The Screen Actor’s Guild is on the verge a strike, much like the writers last year. At issue is the amount of compensation actors receive from digital/internet medium revenues collected by the studios. Standard contracts were written before the internet was a mass medium and the actors want the terms adjusted. They feel the studios earn an unfair percentage of these revenues. It’s not an unreasonable request and both sides should address it quickly and resolve it without a work stoppage if at all possible. Although there is not much money coming in right now from the digital world, it will likely grow and so the actors are trying to get ahead of the curve.
Instead of dividing the spoils, I ask both sides to stop and consider a completely different path. One that looks out at the horizon and nurtures both talent and audiences for decades to come. Here’s my proposed solution.
- Negotiate the digital performance rate that is fair for both sides
- Begin tracking the new rate at an agreed upon time (June 1, 2009 for instance)
- Place the incremental funds into a holding/investment account (not run by Bernie Madoff)
- Use this money to fund an emerging film artist education program
- Establish a panel of members made up of studio personnel and actors to set guidelines and award the funds
- All the funds would go to supporting this new program
- At the end of 3 years, 50% of the incremental revenues would then begin going to the actors
- At the end of 6 years, the program would be dissolved and 100% of the royalties would then be awarded to the actors ongoing
Like so many things we face right now, it’s an opportunity to completely reshape the industry for the future. Schools and universities are struggling to keep art programs alive as funding becomes more difficult in this economic environment. Keeping young people interested in acting and film is incredibly important for the future and health of the industry. This new source of money could establish serious filmmaking and acting programs at the high school level, something I think is non existent right now. It could also help prop up college departments as well as inject new energy into local civic programs. The discretionary time consumers have is steadily moving away from viewing films and more to other forms of entertainment.
I would suggest a focus on dramatic acting and more classic filmmaking, moving away from video game vehicles and more toward the golden age of cinema we saw in the 1970’s and is rapidly fading away as a genre of movies.
I call on the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Studios to seize on this opportunity to enrich the future of the entire industry. It’s a long term view, something I believe we need a lot more of these days.