My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

I’d like to talk about the new proposed SAG commercial contract. The commercial business is the worst it has ever been. It is affecting agents, actors, casting directors, directors, producers, and god knows how many other people. Non-union has become almost the norm and I was so hoping that with all the questions casting directors and agents were asked before the negotiations, that some of the concerns would be addressed.

The future, whether we like it or not, is digital – the internet, social media, etc. These mediums, for whatever reason, do not seem to warrant big budgets. Just paying pension and welfare makes it unaffordable to shoot on a SAG contract. The 8-hour shoot day makes it unaffordable and SAG is the last union to be doing it. Outside the zone makes it unaffordable, and still first class airfare for over 1,000 miles. You are talking about a plane ticket for $6,000. That rule is stopping clients from casting on both coasts and, once again, losing work for your members across the country. It is not the rates for the actors, it’s all the extras. Non-union work, for the most part, pays the actors very well.

Broadcast TV commercials paying residuals are becoming dinosaurs. Meanwhile that is where all the negotiating energy was put. The hope was to recognize where the future is and concentrate on that. Instead, there were huge increases in things that are becoming obsolete. Sometimes, you need to go backwards to move forward.

Now was the time to try and understand where we are in 2016 and deal with those issues so that SAG actors can continue to work. My fear is that this new deal is going to benefit the top level of commercial actors; but where is the benefit for young actors to want to join the union? I do not have the answers but I feel this negotiation will do nothing to help in getting more clients to shoot on a sag contract.

I urge all SAG members to do their due diligence. Ask your agents questions and make sure you understand how it will impact you. Cable is now up 13%, P&W 18%, and medical is almost impossible for actors to get. I have been doing this for 33 years.

When I started I never imagined that we would be doing so much non-union work.

I was hoping for HOPE and I don’t see it here. If you look back at the last strike, there was no reason for it. The biggest new problem back then was cable and I do not think the union thought it would be that be a deal. Why you didn’t want agents and even casting directors as part of the negotiation, I will never understand. We are on the front lines and understand what is going on better than anyone. The future in social media is moving so fast and it is only going to get worse. I truly think that it was pretty much ignored. So few people, especially the younger ones, do not watch network or even broadcast TV. Even cable shows can be watched on Netflix without any commercials. You got tremendous increases in things that barely exist and now even cable commercials will be done non-union.

Old ways of negotiating and ignoring the future mediums (that I don’t think are really understood) are not going to help the future of the existing membership. Does anyone realize that when a casting director gets a job, the first question is, “Is it union or non union?” Approximately 60% of all commercials cast are now non-union. Not sure anyone tried to figure out that number in order to help the negotiations.

How are agents going to survive? I certainly was hoping for so much more to help bridge this gap. We can’t change the reality but we can care enough about the up coming generation and the massive changes in the tech world to have tried harder on their behalf.

Casting directors have been left in a position to continue doing what we are doing because the door was not even opened enough to think things can change. I wish I understood why the majority of your membership would agree to this when there is not one drop of hope in there for them.

Pensions are like social security. Will these actors ever be able to work enough to collect? Maybe I am naive but you could have done so much better. I have never asked a union actor to work non-union and I never will. I respect the idea of the “union.” I just think you gave had years and hundreds of hours of meetings to then completely ignore the “real” issues.

I urge all actors to read and really understand this new deal.

It would have benefitted everyone if you had come closer. Where’s the incentive for non-union actors to become union? What could possibly turn things around under this deal? Everyone wants a union but a union that works for everyone – the big guy and the small guy.

I was really hoping for so much more. Extending the talks and trying to figure this out would have been better. You did it with cable and now it’s too late. You did it with internet and now it’s too late and now you are doing it with all social media platforms. Three years from now, I’m not sure where union shot commercials will be.


Good luck.

My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

13 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, in so many ways. As an actor who’s been working hard in the industry for long enough to achieve Union Eligibility, only to now be AVOIDING having to join because I’m scared I won’t get nearly as many auditions/opportunities/bookings… It is extremely frustrating. I have massive respect for the Union and what it stands for but from what I understand, things need to be moving forward faster.

