No-strike pacts on Yari agenda


At least two indie film projects starring A-listers likely won't be disrupted if there's an actors strike in the summer.

On Monday, producer Bob Yari said he plans to get SAG no-strike pacts for "Killing Pablo" and "The Governess."

"We have not signed anything yet, but we are submitting for several projects," Yari said. "We've had meetings with SAG, and we've been told we're fine. We just need to send in the applications."

"Pablo" and "Governess" are scheduled to start preproduction in June or July and filming in the fall. "Pablo," about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, is set to shoot in Bogota, while "Governess" will be filmed in an undetermined U.S. location.

Yari is among many producers who are covering their bases in case of an actors strike as SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers enter their seventh day of formal talks today. SAG's contract expires June 30.

Indie production company Roaring Leo Prods. said SAG has approved a guaranteed-completion contract for its post-Sept. 11 drama "Shifting the Canvas," starring Scott Thompson and John Paul Pitoc.

The project, written and directed by Chuck Griffith, is the 10th indie project to get its blessings from SAG by way of the no-strike pacts. It starts production June 1 in New York.

Last week, indie producer the Film Department said that it has nine projects covered by the completion agreements.

Under the deals, SAG agrees that if there is an actors strike, its members will not walk out on approved indie productions.

Producers have to apply to SAG for each individual project and demonstrate that it is truly an independent feature, free of distribution or financing deals with major studio members of the AMPTP. Having the agreement enables the company to get the financing and completion bonds required to start filming.

As part of the agreement, indie producers agree to abide by the terms of any interim agreement the union might offer in the future should there be a strike, as well as whatever agreement is reached with the AMPTP in negotiations.

Labor attorney Ivy Kagan Bierman said the interim agreement portion of the pact is a red flag.

"As a lawyer, it's a little disconcerting to advise a client to enter into an agreement that refers to another agreement the client is deemed to enter sight-unseen," she said. "I hope that once SAG sends out interim agreements, they're open to negotiating changes with production company counsel."

SAG has declined comment.

During the 100-day writers strike, the WGA entered into interim agreement with several indie producers, including the Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate. Those agreements, Kagan Bierman said, essentially were the proposals the WGA put on the bargaining table and were much more than what the guild and the AMPTP negotiated.

Kagan Bierman said she expects SAG to do the same. So if there is a strike, and it goes on for a year, "You're stuck to this interim agreement that is wildly different than what you ultimately agree to," she said.

"People could be operating under an agreement that is something the AMPTP was not willing to enter into," she added.

But Yari and Roaring Leo's Robert Zimmer Jr. said they're not concerned.

"I don't think it's going to be a problem," Zimmer said. "It's just important for us to show solidarity with the actors. It's a great way to solve the problem. I don't want to shut down."