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in Filmmaking
on Jan 14, 2009

Michael Cieply had a provocative piece this morning in the New York Times’ Carpetbagger blog in which he wondered:

An interesting question — and at this point, it’s only that — has been floating among the people who buy movie rights for big studios and their specialty divisions at festivals like Sundance, which begins on Thursday: Can they, or should they, buy films that were produced under waiver agreements with the Screen Actors Guild?

Because these waiver agreements oblige filmmakers to adhere to the final terms of the SAG-AMPTP contract, and that contract has not been negotiated, the thinking goes that a filmmaker can’t legitimately sell his or her movie to an AMPTP (aka studio) company.

If this were to be true, this would be gigantic news — it would wipe out Sundance as an acqusitions market for the majority of its commercially viable films. Pretty knocked out by this, I did something very traditional media — I made some calls. First I left word for SAG’s public relations office, who said they would get back to me. Then I called an industry vet who is involved in both the production and sales of more than one Sundance feature. He hadn’t read the piece, but when I read it to him, he erupted, “If SAG is pretending that indies can get financed under an interim agreement and at the end of the day are using it as leverage to squeeze the studios, then that is a disgrace.”

Fortunately, though, that bad faith doomsday scenario will not come to be. By the end of the day, SAG did get back to me and directed me to this statement which they posted on their website that would seem to resolve the issue. I am posting it below.

To Screen Actors Guild Guaranteed Completion Agreement (GCA) signatories:

It has come to the Guild attention that some distributors of Guild-covered projects have expressed concerns about risks associated with distributing projects covered by GCAs in the event of a Guild work stoppage. As you know, one of the benefits of being signatory to a Guild GCA is the assurance that any work stoppage would not affect the continued production of the picture.

GCA signatories and distributors have the Guild’s full and complete assurance that there will be no disruption of distribution of projects properly covered by Guild GCAs due to any work stoppage. Signatories or distributors with questions should feel free to contact the Guild’s Theatrical Contracts department at (323) 549-6828.

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