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Both George Clooney and now Tom Hanks have denied a Screen Actors Guild board member’s unofficial email to members that the two Triple-A list actors have joined the side of some dual cardholders lobbying and rallying against ratification of the AFTRA deal with the AMPTP. In turn, SAG’s critics are using Susan Savage’s erroneous email to claim that the message came officially from SAG. This morning, the PR firm 42West, which flacks both Tom Hanks and AFTRA, issued this statement to the press: “Further to the false report spread by SAG that Tom Hanks and George Clooney personally called Alan Rosenberg to offer their support, here is a statement from Tom Hanks: “Someone name [sic] Susan Savage has used my name in a letter, suggesting I have taken the position of not ratifying the new AFTRA agreement. This is a hoax, not true, a complete fabrication.” Earlier, Clooney issued this denial as well: “I have had no conversations with SAG concerning that issue. Any reporting to the contrary is false.”
(By the way, 42West denied “unequivocally and on the record” to me just now the rumor floating around that it is sponsoring that whack-job website SAGwatch.net. Funny thing — I didn’t even ask the question. “42West has nothing to do with SAGwatch, financially or otherwise. Anyone who tells you anything different is seriously misinformed and/or lying.”)
Enough is enough. Let me first make it clear that I believe any SAG effort, official or unofficial, to convince dual cardholders to deep-six the AFTRA deal with the AMPTP is a ridiculous waste of time. On the other hand, SAG can’t be expected to control the opinions or actions of all its members, and apparently not even its board members. But any official effort by SAG to help organize these guild member efforts against smaller AFTRA should be stopped immediately.
So what is SAG doing officially on this matter? SAG claims it is not now engaged in an official campaign to defeat ratification of the AFTRA contract. But is that true? I’m told that SAG leaders Alan Rosenberg and Doug Allen recently made the rounds of all the moguls to articulate two agendas: 1) that SAG’s talks with the AMPTP are hopelessly stalled and the Hollywood CEOs need to insert themselves just like they did with the WGA talks to reach a contract. And 2) that SAG is angry that the moguls negotiated seriously first with AFTRA and not with the bigger actors guild. But one of the moguls who took the meeting told me, in answer to my question, “Yes, they said they were going to fight the AFTRA deal”. So either this is an anti-SAG disinformation campaign, or this really happened. I believe the latter.
Regardless of the leadership’s position, it’s certainly true that some very vocal SAG-AFTRA members, including SAG board members among the 44,000 dual cardholders, are really angered by the AFTRA-AMPTP deal. Specifically, they’re upset about what they see as the terms of AFTRA agreements in the past (bad basic cable deals, residuals giveaways, low day rates, lousy one-time-only pacts, etc), all the nonsense that led to the termination of the two guilds’ joint bargaining agreement, and the weak terms of this new AFTRA-AMPTP pact that contain few improvements. And then there’s how AFTRA’s NYC contingent, including Reardon, skeddadled without briefing SAG as soon as the AMPTP deal was done so SAG couldn’t go into its 2nd round of negotiations up to speed. “But more than anything, [these] actors are pissed about AFTRA’s leadership excluding SAG observers, compromising SAG bargaining and then – insult to injury – lying about it,” one source explained to me. “AFTRA’s negotiating committee admitted just days ago that they had purposefully excluded SAG’s observer from more than 2/3 of the negotiating days. Like I said, SAG-AFTRA members are pissed and they want action. They feel, as the email writer [Susan Savage] did, that if the institution doesn’t act, they have no choice but to do so.”
I’ve gotta say, this is wrong-headed. I don’t care who did what to whom anymore. Move on.
The AFTRA-AMPTP deal is done. Yes, it’s lousy. But stop crying over spilt milk. SAG’s membership needs to harness all its activism to supporting its leadership in the stalled negotiations with the AMPTP. Which is why I’m now calling on SAG, at today’s National Executive Committee on the progress of the talks, to come out of that meeting with a statement to members urging the cancellation of any ad hoc activities opposing the ratification of the AFTRA-AMPTP deal.