    We’re all a bit taken aback by the explosion of non-cable entities, viral statuses, Internet sensations, web-series and other streaming, past paced mediums. The mere fact that in castings I’ve been asked (or asked to write on my sign in sheet) how many Instagram followers I have is astonishing. And while I understand the thought behind it (bigger following equals more exposure, more potential sales and views), it seems like talent is being pushed to the wayside for Internet exposure. Tweets over talent…

    What is happening is partially a wonderful thing for art, expression, and the ability to give people a means to create and reach their audience – even create an audience. But I agree wholeheartedly with you – the industry is dragging its feet and we all need to work to understand and find ways to better the union within this ever changing Internet age. Thank you for sharing this post of your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The sad part Is I am one of The New young actors that always thought The Union was The way to go, i joined in december And i am seriously thinking of going financial core I can’t afford to be sag. I payed the membership and still trying to pay off the debt because I am not working nearly as much as I was when I was eligible. So sad and frustrating.


  3. Dear Beth Melsky – We had hoped your conversation with our manager in the New York office cleared up some of your confusion over the proposed new terms and conditions in the Commercials Contracts. However, your blog post remains up as-is and we feel the need to set the record straight.

    Yes, the union was able to negotiate wage increases in traditional media, as well as digital. While we agree that digital is the future, present and near-future earnings – close to a billion dollars per year – come from traditional media so an increase there is welcomed.

    As in any successful negotiation, there were wins on both sides. The industry now has the Social Media Waiver that allows producers to create content for social media for a 30-day run period with significantly reduced rates. They also have a shorter internet and new media use cycle of 4 weeks. We’ve also considerably relaxed the ad lib/improv language for auditions and session work, which was a suggestion that came directly from casting directors. The aforementioned industry “wins” will help the union in its organizing effort, along with other new terms such as the modified Special Offers and Promotions language that retailers can utilize.

    We’ve also closed a loophole in the definition of a commercial, which brings us out of the 1950s when that language was originally created and into the present day.

    You also mentioned that there were no incentives in the new deal to bring in non-members. While the collective bargaining agreement does not set the terms under which performers join the union, a performer’s decision to join is very much affected by the availability of union work and the compensation that they can earn when they do such work. As reviewed above, we took several major steps in this negotiation to incentivize more union work and increase the compensation performers can earn. The most direct way to encourage performers to join the union is through organizing and we have an ongoing organizing campaign that we are returning to full force now that negotiations have concluded.

    Once our contracts are ratified—and we are confident that these are strong contracts that will be ratified—we will be hosting informational meetings for casting directors to present the details of the entire package. We look forward to seeing you there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bethmelsky says:

      I was never asked to take my blog down so I’m confused. Tracy was great in clearing things up that I didn’t understand but at the end of the day , I would love for every job to be union but I’m not entitled to a vote . I follow your rules very diligently on behalf of my clients and just wanted to understand . I’m sorry if I have done anything to upset the union . I was just being honest about things not being clear . Actors must make their own decisions and I’m truly not trying to influence them . My son is a lawyer and told me never to sign anything I didn’t understand . I have done that in the past . .I think you misunderstood the point of the blog. Casting directors have no influence on clients . When we get the call to cast , they have already made the decision . As far as casting directors effecting you being more lenient on improv .. That is not a conversation anyone ever had with me . I’m not the enemy . My job has become very difficult and Union casting sessions are very difficult to put together . I have been doing this for 30 years and it is harder then ever. Now , if carting sessions and the challenges us something you would like to talk about , I’d be moreb then happy to have a meeting .I’m a neutral party trying to figure it all out.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. bethmelsky says:

      Just to let you know as well. Since most people had already read the blog I sent the meeting info directly to all the agents.


  4. ruth lieberman says:

    beth melsky is one of THE best cd’s in the business… and one of the nicest. sag has consistently missed the point (for the betterment of the actors) when negotiating.

    Liked by 1 person

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