPTP wants the use of clips from movies for advertisements, web based special materials, and anything else they can use them to make money with. The actors don't like this because many of the bigger names have their own endorsement deals, and aren't looking for conflicts that could jeopardize one of their chief revenue streams, and the character actors and supporting players don't want their faces being used to sell everything from cola to cars without at least getting paid for it.

And just imagine what the continuously rapidly developing technology can do. Imagine you're an unknown actor, you make a few films in supporting parts before you get your big break and become the biggest star in the world. Well, if this matter isn't settled, the makers of the films you were a supporting player in, can take clips of you in their films, doctor them digitally, and have you shilling vaccuum cleaners to video-players, raking in millions for themselves, and you don't get a dime from it.

Are you going to settle for that?

So they do have an extra dog in the fight, and they need control over their own faces.

There is a third way, where everyone can get at least most of what they want, and walk away happy, and unscrewed. But I don't think the experts are going to let that happen.

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