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SAG-AFTRA Defends Indie Productions as ‘Vital’ Part of Strike Strategy

SAG-AFTRA has found itself defending its decision to give the green light to more than 100 independent productions to film during the strike.

Many members, including Sarah Silverman and Viola Davis, have publicly suggested that working under an interim agreement would undermine the strike. Silverman went so far as to call it “scabbing,” though she walked back her criticism after speaking to union leadership.

In a message to members on Sunday evening, the union’s negotiating committee said that the interim agreements are a “vital part” of the strike strategy.

“We urge independent producers to apply and encourage SAG-AFTRA members to work on the projects that obtain an Interim Agreement, along with all of the other permissible work we support,” the union said.

In order to obtain an interim agreement, a producer must be independent of companies that belong to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The producer must also agree to the terms proposed by SAG-AFTRA in its negotiations with the AMPTP.

That includes a provision under which a production must pay the cast 2% of the streaming revenue attributed by Parrot Analytics to that production.

Some actors have raised concern that independent productions will ultimately be distributed by AMPTP companies, like Amazon or Netflix. But SAG-AFTRA argued that the revenue-share provision makes distribution on AMPTP platforms “unfeasible” for the time being.

“We are confident that the terms of this agreement, particularly the streaming revenue share, will make distribution of these projects through AMPTP platforms unfeasible, until such time as an industrywide agreement has been reached,” the committee said.

The interim agreements will ultimately conform to the final terms of the deal with the AMPTP, so independent producers will not be at a disadvantage compared to AMPTP competitors at that point.

Many people refer to the agreements as a “waiver,” though SAG-AFTRA disapproves of the term. The union notes that productions are not getting around SAG-AFTRA’s demands, but in fact are accepting them, which increases pressure on AMPTP companies.

“We believe the leverage created by increasing competitive pressure on the AMPTP and denying them what they want most will force them back to the table and help bring this strike to an end,” the committee argued.

The union also argued that if producers are willing to shoot on SAG-AFTRA’s terms, that proves that the terms are reasonable. It also stated that allowing independent producers to shoot will ensure that budgets go to union-covered work, “rather than fueling a pipeline of non-union foreign productions.”

The SAG-AFTRA strike covers only the TV/Theatrical contract, so members are free to continue to work on reality shows, game shows, video games, commercials and other work covered by other contracts. The union declared the strike on July 13, after a month of talks with the AMPTP did not result in a new contract.

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