Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Crooks at NBC/Universal

This in from Deadline Hollywood:

From what I can glean, the casts of The Office, 30 Rock, Bionic Woman and Battlestar Galactica to name just a few shows on NBC and the SciFi Channels were informed Thursday and Friday that their contracts have been suspended. It's because Universal Media Studios has opted to exercise what's known as the force majeure clause in their Screen Actors Guild agreements.

...But regarding the striking writers, most of the showrunners and hyphenates who've walked off the job [such as Ron Moore] have been threatened with or actually suspended without pay for not fulfilling their producing duties. But the threats still hangs out there that the studios and networks could escalate matters by firing them. The conventional wisdom is that the studios and networks are purposely waiting for sufficient weeks to pass so that they can, in a first step to a major reorganization of their TV business, kill showrunner/hyphenate deals by invoking force majeure (a common contract clause that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event, such as a strike, occurs). From that point on, all bets are off.

Studios suspending actors without pay and not outright terminating their contracts, which prevents them from finding work elsewhere, has SAG pissed. Per SAG's agreement, studios can opt to suspend members for five weeks with half pay; suspend them with full pay; or release them from their contracts. Even if the actors are fired, they're supposed to be immediately rehired under their original contract terms once production recommences.

I understand that NBC Universal mailed out a stack of these 'force majeure" letters which began arriving Friday at the agencies of various actors. One of the Battlestar Galactica thespians tells me: "When our agents and managers phoned business affairs for clarification, they were told that we are on suspension without pay. We are not terminated. We are on hold to BSG with no pay in perpetuity until the strike is over. When the strike does end Universal/Scifi will then decide whether they want to bring the show back or let us go. Until that time we are in first position with BSG and will have to clear any other project with Scifi/Uni.

"They are not following article 61 of the SAG agreement and are about to get a lot of calls from SAG lawyers. They say that since we have shot the minimum 13 episodes of this season, as per our contracts, that they are under no obligation to pay us or let us go. We are essentially on hiatus. To say yesterday was a tough day on set as this information was slowly presented to us would be a profound understatement."

But it appears the actors and their reps are planning to fight this idea of putting actors on indeterminate hold without pay under a "too bad we own you" power play. Regarding BSG, NBC Uni's SciFi channel is being told that, since the terms of Article 61 appear to be breached, the actors can terminate their deals and attempt to find work elsewhere.

I smell a brawl brewing.
And this from Ron Moore's new blog:
Production wrapped on episode 413 late last night, and there’s no certain date to resume shooting. No more scripts exist. My office staff has been laid off. My cast has been suspended, without pay.

I refuse to believe that we won’t finish, that we won’t be back to film our final stories, but I know and accept there is that possibility. The strike will be a seminal event for many of us in this business as it’s put literally everything we care about in the balance (if only for a short time so far) for something we all believe is important.

Writers talk a lot about the strike, about the reasons we’re out on the picket lines and our feelings and experiences in the business. It’s been an interesting three weeks. I’ve connected with more scribes in the last few weeks than in many months before and I come away from it to date with a sense of optimism about the solidarity of the membership and admiration for my peers.

Galactica’s coming back, I frakking promise you that. But I am ready to put the rest of the story on the table and take the risk that I’ll never be able to tell it, in support of this strike.

Like Adama says, you make your choices and then you live with them.


If anyone needs to know the address where to lob the Molotov Cocktails, It is:
Universal Studios
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

8 comments:

ProgGrrl said...

Well, everyone's playing hardball now. It is up to the unions to NOT CAVE. A strike is a strike is a strike.

That photo of the empty CIC that Ron posted gave me a chill.

Logan Gawain said...

It's total hardball. It's mafia style tactics that one expects from a corporation once called Mafia Corporation of America.

And it's not totally unexpected. We knew they were going to send force majeure letters to the show runners. I think it's a bit of a surprise they would do this to the cast. Do they want an early start to the SAG strike? SAG is fuming. Why would you want to cause more unity between SAG and WGA when usually the studios try to divide and conquer?

I'd love to know which BSG actor talked to Finke. Probably Eddie or Mary. But, I'm leaning toward it being Eddie. He doesn't take this kind of guff lightly.

Things were looking good with the announcement of resumed talks... now I'm not so sure.

Never be optimistic when dealing with criminals.

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greg said...

I think it's time for the strike to go old school as I've been advocating for a while. no more union deliveries, PERIOD to the networks, and have EVERYONE even remotely employed walk out.

these companies do not just make their money doing movies, heck GE builds nuclear weapons and toasters (ha). It's time for them to realize that they're not just being greedy jerks, they are endangering the last product the US makes that can't be replicated in India or China.

Logan Gawain said...

Amen to that brother Greg.

I say no justice, no peace.

I'm sure the suits would love to outsource the writing to India if they could.

rita said...

~「朵語‧,最一件事,就。好,你西

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