SAG Awards Stay on Track

Jan 18, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The Screen Actors Guild may be divided against itself over whether to call a strike vote, but the group is forging ahead toward its annual awards show amid reports that some members are politicizing the event.
When last year’s Writers Guild of America strike wreaked havoc on many entertainment industry award shows, SAG was one of the few to be spared. All eye in Hollywood will be on the show, to be simulcast live Sunday on TNT and TBS, to see how SAG members react to the discord in their union.
SAG Awards show producer Kelly Connell told TelevisionWeek that membership interest in the show has not changed, and plans for the ceremony won’t be altered.
That’s regardless of the events of last week, when SAG members in favor of a strike-authorization vote turned back efforts to unseat the current negotiating team.
“We’re in a separate building in a separate place focused on a deadline of Jan. 25, and nothing has changed,” Ms. Connell said. “We were asked this last year when the town was in the middle of a Writers Guild strike and we kept saying, ‘We’re doing a show, and nothing changes. We’re over here doing what we do.’”
Whether SAG members use the awards to voice their support for hardliners or for moderates who favor further negotiation with the media companies remains to be seen.
Ms. Connell acknowledged that the nature of live TV makes it difficult to predict what will and won’t be said by winners on stage.
“There are surprises. … It’s a live show,” she said.
Either way, member participation hasn’t flagged.
“We usually have somewhere over 90% to 95% of the nominees attending, and we do [this year]. We see the same level of interest in our members,” Ms. Connell said. She also explained that voting members have contacted awards organizers with the same volume of questions and concerns they have in years past, showing no drop in voting member involvement.
Last week, SAG’s national board held a 30-hour marathon meeting in light of concerns regarding the pending strike-authorization vote that has threatened Hollywood with a work stoppage.
At the end of the meeting, the state of play hadn’t changed. Dates for a strike authorization were not announced and SAG leadership remained intact after a failed attempt to oust National Executive Director and chief negotiator Doug Allen.
Mr. Allen kept maneuvering after the meeting, disclosing that he had suggested having the union vote on the ratification of the proposed contract from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Some industry observers, such as Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney with Troy Gould and a blogger on digital media law at jhandel. com, believe the negotiating committee hopes to use a rejected contract from the union as leverage for future talks with producers and as a platform in support of a future strike-authorization vote.
There is speculation the national board may still stage an attempt to remove Mr. Allen, and it could happen as early as this week, Mr. Handel said.
“There’s no hope of a deal, with this team in place, that I see,” said Mr. Handel. “The deal as it stands now has not been fully negotiated, and it’s a deal that moderates will not vote for.”
Union divisions are “stark,” Mr. Handel said. “[Last week’s] meeting accomplished nothing except to bump the level of bitterness up a notch. … By all appearances the union is now tearing itself up.”
While a decision regarding any vote to be directly held by members has yet to be announced, this weekend’s SAG Awards ceremony will bring the focus to the actors and their accomplishments throughout the year.
“It’s the night where actors come together to celebrate actors, and it really becomes a party where they get to enjoy the evening together,” Ms. Connell said.
Among those speaking at the ceremony will be SAG President Alan Rosenberg, although Ms. Connell did not reveal any specifics of what he will be saying.

One Comment

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