Personal manager Rick Seigel sent this email around Hollywood today: 

To all personal managers:

This morning some fifty Los Angeles-based personal managers listened to Doug Allen (SAG executive director) and Alan Rosenberg (SAG President) talk about their current labor negotiations at the Guild’s Wilshire Avenue headquarters.

Obviously, of most concern was the potential of a strike. While they will not assure us that striking is off the table, Doug and Alan both made it clear they are trying to do everything they can to accomplish their objectives without a work stoppage.

They voiced hope that the proposed AFTRA contract will be rejected, believing that plot twist would provide them more leverage in their talks with the producers.

My belief is that every personal manager should support them in that effort, and here’s why:

AFTRA contracts have historically been less beneficial to the Actors, that’s not news. But what’s changing, because of the new production and distribution technologies, is jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction determines which union the producers work under. According to what SAG told us today, currently 95% of scripted television and 100% of films are done under SAG contracts.

But just as they used the changing technologies to make inroads with basic cable, AFTRA can use the new technologies to compete for jurisdiction for new projects in virtually every arena.

And who will pay more to SAG when they can get the same actors for less money with AFTRA?

No one. Let me give you an example of the import of this vote. I had a client who starred in a SAG show, basic cable. In his first year (2001) he was paid $10,000 an episode. With SAG residuals, that 10K became 16.5K over time, a nice annuity.

Though the network continued to plead poverty, THAT’S SO RAVEN changed the channel’s fortunes: THE DISNEY CHANNEL can now be found in 40% more homes and has made a fortune through DVD and download sales of his and the network’s subsequent series (SUITE LIFE, HANNAH MONTANA… and that’s not counting the concert tours.)

In 2006 my client agreed to star in the RAVEN spin-off at a starting salary of $15,000 a show, under a contract that allowed them to choose their actor’s union after we signed on.

Disney chose to make the new show AFTRA. Including AFTRA residuals, that $15,000 a show stayed right there: $15,000. He has not received and does not expect to see any future monies. So instead of being paid 50% more than what he made back in 2001, he was making less money six years later after making the network tens and tens of millions of dollars. (No, they did not do anything about it, no matter how hard I fought, and you know I’m willing to fight pretty hard if I think I’m right about something.)

On AFTRA projects the monies paid in for P&W are less, everything’s less beneficial to the actor. So if AFTRA ratifies a cut rate plan, your clients will make less. Those who count on residuals will find themselves needing to leave the business, if not today, tomorrow. Those who are counting on their pensions, well, count again.

So while personal managers have our issues with SAG — something that Doug Allen promised to address as soon as these negotiations are completed — in the name of doing best for our clients I urge you to recommend to all AFTRA members, particularly those with dual membership, to vote NO when offered the chance to ratify or reject the proposed contract.

I do not take my email list lightly. I realize to date I’ve only written about the Talent Agencies Act, and I only wish to involve personal managers with correspondence that is best for our profession. You will not get any BE AN OBAMA MAMA or VOTE FOR ME, MY FRIENDS, I’M JOHN McCAIN missives from me. But as this is about the futures of your clients, it is also about your futures, so I hope you will receive this in the spirit of which I intended.

I have had continual behind the scenes talks with both SAG and AFTRA about this (and of course, the Talent Agencies Act) over the last few years, and I can say this with a sad but strong confidence: AFTRA’s efforts are for the benefit of the organization, not its members.

Spread the word,
Rick Siegel
Hi-Road group, INC /Marathon entertainment