If the SAG panel wants to issue a formal statement opposing the deal? Fine. It’s a free country. But it would be wrong for Monday’s 10 AM rally at SAG National Headquarters, which unlike what the trades are saying, is supposed to be a show of support for the guild’s negotiating committee up against the AMPTP, and not an anti-ratification free-for-all, to degenerate into AFTRA-bashing. It’s counter-productive at this point.
UPDATE: *Also, SAG leaders need to exercise more control over their board members. The WGA enforced discipline, and SAG needs to do this as well. That Susan Savage email ending with a line indicating that George Clooney and Tom Hanks had expressed their support for the anti-ratification effort flew around town, along with a few phone calls I assume, and ultimately ended up posted at the SAGwatch.net website run by some anonymous anti-SAG dissidents. Calls were apparently made to George Clooney and Tom Hanks to confirm their support for AFTRA opposition (not clearly stated this way in the email as you can see), and their publicists or they sent statements to various press indicating that they have not expressed any opposition to the AFTRA contract and weren’t supporting such actions.
Here’s the thing: Savage’s email was not sanctioned by SAG. The member’s characterization of the rally is not SAG’s characterization. The line about Clooney’s and Hank’s support was not written in context. It turns out that Savage did not mean to imply that the two actors supported opposition to the AFTRA contract. Rather, the intent was to let members know that the pair supported the Screen Actors Guild in its negotiations because my info is that Clooney and Hanks and I’m sure many many oither Triple-A listers had expressed directly to Alan Rosenberg their support for SAG going in to negotiations. That’s a far cry from how Savage’s email read. She should never have sent that email precisely because she is a SAG Board member so her messages bear more import. See what happens as a result?
SAG leaders need to shut down all unauthorized email communications to members by the Board.*
In turn, AFTRA needs to shut up already about SAG, including all that propaganda about how SAG’s so-called “Membership First” leadership clique is causing all the current trouble with AFTRA. The two guilds need to stop meddling in each other’s internal affairs. And how fucking needy is Roberta Reardon for slobbering wet-kiss press? I found it so embarrassing that the Los Angeles Times bestowed on the AFTRA president that nauseatingly uncritical profile all the while ignoring the news in my many posts that have shown AFTRA to be both the catalyst for bad behavior towards SAG but also in the AMPTP’s hip pocket. Just more proof of the LA Times‘ awful union coverage. (Like the fact that the LA Times only now gets around to reporting the fact that the studios and networks won’t pay up on millions and millions of force majeure moolah owed from the writers strike — when I first reported on May 6th and again on May 14th that the Screen Actors Guild had already filed arbitrations to get the payments. Ugh…)
What’s past is past. And, in this case, past is not prologue. As I’ve said repeatedly, what AFTRA does shouldn’t affect SAG. After all, in the realm of scripted entertainment, it’s puny. While SAG accounts for 100% of motion pictures and about 90+% of television, AFTRA had just 3 network scripted series total under this primetime TV contract (and one of them, ABC’s Cashmere Mafia, has been cancelled.). But AFTRA has been crowing about reeling in a few pilots this truncated TV development season. So I sense concern inside SAG’s leadership that AFTRA is going to further encroach on SAG’s jurisdiction by using as a come-on its new AMPTP deal, which continues the union’s shameful history of compromising actors over the years with contract terms inferior to SAG’s. (Ironic, since Reardon et al falsely claimed it was SAG’s alleged encroachment on AFTRA’s soap operas that caused her to abruptly end the two unions’ joint bargaining agreement). I also sense some misplaced concern inside SAG leadership that dual cardholders may not stay loyal in the very unlikely event of a SAG strike. But that SAG card is the most coveted among actors, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. So let AFTRA continue having the inferiority complex.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the SAG-AFTRA warring is nothing more than a Big Media mogul’s wet dream. Isn’t there enough Hollywood CEO porn already?