The pros and cons of the rift between SAG and AFTRA are explored in this just posted story on Backstage by Andrew Solomon. I spoke at length with Andrew for the story.
The issues here are familiar to Vallywood! readers. But let me make a few comments on one issue raised by Alan Rosenberg: DVD residuals. He contends that had AFTRA been willing to push for an improvement in the DVD formula in 2005 it might have avoided the need for the current WGA strike. This is speculation, of course, but worth thinking about.
When I was in discussions with SAG about the NED role I, too, expressed concern about DVD residuals. It is unconscionable that the industry reaps a windfall from DVD’s. These revenues represent a significant source of profits for the large conglomerates and those profits are dependent on the contribution from talent. With Blu-Ray coming on line now, that is set to continue for at least the near term. Blu-Ray appears to be far more attractive to many gamers and young audience members than internet downloads and that will not likely change until the cable and telecom companies put in place the infrastructure.
I think, however, it should be recalled that the WGA gave up on improving on the DVD formula and there is little indication that that their new contract offer will include much of a change. As I have pointed out it is harder to change a revenue sharing formula for an existing revenue stream where claims have already been staked out – it requires taking something off of someone else’s plate. It can be done but it can get ugly. It is much easier to fight over the division of a pie that is still in the oven – like New Media.
The WGA backed away from the DVD battle this time around and concentrated on New Media. SAG may have other ideas – but they better be prepared for a bruiser of a battle in a very short time frame. When I was in talks with the Guild in 2006 about the NED role I argued that changing the DVD formula would require beginning a campaign around the issue THEN, in order to have a chance of success without a very nasty battle (always preferable) in 2008.
That brings us, of course, back to the SAG-AFTRA matter. SAG-LA could be absolutely right about AFTRA’s relatively softer position in the 2005 negotiations (I am sure AFTRA would say it was a reasonable tactical decision to make in light of the balance of power at the time), but the question to ask is: can SAG-LA lead this fight alone – and win?