Monday, September 1, 2014

National Background Jurisdiction

(note date of original post was 2/10/2011)

Will there be national background jurisdiction for SAG-AFTRA?

Eventually I feel there will be.

The commercial contract covers a geography around major cities and production centers. Theatrical (film) is limited to zones, mostly those that once existed under the Screen Extras Guild and SAG's only previous background Zone surrounding New York City. 

So far the primary obstacle to national theatrical jurisdiction may be been sheer geography (the vase majority of the geography of the nation has little or no SAG presence, and little or no production. Producers in those areas it would be unfair to mandate SAG Background, since the talent pool simply is not there. SAG does not have the reach or budget to do a fair job of administering background contracts.

The second obstacle is that management uses the background issue, including expansions of existing zones, lies on the way negotiations take place. The issue of national jurisdiction has been proposed during the last several contract renewals, but is taken off the table to maintain and improve wage across contract, to protect working conditions and to gain jurisdictions in the area of growth going into the future.

To be honest, management would rather we stopped representing background talent, and would weaken us in other specialized groups as well. It is a major hurdle. But not one that a unified solid membership cannot overcome, over time. We never let the ball drop, but this basket is hard to score and may take many many shots to clear that three pointer.

Of importance to note is that while Las Vegas is an active background zone, there are major markets and smaller branches that may not wish to have background or who may not strongly support the addition of TV/Theatrical background in their area as a part of the SAG-AFTRA.

Most of the revenue of the Screen Actors Guild comes from "A" and "B" level working actors and celebrities. Many of them feel that background talent are not the same as actors as the actors who should be represented by the Screen Actors Guild. A SAG member referendum rejected merger with the Screen Extras Guild. What ended up happening was an emergency jurisdiction taken by the national board after SEG closed shop. Pay and other contract elements went down, with much work done over the past two decades to restore background artist to near the protection they had under SEG. Again SEG went our of business.

Still support for a national jurisdiction is growing, and the proposal goes further each new contract.

First published 2/10/2011

CORRECTION: In a previous draft I may have been wrong or miss-represented impressions and opinion as fact. There is opposition to national jurisdiction, but it is not centered around one geography or its representatives, and has yet to be discussed within the new union context (note date of original post was 2/10/2011)

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