Doug Allen, SAG
SAG's incoming national executive director discusses his priorities for 2007 and how he plans to leverage his experience with the NFL in dealing with issues facing actors.It's a tough call to say which previous work experience best prepared Doug Allen for his new position as national executive director and chief negotiator of the Screen Actors Guild. Was it his long tenure as assistant executive director of the NFL Players Assn. or perhaps his prior stint cracking heads and tackling slippery characters during his two seasons as a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills? A Pennsylvania State University labor studies and industrial relations graduate, Allen was credited during his tenure at the NFLPA with founding the Washington-based organization's licensing and marketing subsidiary, Players Inc. Unanimously approved for his SAG slot by the guild's national board in October, Allen assumed his duties earlier this month and spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's labor editor Carl DiOrio shortly before assuming his post Jan. 8.
The Hollywood Reporter: What skill sets from your past endeavors will be most applicable to your new duties at SAG?
Doug Allen: I was a member and a staff person from a union that represents talent, who are represented by agents, who have a direct relationship with the union. So, there are a lot of resonances between my experience at the (NFLPA) that will inform how I conduct myself at the Screen Actors Guild.
THR: There has been a suggestion that you might be able to draw on your experience in football licensing deals to do something similar at SAG. Can you sketch out any prospects?
Allen: It's a really important concept for everybody who's involved in the labor movement to explore the way you can use the expertise of your union and its members related to -- but not limited to -- intellectual property to generate income for the members and revenue for the union. There are some ways that we can do that, which haven't yet been explored, but it's been done very successfully already with the SAG Awards and the television production. There is a way to promote actors and acting in a union environment, which the access that this union has to its members will allow us to do.
THR: Have you been keeping an eye on the Hollywood labor scene in anticipation of making a move into the arena?
Allen: Sure. There are people I have met and people I haven't met. There are a number of issues I've had the chance to talk to people about and some I haven't yet. I'm engaged in a listening and learning and thinking process right now that I expect will be helpful as I start my official capacity. But I think I'm beginning to get a handle on what's going on and who's doing what to whom.
THR: Do you have a single top priority in 2007?
Allen: To do my job as productively and competently and successfully as I can.
THR: How do you view SAG's relationship with AFTRA?
Allen: That's a very important issue and one I'm interested in dealing with as soon as possible. I need to spend some time with the officers and staff of AFTRA and with our officers and staff, and that's a conversation which needs to be continued. It's obviously gone on for some time, and particularly between now and 2008, it's important for us to discuss our relationship and how that's going to work in the future. It's a really important relationship, and we need to define it appropriately and figure out how that's going to work. But I will tell you, with that issue -- as well as with a number of other priority issues -- there are two things that I'm going to use as considerations in judging how I feel about things: Does it make sense, and is it good for members of the Screen Actors Guild?
THR: How do you view SAG's relationship with the other Hollywood guilds?
Allen: Unions in the same industry should share information and, as much as is possible, should work together at things. I have to do what's in the best interest of the Screen Actors Guild and what's been adopted as policy by our board. (But) just as employers share information and cooperate with each other -- certainly in the labor-relationship arena -- it's important for unions to do that as much as we can and still to serve our own members' particular interests.
THR: Do you think you will be able to get some of the disparate SAG factions to work in closer harmony?
Allen: The tradition and history of this union is a very active, participatory democracy, and that's one of its resources and one of the things I like best about it. But that kind of tradition carries a responsibility. When you have a tradition in which the view of the minority is protected and where the democratic process is very important -- as an example of that, when the officers can be elected by a plurality that's not a majority -- (that) comes with a responsibility to use the democratic machinery to make effective decisions for the membership and to build coalitions based on the issues.
There are certain issues that are of particular interest to different geographic parts of the country, (but) this is a union that represents all of the members, and we have to govern ourselves in a way that is representative of that and which gets things done. That doesn't mean we will always agree on how to do it. The minority should be listened to and respected. But things are done by a majority vote of the board or the membership. Sometimes, it's harder to get things done in a really active democracy, but I'd rather have it like that than have a dictatorship.