Act of God impacts actor-union members

Force majeure action by the television studios was front and center this week.

But while the focus was on writers, directors and producers whose overall deals were terminated because of the writers strike, behind the scenes there has been plenty of activity by SAG regarding the regular actors on TV series, who also have been sidelined by the work stoppage.

SAG has filed hundreds of claims with the production entities behind the vast majority of scripted shows seeking half-pay for all regulars for up to five weeks.

Earlier this week, SAG sent out questionnaires to talent representatives inquiring whether their series regular clients have been paid their minimum guarantees for the season (on average, 13 episode fees), and it plans to file new claims on the issue for those actors whose guarantees haven't been met.

In the letters, SAG also offered to assist any series regulars who would wish to terminate their deals at the end of the five-week period. SAG claims that would be possible if production companies haven't satisfied both the half-pay and minimum guarantee requirements.

SAG already has discussed the half-pay issue with various production entities. The half-pay claims are now handled by SAG's legal department and appeared headed for arbitration.

The terms for suspending series regulars when their shows were shut down because of the writers strike have become a bone of contention between the studios and SAG.

Some studios, such as CBS Paramount Network TV and Sony, qualified the production shutdown as non-paid "hiatus."

That definition came under fire from SAG and AFTRA, which called it a violation of their joint TV contract.

SAG has insisted that the studios have to invoke the force majeure provisions in the SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement, which include up to a five-week suspension at half pay and possible termination of the actors' contracts at the end of that period.

Universal Media Studios has been the only TV studio to say that it would comply with SAG's force majeure provisions. However, there have been reports of verbal instructions to some talent reps that the studios' regulars were being suspended without pay after they meet their guaranteed minimums, something that 20th Century Fox TV put in writing in their actors letters.


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