SAG signs interim pact with independent film company

By The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – The Screen Actors Guild has cut a deal that would let its members work for an independent film company regardless of a future strike against the major studios.

The deal with The Film Department guarantees completion of nine movies that haven’t started filming yet. One of them, a romantic comedy called “The Rebound,” stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and is scheduled to begin production Monday in New York City.

“Hopefully, they’ll work things out and there won’t be a strike, but if there is, we’ll be able to stay in business,” Mark Gill, The Film Department’s chief executive officer, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The union, which began contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Artists on Tuesday, declined to discuss the deal.

“We’re in negotiations. We’re focused on that. We have no further comment,” said SAG spokeswoman Pamela Greenwalt.

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The trade paper Daily Variety said SAG was only offering such deals to independent feature producers.

“What’s thrilling is SAG is willing to keep their members working and allow us to keep making movies and not get caught in a dispute with the big guys,” Gill told the AP. “We’re the mice running between the elephants’ feet and it’s good not to get stepped on.”

Earlier this year, the Writers Guild of America signed several similar deals with independent producers during its three-month strike against the major studios.

Contract negotiations between SAG and the producers group are scheduled to run through April 26. The producers then start talks with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on April 28.

It is unclear whether SAG’s interim deal with The Film Company will exert any real pressure against the studios. Variety said AMPTP members have been holding off starting projects until after a new deal is set with the guild.

SAG’s contract with the studios expires June 30.

Top SAG officials have indicated they’re intent on negotiating a contract that betters the recent deals reached by the writers and directors guilds.

Those unions won key victories, including jurisdiction over programs produced for distribution online, and new and better compensation for shows and movies streamed or downloaded online.