Actors get WGA ground rules

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Despite its support for the WGA in contract talks with studios, SAG leadership wants members to know that they can continue to go to acting auditions.

The WGA resumes negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers Thursday morning, and talks are expected to continue at least until the guild's film and TV contract expires Wednesday.

"We continue to be hopeful that an amicable and equitable conclusion to their negotiations will occur," SAG said in a recent message to members. "However, now that (an) overwhelming majority of the WGA membership has voted the authority to call a strike if the talks fail to produce a deal, it is appropriate that we discuss with you what the ramifications of a work stoppage would mean to you (and) your continuing to work if a strike becomes a reality."

The electronic message was sent Tuesday after earlier being posted on a secure section of SAG's Web site. It's understood that the DGA also is planning a mass e-mail to members this week regarding a possible WGA strike.

The SAG message contained a few key nuggets of advice for members:

-- Actors under contract to a TV show that continues to produce episodes "are obligated by your personal service agreement and the 'no strike' clause in our collective bargaining agreements to go to work."

-- Actors wishing to look for jobs "can continue to audition for work."

-- Actors wishing to walk WGA picket lines are encouraged to do so on their own time.

Of all the unions working in Hollywood, only the Teamsters have contracts with specific language allowing some members to honor picket lines. The language allows individuals fearing for their personal safety in crossing picket lines to refuse to do so without fear of retribution from employers.

Such situations are limited to instances "where there is actual and imminent danger of bodily harm to the employee" under the current Teamsters contract with the AMPTP. SAG's contract, which runs until June 30, has no such language.

Craig Mazin, a writer and director whose artfulwriter blog has tracked the WGA talks, applauded the SAG message to members for its pro-WGA sentiment. But he also questioned whether a strike lacking specific SAG support could work.

"That's one reason I hate the idea of an early strike," wrote Mazin, currently in production with Dimension's film spoof "Superhero!" which he is directing from his own script. "When it comes to SAG and the WGA, our strike threat is weaker, simply because we can't shut production down instantly and maybe also because we don't have a collection of the most famous faces in America to help promote our position."

As for the prospect of whether the WGA will call a strike for Nov. 1 or anytime soon, nobody claims to know for sure.

Mused one high-level industryite: "I hate the idea of a strike. It's a mess, and some people never recover from it."

Yet, painful or not, the WGA is making preparations for the possibility of a strike, including meetings with other labor groups throughout the Los Angeles area.

"They're preparing for war," one well-placed source observed.

When, or even if, that war might be declared remains the subject of debate.
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