SAG-AFTRA Tweaks Commission Rules, Signals Possible New Deal with Agents

A minor revision in commissionability of residuals may be the harbinger of bigger changes to come.

A slight change to the rules on residuals commissionability went into effect Monday at SAG-AFTRA, the union announced on its website, but what's more important than the rule change is the signal that the union sent when The Hollywood Reporter inquired about it.

"We want to acknowledge the industry standard," said Zino Macaluso, national director and senior counsel of the union's professional representatives department, explaining why the national board approved a rule that will see some members paying commissions on certain residuals that were previously noncommissionable.

He added that the union wanted to "recognize that as the basis for a possible new agreement with agents. We need an agency agreement that covers all agents."

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That's something the union doesn't have right now. The SAG and AFTRA agent agreements — the so-called franchise agreements — differ, with SAG members having voted down changes in 2002 that AFTRA's board subsequently approved for its union, whose membership heavily overlapped with SAG's.

The sticking point then was "financial interest" rules that would have allowed SAG-franchised agents to invest in production companies and vice versa, subject to certain limitations.

Macaluso said there had been no informal talks with the Association of Talent Agents, the largest group representing film and TV agents, but that were talk to occur, everything would be on the table.

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Meanwhile, the change made effective Monday means that a slightly more liberal AFTRA rule regarding residuals commissionability will now also apply to SAG-AFTRA and legacy SAG shows for work booked after Feb. 9 in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

The rule itself only relates to reruns of broadcast shows in syndication or in network dayparts other than primetime, and all of the legacy SAG rules vary by city, a geographic division that dates to 1976, when locals were allowed to vote individually on what residuals would be commissionable.

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Twitter: @jhandel