None of the big Hollywood or NYC management companies showed up like 360 or Brillstein, though half a dozen managers from the boutiques did. But many of the powerful PR firms like PMK/HBH, BWR, BMC, Rogers & Cowan, ID, Sue Patricola, Polaris PR, 42 West, and Wolf Kasteler, sent people. Nevertheless, attendance today at the SAG confab was surprisingly sparse. But the shocking news was that The Oscars didn’t come up once, I’m told.
“I thought about asking about them,” one bigtime flack said to me. “But it just felt too premature to bring that up in this conversation that was so focused on the issue at hand of why a strike authorization is so important to allow SAG to use that as leverage.”
SAG president Alan Rosenberg, and Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Doug Allen, delivered the briefing which consisted of the same slide show they’d used at the SAG Town Hall meeting on Monday night. The pair “explained what a ‘yes’ vote means and what a ‘no’ vote means and how important it was they get the strike authorization. They cited historical examples of authorizations that didn’t lead to strikes. And they outlined why SAG’s needs are different from the directors’ and writers’ and prioritized the four outstanding ones: union coverage in New Media, residuals in New Media, force majeure, and product integration,” a publicist who’d obviously listened closely told me.
It’s interesting how these SAG bicoastal meetings, billed as “negotiations updates” with those folks repping the really big actors, had a calming effect on the publicists/managers who were there. “They seemed to me to be very realistic,” said another PR heavyhitter. “From what I’d been reading about SAG, I expected a lot of anger and name-calling. I didn’t see that at all.”
The publicists and managers who attended and spoke with me complained of knowing so little about what had been really going on in the negotiations until today. For instance, two told me they didn’t realize that this SAG contract doesn’t affect cable TV shows. Others thought it was a vote to strike, not as they learned a vote to give the SAG leadership leverage with a strike authorization they might never have to use use. “When we voiced concerns about the timing because of the economy, they made some really thoughtful points and gave us statistics,” one source said. “They made it clear that they don’t want to strike, and that the economic pressures and the Industry pressures keep them up at night. But they said now is the time to protect the little guy.”
Foremost on the PR peoples’ minds was how actors were going to navigate the “very grey area” between breaking employer contracts and SAG rules on promotion in the event of a strike. But when the flacks asked to discuss this, “there was a lot of lawyer lingo. But then Doug and Alan made it very clear it was way too early to even consider that. They said a strike was only a last resort and hoped the authorization vote would have the impact of getting the AMPTP back to the table,” one PR powerhouse told me. “So there were people who still walked out with concerns.”
Rosenfeld and Allen said their goal was to “educate and inform us from their perspective so we’ll understand and we’ll encourage our clients to read what they’re sending them and to make informed decisions before voting,” one attendee told me. “And they said everything actors needed to know is on the SAG website.”