Despite the AMPTP’s prickly statement tonight, and SAG’s terse one (see both below), I can tell you what really went on in today’s very crucial negotiating session… Today, SAG made a full counter-proposal to the Big Media cartel negotiating group’s supposed “last best final” offer put on the table June 30th. I’m told SAG and the AMPTP “got closer together today” because the union worked hard to “remove some of the differences” and “made a number of moves” in the AMPTP’s direction. “SAG is now engaging the AMPTP in the process of doing the same thing,” I’m told. Specifically, SAG moved closer on some economic issues, New Media issues, and some other bargaining issues not previously addressed.

In turn, SAG told the AMPTP that it had to move closer on these issues, too. The AMPTP “starts every negotiation saying they’re here to bargain for ‘your’ recommendation. And we say, ‘If you want our board to recommend an offer to our membership, then you’re going to have to do better than this. Because what you’ve given us won’t make it beyond our board.’ “

SAG’s national board meets on July 26th and the guild made it clear to the AMPTP that SAG “would like to have something ready between now and then that our board would be interested in unilaterally recommending to the membership.”

In all, both sides spent about 3 hours on discussion, first in a big committee group for an hour and a half, then in a smaller sidebar. Right now, the AMPTP hasn’t said yes or no or even maybe to SAG’s counter-offer. 

But there won’t be any negotiations tomorrow, although both sides agreed to touch base. What’s cause for concern, however, is that no future meeting is now scheduled: instead both sides will get together, a source tells me, “when there’s a reason to get together so we might have a productive meeting in future”.

What’s next? Here are my thoughts: Now that the Screen Actors Guild wasted its political capital by losing its campaign against ratification of the AFTRA-AMPTP primetime TV contract, the AMPTP will predictably be taking every advantage of what it sees as its upper hand with the big actors union. (Funny enough, I’m told that the subject of the AFTRA vote wasn’t discussed more than a couple of times today. And one insider suggested to me far too optimistically about the AMPTP, “I certainly think they understand that was no slam dunk for them.”)

But a loss is still a loss. And I believe that the AMPTP’s latest statement sounds as if it’s ready any moment now to walk away from the negotiations, blame SAG for the stall, and issue an ultimatum — just like the AMPTP did to the WGA. However, I can’t believe the Hollywood CEOs are about to let their negotiating panel make a bad situation worse with a de facto lockout. The moguls would take a lot of heat for that, much more even than SAG, because they control the production spigot.

UPDATE: *Which is why it’s nonsensical to think there’s been a de facto strike when it’s been the Hollywood CEOs who’ve made the decision not to put films into production even though SAG has said publicly it has no plans to even ask its membership for a strike authorization vote, Step One before a strike is even contemplated. Meanwhile, let me make it clear here and now that the moguls have told me the de facto lockout has nothing to do with completion bonds and insurance. As one mogul clarified in response to my question about this: “Most studio movies are not bonded — those are indie films. And no insurance, unless separately bought for huge money, insures against strikes.” Another mogul emailed me when I asked if completion bonds/insurance were the studios’ reasons for the stoppage, “…That has not been the focus of our internal discussions.” So what has been? “Firstly, our productions are coming to an end, as planned. Secondly, it’s only prudent to know there is an agreement before committing millions of dollars of production which you may not be able to get back.” Meanwhile, SAG has signed more than 500 guaranteed completion contracts with independent producers of films, the top of which boast budgets between $14 million and $40 million dollars and represent in total hundreds of millions of dollars. But pro-AMPTP factions are out and about in Hollywood claiming that SAG has shut down the town. *

As for TV production, it ramps up around July 25th.

That’s why I’m hoping that both sides stay put and negotiate with an eye to that July 26th SAG national board meeting. The goal now is to put a deal together that the panel can recommend to its members. That way SAG can save face. And the AMPTP, too, since it would meet the August 15th ratification vote deadline imposed by their “last best final” offer. As I’ve reported previously, the AMPTP offered the WGA a total 10 last best final offers, and one ultimatum (with 2 items to take off the table that the AMPTP negotiated back on the table for the DGA). So there’s no loss of face if the AMPTP tweaks the terms of its offer, and the two sides come closer. Then all of Hollywood can get back to work by the end of the month.

But, if the AMPTP walks away… well, SAG at this point doesn’t even want to consider that possibility. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” my source told me. “We’ll keep taking it day at a time.”

SAG’s statement tonight:

“Screen Actors Guild negotiating committee members presented the AMPTP with their response to the producers’ proposal made June 30. SAG committee members will meet Friday to discuss the AMPTP’s response. We will provide further guidance following that meeting.”

The AMPTP representing the Big Media cartel issued the following statement after today’s negotiations:

“Today’s meeting demonstrated that SAG’s Membership First contingent unreasonably expects to obtain more in these negotiations than directors, writers and other actors obtained during their negotiations. AMPTP has already achieved four major labor agreements this year with the DGA, WGA, AFTRA Network Code, and AFTRA Prime-Time.  Our final offer to SAG  members includes more than $250 million in additional compensation, important new media rights and protection for pension and health benefits. The refusal of SAG’s Hollywood leadership to accept this offer is the latest in a series of actions by SAG leaders that, in our opinion, puts labor peace at risk. SAG’s Hollywood leaders have already pursued a time-consuming, divisive, costly, and unsuccessful anti-AFTRA campaign. Any further delay in reaching a reasonable and comprehensive agreement does a disservice to the thousands of working people of our industry who are already being seriously harmed by the ever worsening de facto strike. We call upon SAG’s Hollywood leaders to put the AMPTP’s final offer to SAG members for ratification. The last thing we need is a long, hot summer of labor strife that puts even more pressure on a badly struggling economy and deprives audiences of the entertainment they clearly desire in such difficult times.”