Michael Buckner for Variety
SAG-AFTRA has found itself defending its decision to give the green light to more than 100 independent productions to film during the strike.
Many members, including Sarah Silverman and Viola Davis, have publicly suggested that working under an interim agreement would undermine the strike. Silverman went so far as to call it “scab,” though she backtracked on her criticism after speaking with union leadership.
In a message to members on Sunday evening, the union’s bargaining committee said the interim agreements are an “important part” of the strike strategy.
“We encourage independent producers to apply and encourage SAG-AFTRA members to work on the projects that achieve an interim agreement, along with all the other permitted work we support,” the union said.
To obtain a preliminary agreement, a producer must be independent of companies belonging to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The manufacturer must also accept the terms proposed by SAG-AFTRA in its negotiations with the AMPTP.
It includes a provision whereby a production must pay the 2% of streaming revenue that Parrot Analytics attributes to that production.
Some actors have expressed concern that independent productions will eventually be distributed by AMPTP companies, such as Amazon or Netflix. But SAG-AFTRA argued that the revenue share provision makes distribution on AMPTP platforms “impractical” at the moment.
“We strongly believe that the terms of this agreement, particularly the streaming revenue share, will make distribution of these projects through AMPTP platforms impossible until an industry-wide agreement is reached,” the committee said.
The preliminary agreements will ultimately be consistent with the final terms of the agreement with AMPTP, so independent producers will not be at a disadvantage to AMPTP competitors at that time.
Many people refer to the agreements as a “waiver”, although SAG-AFTRA rejects the term. The union notes that productions are not circumventing SAG-AFTRA’s demands, but are actually accepting them, increasing pressure on AMPTP companies.
“We believe that the leverage created by increasing competitive pressure on AMPTP and denying them what they want most will force them back to the table and help bring this strike to an end,” the committee argued.
The union also argued that if producers are willing to fire on SAG-AFTRA’s terms, it proves the terms are fair. It also stated that allowing independent producers to shoot will ensure that budgets go to union-covered work, “instead of fueling a pipeline of non-union foreign productions.”
The SAG-AFTRA strike only covers the television/theater contract, leaving members free to continue working on reality shows, game shows, video games, commercials and other work covered by other contracts. The union declared the strike on July 13 after a month of talks with AMPTP failed to produce a new contract.