The US Screen Actors Guild(SAG) says its controversial Global Rule One will only apply to that small cadre of internationalactors primarily living in the US, and not those many foreign SAG card-holders who have worked on US films but remain overseas residents.
International producers,particularly those in the UK, were in uproar last week over SAG's impending GlobalRule One, fearing that many local film productions would be forced to abide bySAG's rather more generous pay and benefits structures on the groundsthat some of their actors were also members of the American actors'union.
In the face of overseascondemnation from those who felt Global Rule One essentially nullified localtalent pacts, a SAG spokesperson explained to Screen International that the only international actors affected by thenew agreement are that small number of expatriates such as Anthony Hopkins andNicole Kidman who spend a large proportion of their time in the US. Even then,such actors could apply for waivers in order to work on international productionsunder their local talent agreements, claimed SAG.
When SAG introduced itsGlobal Rule One on Feb 28th this year, the stated intention was toensure that its predominantly American membership would still be eligible forSAG pay contracts even if they worked on non-union productions outside the US.
According to SAG, itsmembers have become increasingly unable to negotiate for SAG contracts thatthey are entitled to, mostly as a result of so-called runaway productions."Those that have been forced to survive on foreign work without SAGcontracts are painfully aware of the loss of all their benefits - benefits thatthe union has fought long and hard to preserve," the guild said in anaccompanying statement.
Over the last five years,estimates SAG, overseas production has resulted in the loss of $22.9m to theSAG Pension and Health Plan, $3.09m in lost dues and $165m in lost earnings forSAG members. Without the effective enforcement of Rule One globally, SAGprojects that over the next five years its members would lose $35.8m from itsPension and Health Plan, $4.83m in dues and $258m in lost earnings. Thecumulative effect will be as many as 3000 new SAG jobs over that same five-yearperiod, claims the guild.
Under the new agreement,which has been six years in the making, talents agents are obliged to ascertainif a prospective employer is a signatory to a SAG agreement. He or she is torefrain from entering into any contract on an actor's behalf until the employerhas signed such an agreement. SAG warns that: "If, in error or otherwise,an agent commits an actor to non-union work, the agent will forfeit anycommissions resulting from that work and the actor will be subject to uniondiscipline. An agent who repeatedly violates these provisions will be subjectto discipline by SAG."
Last week, the UK producersbody PACT revealed it was taking legal advice over the rule, which is due totake effect on May 1st, just weeks after PACT agreed its own freshcontract with UK actors Equity, ending a strike by UK performers. PACT worriedthat SAG's contracts would now override that agreement if UK actors - eventhose working on UK films - are members of both Equity and SAG. In particular,a SAG contract might allow additional ancillary payments to actors to kick inearlier than had been locally agreed upon and include other revenue streams.
"The SAG contract wasthe one we were trying to avoid above all others," said a PACTspokesperson, referring to the recent negotiations with Equity. "On paper,[global rule one] does drive a coach and horses through the ability of a localunion to negotiate locally with producers. That is something we are veryconcerned about."
One leading UK producer wenteven further in his condemnation, slamming the prospect of having to employ a local actor on alocal film under a SAG contract as diabolical. "It is an outrageousexample of American imperialism," he said. "How dare they'"