Actors guild agrees to deal with film company

LOS ANGELES Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:34am EDT

A view of the famed Hollywood sign in the hills in California, March 14, 2008. The Screen Actors Guild has agreed to let members work for one independent film company if actors strike against major movie studios within months, and similar deals with other firms could ease pressure on small film and TV producers. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A view of the famed Hollywood sign in the hills in California, March 14, 2008. The Screen Actors Guild has agreed to let members work for one independent film company if actors strike against major movie studios within months, and similar deals with other firms could ease pressure on small film and TV producers.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Screen Actors Guild has agreed to let members work for one independent film company if actors strike against major movie studios within months, and similar deals with other firms could ease pressure on small film and TV producers.

The "interim agreement" was signed with The Film Department as negotiations between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) continued on Thursday with no word from either party on any progress.

Spokespeople for SAG and the AMPTP, who began new contract talks earlier this week, declined to comment on the interim agreement, and it was unclear if other independent companies had approached SAG about similar agreements.

Mark Gill, who heads The Film Department, said his company approached SAG with the idea, and that the "interim agreement" was similar to deals the Writers Guild of America signed with some independent producers late last year allowing them to work during a crippling 100-day writers strike.

"Essentially what (the agreement) says is we can proceed with our films, and if they (SAG) reach an agreement with the studios, we will abide by that agreement," Gill told Reuters.

Roughly 10,500 WGA members struck against major studios represented by the AMPTP in November last year, and the work stoppage lasted into February.

The strike cost the Los Angeles-area more than $2 billion in lost wages and revenues to businesses like taxi services and restaurants that cater to the entertainment industry.

Key issues in that labor dispute centered on how writers would be paid when their work appeared on the Internet, and many of the same issues are being addressed by SAG in its current talks with the AMPTP.

SAG, which has some 120,000 film and TV actors, sees its contract expire on June 30, and many industry players are concerned that SAG leadership also might not be able to reach an accord with the studios and call for a strike.

Gill said some actors were reluctant to start work on projects that might still be in production if and when a strike was called. Those actors would run the risk of starting a project that might never be finished.

"That was a problem for everybody," Gill said.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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