Can a White Knight Resolve SAG/Studio Stalemate?

Some in Hollywood seem intent on bringing in a senior industry figure to “mediate” the ongoing contract dispute between the Producers and SAG. Today, The Hollywood Reporter is out with a piece advocating the intervention of CAA’s Bryan Lourd, who played a similar role in the WGA strike.

Will that work? Not without some mediation of the internal dispute inside SAG itself. 

Let me explain the problem as I see it:

The contract terms currently on offer please very few in SAG. That was true in the WGA as well. But the WGA realized as some in SAG refuse to, that the leverage to improve the deal was exhausted at the end of their 100 day strike.

More leverage could have been created but SAG’s Membership First leaders chose a route that failed to do that. Now the new SAG majority, as it is known, is looking for a reasonable exit that allows the Guild to live to fight another day. There are rumors that they expect to try so-called back channel discussions with some producers and someone like Mike Farrell. 

But if the MF minority is not on board with mediation or those back channel talks  it has enough power to make ratification of the outcome very uncertain. That is something the AMPTP will understand and therefore may be less likely to allow a mediator or someone like Farrell, no matter how well intentioned, to find a resolution.

If, however, SAG was able to commit to the outcome of mediation in advance – to “pre-commit” as we put it in legal scholarship – it might give them enough credibility to move the Producers on one or two key issues.

That means, of course, that SAG must ask itself if it is willing to make a final, focused push to resolve those one or two key issues. Clearly, the question of simultaneous contract expiration dates would be on the top of the list. Perhaps product placement as well.

If SAG can’t agree on that question in advance, mediation seems to me to be a non-starter. In which case it is time for the National Board to engage their own membership on the key issues: take the current deal or provide the Guild a strike vote.