Kudos to SAG President Alan Rosenberg and its new Executive Director Doug Allen for their attempts to inspirit the spread out sometimes fractured Membership with a bold plan to stand up to the studios and networks.
The entire industry owes its thanks to these men for standing tall with the leadership of the newly solidified Writers Guild of America Membership, ensuring that the tide was finally turned towards stopping the huge leaks in the Residual and Royalties Dam, which plagued above the line artists for the past twenty years.
Because of the WGA strike, management now takes the artistic community seriously, but it couldn't have been accomplished by the writers alone, and for that much is owed to the support provided by the Screen Actors Guild. Had the Directors Guild not behaved true to form in forging a deal all too quickly on the writers and actors backs simply to mollify the 45% of its membership who collect little or no residuals at all, the task would have been simpler to achieve more gains. With unanimous above-the-line industry union togetherness we might have won our rightful share long sought in the areas of DVDs and better protected the eroding residuals, which have gone downhill since the encroachment of cable TV for first reruns direct from network broadcast.
Now with AFTRA following on the DGA's heels, cowed by the understandable fear of another work stoppage that might have been more effective had all such unions stood together at one time, it is hard to predict a more successful SAG outcome, undercut as they have been by AFTRA as the WGA was by the DGA in the first go-around.
It's uncanny how those in the entertainment industry have been lulled over the years into taking for granted benefits won by their forefathers so many years ago. Some actually believe it's impossible to return to the dark days when there were no residuals, but the evidence is clear that the studios' baby steps on the Internet are a clear indication of the burgeoning distribution system it will soon become. And the paltry offers to the WGA, DGA, AFTRA and SAG are not opening offers that they plan to enlarge upon when the monies they earn become grander. Anyone who thinks otherwise should take a look at their recent residual checks from cable reruns or VHS/DVD royalties, technologies in existence for decades that have enriched the studio/management coffers in extraordinary fashion.
That's why it's important to take a look again at the future that may be ours, an existence currently lived by our European colleagues who once had residuals of a sort, but who now live paycheck to paycheck even as the companies who hired them reap millions through reruns and foreign sales.
Hear German TV star Andreas Stenschke's words in a one minute video of support for his American colleagues. Not only does he get no money for the reuse of his acting work, but his music video Just When I Needed You Most, released as part of a ten-cut DVD of his hit series, Verbotene Liebe, provides him not a farthing because contractually he is entitled to no royalties at all.
Listen to actor/producer Detlef Behr in his one minute video as well.
Take heed, it could happen to those of us who work in the American system as well. Let us learn from all this and be vigilant for the future. Whatever happens in the current SAG negotiations, we must build upon our efforts this year and increase whatever we managed to forge by pledging one and all to join our collective forces in a unified effort in 2011. And by unity I mean everyone in the sincere hope that our comprehensive plans for a concerted action include our friends in a by then newly emboldened DGA and AFTRA, as well as the already proven heroic membership and leadership of SAG and the WGA.
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