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in Filmmaking
on Jan 17, 2009

Just a couple of days after I noted SAG’s response to the question of whether or not studios could acquire films made under their Guaranteed Completion Contracts, the guild has now decided to stop issuing these waivers to indie films entirely. Dave McNary reports in Variety:

With a SAG strike becoming less likely, the Screen Actors Guild has announced it’s pulled the plug on offering waivers to indie film producers that would allow production to continue if there’s a work stoppage.

SAG made the brief announcement Friday evening, suspending a program that’s covered over 800 productions in about a year.

In their statement, SAG says that the “Guaranteed Completion Contracts have served their purpose” and are now to be discontinued. What purpose is that? Allowing their members to be hired and to have their salaries, health care and pensions paid for by independent producers who are not parties to the failed studio negotiations? In their initial statement, which now I can’t seem to find online, SAG mentioned that producers could work under the 2005 Minimum Basic Agreement. But, as producer Noah Harlan noted to me in an email:

The concern is that if SAG goes on strike our projects will be shut down as well. That means that financing is going to get tough as debt services (gap, incentive cash flows, MG advances) won’t be able to get completion bond companies to back them and thus won’t commit. Basically it makes going into pre-production from now until this is resolved a potentially risky endeavor. To avoid this situation SAG offered Guaranteed Completion Contracts starting last June when the current agreement ran out. Those contracts allowed films that were not directly related to a studio (or other member of the AMPTP) to film regardless of whether there was a strike. The conditions were that the distributors would have to adhere to the final terms agreed to in the negotiations with the AMPTP when that gets resolved. There were 800 of those contracts issued.

Of course, many don’t believe SAG will get the votes needed for a strike from its membership, but this is still a dispiriting development for independent producers trying to maintain their output during these economically challenging times.

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