Thursday, June 30, 2011
I am a member of both SAG and AFTRA and a SAG signatory producer. As long as there are 2 unions they will be played off of each other by producers to the financial ruin of actors. It is that simple.
Producers need and will always need professional actors who can dedicate their professional lives to the craft and skills of acting. Producers need actors who can literally afford such dedication, actors who can pay rent, eat and raise children while peopling the projects producers make. Producers need concrete things like retirement and healthcare handled for actors beyond the scope of each project so actors can continue to provide acting services with their health and retirement provided for (it is too complex and expensive for each project to configure its own pension and health insurance). Producers also need less rigid items, like wage and working conditions, to be specified as a standard and keep producers from incurring the transaction costs of redetermining all deal points on each and every project for each and every role separately for every project. Producers cannot produce if actors cannot afford to continue to provide actor services. Producers cannot produce efficiently without standard contracts.
Whatever feelings and grievances anyone on any side may have, including entirely valid ones, the audience is abandoning both producers and unions while actors and producers bicker, fighting over who gets which slices of a shrinking pie. TV ratings in North America continue to fragment and shrink across channels. After adjusting for inflation and 3D up-charges, theatrical box office is flat or dropping. The explosion of the inventory of online ad space has diluted ad prices by expanding supply. All of this is while Americans now spend more money on entertainment than they do on food (this began to be the case a few years ago). There truly is plenty to be had by all.
For the sake of maintaining and building the industry as a whole, zero-sum thinking helps no one especially over the mid or long term. No union needs any other union or union member to lose money in order to make itself and its members more money. No producer truly gains by taking money out of the pockets of actors, and crippling their own human resource. We all improve the world, for ourselves and others, by adding net value to it. The audience, the actors, and the producers can all be enriched, financially and otherwise, simultaneously. We can make the world better than it was before we got here. The idea of what is fair may differ from time to time and person to person, but infighting helps no one. Ever.
A merger may be awkward and uncomfortable, even painful in the short term, but actors, producers and audience need one actor union.
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