Friday, March 13, 2009

SAG vs AMPTP: The Elephant Discussion

John "Working Class Actor" (love that term) has put out a video on YouTube, that he hopes will call attention to some of the issues that SAG actors need to be aware of when examining what the AFTRA contract allows AFTRA members to do... which is work on non-union webisodes. John is basically sounding the alarm, that a massive influx on webisodic productions have stormed the casting sheets since the AFTRA deal was signed, and many actors in the Union are working these 'webisodes'. He feels this is terrible for the Unions, because it's undermining the wage scale for middle class actors. But don't take my word for it, take his:

Okay, so John makes a valid point, but it's somewhat unfortunately uninformed. He clearly doesn't understand the web content business as it stands today. He doesn't understand how you make money on the web, and that the money to be made is so small it barely can cover production costs. A lot of actors think that "New Media" is this gold mine where money is just churning out right and left from sites like Hulu or YouTube. They think there is the same money on the web as their is in traditional broadcast, and I have news for you... it's far from the same. We'll get to that later. What John's point of view demonstrates is an dangerous short sightedness actors have when it comes to their pay check. That is, they can only see what's on their paycheck and not the bigger industry picture, or more importantly how the whole industry makes money.

David Lawrence does a good job below explaining that you can't pay union scale when you don't have any money to even pay yourself. As a producer of Webisodic content, I can attest, there's no money in this... but I'll save that for later. However, David does a great job explaining this very point, as well as encapsulating the state of the current rise in internet content and how how 'profitable' it all is.

What David points out that John fails to realize is that the webisodic content that has surged on the casting sites is 'additional' opportunities that exist on top of what the Studios and Networks are already doing... that's not cutting into your pay or your market, it's adding to it. And if these 'independent' souls can even pay an actor $100.00 a day, God Bless them. Here's Jeff a webisodic producer discussing what it's like producing web content, and how much 'money' there is in it.

So, now you have an idea of how much "Money" is out there to be made. It's not a whole lot.

However, John is also uninformed from the stand point of what is made from Web Content vs Traditional Broadcast Television. That is not a small difference, it's a huge difference. What actors in the Unions have to realize is that if they do not give the internet market time to grow, time to find an audience so that advertisers will buy more expensive shares of ad space... this market will never develop into the full fledged money machine it can be. I'm not really good with Math, but David Lawrence is... and he was kind enough to put out another video explaining this.

If you look at what the Unions are 'fighting' for it seems ridiculous. You can't ask for scale, when the revenue the project generates doesn't even make money to pay scale. If you force the studios and networks to do this, guess what? They'll stop making content for the web, and that potential revenue for actors in the Unions will dry up.

John from the first video makes this statement, "If we give it away now, we'll never get it back. This industry has never given us back what we have freely given away." I would say to John that at this point, you have nothing to give away. Your Union has no jurisdiction over independently produced web content, nor does any of your bi-laws discuss web content. It's fair game for any actor to self produce or participate in something like this, if they feel it will benefit them. So, since you don't have jurisdiction now, how can you 'give it away'? You can't plain and simple.

What is really happening today is that all this mis-information out there, is stalling a process that is actually legitimately taking money out of actors pockets. Actors have lost much more money at this point than they could have hoped to have gained, and it will never be made back. As I have said many times on this blog, the time for pig-headedness is over.

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