Texas is a non-union state. That means that we actors here often work for tiny bits of discarded food scrapings before retiring to live in a van down by the river. So I don’t know how aware many Austin actors are of the negotiations going on in California between the Screen Actors Guild and the studios. I use the word “negotiations” loosely as it appears that all talks have pretty much stopped, the players have resorted to name-calling and issuing bitchy little press statements, and the Guild has said they would pursue a strike authorization vote from its 120,000 members.
This is not good. What little film and tv action our city usually sees totally disappeared during the WGA strike last fall. The writer’s strike almost killed Friday Night Lights, forcing them to seek an unconventional broadcast arrangement to come back for season three. That strike was different. Everyone was pretty much supportive of what the writers were asking for, which was basically to be treated with a little human dignity and not to be paid in small warm handfuls of rabbit pellets. This strike is more divisive, even among actors (Tom Hanks and Sally Field among a contingent of anti-strike big names). Also smaller sister-union AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has more television actors than SAG and a happier relationship with the studios. (Traditionally, SAG covers filmed projects; AFTRA, those on video). SAG petitioned their 40,000 shared union members to vote against AFTRA’s agreement with the studios earlier this year, thinking it would strengthen their position when their own deal came to the table. That effort failed and now everyone has made a deal except SAG and they want more than everyone else got, their biggest holdout being residuals on DVD sales and other new media.
Look I get it. The studios should do what’s right by everyone. But it seems to me, that with this economy, SAG needs to take a bite out of the shit sandwich that’s on everyone’s plate and wait a little longer to deliberately try to cripple the industry. They are basically fighting this fight for 10% of their actors, since 90% of their membership reported less than $5k earnings from acting last year. I get what they are doing, but I don’t think Will Smith needs any more money. And I don’t want to see any more people in vans down by the river.