Hollywood Today’s Alex Ben Block is out with an insightful if slightly misguided analysis of the current straits that SAG and its MF leadership find themselves in. It receives praise from SAG Watch, but I have a slightly different view of it.
One key fact that Ben Block only touches on is that SAG’s attempt to meet directly with top management of the studios around the AMPTP was thrown back in their faces in the Sony meeting. As I said when I first wrote about that meeting, I think that was as critical as the blow-up over the opposition to the AFTRA deal. The 2Allens’ view of the AFTRA terms should not really have come as much of a surprise to anyone, in or out of the meeting.
But the ability to have a back door channel was something even the WGA was able to preserve after a 100 day strike. If SAG has truly lost the opportunity to talk to the real decision makers in the conglomerates, that will be a problem in making a deal.
When Ben Block quotes an anonymous mogul to the effect that they are surprised that SAG is taking a hard line on certain issues that were agreed to by the other unions it reminds me of the great Claude Rains line in Casablanca: “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The 2Allens stepped all over the WGA/DGA deal at the time. They were so anxious to please their MF base that they even went on the record against the deal based on a press release summary of the terms! And MF activists like Justine Bateman bent over backwards to try to drum up opposition to the deal with the help of Nikke Finke.
So it can now not come as a surprise to see how SAG is conducting itself in these negotiations. SAG is certainly within its rights to ask for “more” as Sam Gompers once said in response to the question: What do unions want? The only problem is that their “get AFTRA out of the room” strategy has alienated many and in his conclusion that SAG is “isolated and alone” Ben Block is surely right.
The tragedy of these negotiations may well be that while SAG and MF were right on substance – no one could argue that the DVD residual formula is an unjust, outdated windfall for the studios – they could not put in place a strategy that had a prayer of making a dent on the critical issues.