The tentative agreement that ended SAG-AFTRA’s 340-day strike against the video game industry appears headed towards easy ratification. Members meeting tonight in Los Angeles and New York to discuss the deal appear satisfied with its terms. Several members leaving the LA meeting told Deadline that they expect the deal to be ratified.
“It seems like they’re going to ratify it,” said a member leaving the meeting, where the Dodger game was playing on a big screen. “It’s a pretty good deal.”
“Everyone seemed pretty cool,” said Chris Jai Alex, who works as a stuntman and voice artist under the pact. ‘They had a pretty good turnout, even with the Dodgers on.”
“Everybody was positive,” said another member, who said that the new deal “appears to have a lot of benefits.”
Ballots will be counted Nov. 7, and as one actor noted, “Member-involvement will determine if it passes or not.”
The strike was launched October 21, 2016 – one year ago tomorrow – against 11 major companies including Electronic Arts, WB Games, and Activision. The strike, which was suspended on Sept. 25 when the union reached a deal with the companies, was unanimously approved by the guild’s board of directors earlier this month and must now be ratified by members who had earnings under the union’s interactive media agreement after Jan. 1, 2008.
The new deal calls for “bonus pay” based on the number of sessions a performer works on each game, beginning with a $75 payment on the first session and capping out at $2,100 after 10 sessions worked. It’s not quite the type of residuals system the union stuck for, but performers appear to think it’s close enough. SAG-AFTRA had been seeking a back-end payments schedule that would have given performers a full day’s pay for every 500,000 units sold, up to four secondary payments if the game sells 2 million units.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has called the deal “an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns.”
The deal also contains an employer commitment to continue working with SAG-AFTRA on the issue of vocal stress during the term of the agreement.
And according to the union, the agreement doesn’t include several proposals sought by management, including a provision that would have fined performers for being late or distracted at session; another that would have required agents to submit performers for low-paying “atmospheric voice” sessions or face fines and a possible revocation of their union franchise, and another that would have allowed employers to use their permanent staff to do covered work outside of the collective bargaining agreement.
The deal also includes improvements in the area of “transparency,” which Ray Rodriguez, the union’s chief contracts officer, has said “will enhance the bargaining power of our members’ representatives by requiring the companies to disclose the code name of project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role. Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required.”
In what could mark a turning point in the television industry’s diversity efforts, a new DGA report has found that first-time women and minority TV directors saw record gains this year, with more than twice as many freshman minority directors and nearly twice as many first-time female directors being hired this season than last. The report, which covers all episodic TV series shot under DGA contracts, reveals that the number of first-time minority and women directors hit record highs this year, and set a record year-to-year single season increase.
Based on these new numbers, the DGA, which for decades has been pressing the industry to be more inclusive, finally has something to crow about.
“Finally, after years of our efforts to educate the industry, hold employers accountable through our contracts, and push them to do better, we’re seeing signs of meaningful improvement,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme.
Peak TV and the explosion of new shows and delivery platforms has opened the door to many more first-time directors than in years past, and while the directing pie has dramatically expanded for all first-timers, women and minority directors are now getting a bigger slice of it.
In the 2016/17 season, an all-time high of 225 directors who had never before directed episodic television were hired by studios, networks and executive producers, representing a steep 42% increase in first-time TV directors over the previous season. This increase significantly outpaced the growth in the total volume of TV episodes and represented a 127% jump since the 2009/10 season, when the guild first started releasing hiring data on first-time TV directors.
The report, which excludes pilots, found that:
Of the 225 first-timers hired this season, 56 – nearly one-in-four – were ethnic minorities, which was way up from the 2015/16 season, when only 24 (15%) – or less than one-in-seven – were hired.
Of all the first-time directors hired this season, 73 (32.4%) were women, which was also way up from 38 (24%) the prior season.
And of all first-time directors this season, 18 (8%) were female minorities – triple the number and more than twice the percentage from the prior year, when only six were female minorities (3.8%).
“The move toward inclusion – after years of glacial progress – suggests that qualified people who have previously been overlooked because of their race or gender are beginning to get recognition and opportunities commensurate with their talent,” the guild said in a statement.
“The fact is, it all starts with the pipeline,” Schlamme said. “The hiring decisions employers make today can have enormous impact on the composition of the pool in two years, five years, ten years’ time. Our research shows that when employers actually do the work of being inclusive, they find talented directors who overwhelmingly succeed in establishing longer-term careers.”
The percentage of males and male Caucasian first-timers were both down this year compared to last year, but because of the expansion of the pool of first-timers overall, their absolute numbers still grew to new heights. The guild found that:
Of the first-timers hired this season, a record 161 (72%) were Caucasian, which was up from 133 hired last season, but down from the 84% of all first-timers hired last year.
Employers hired a record 152 males (67.6% of all first-time hires in the 2016/17 season), which was up from 120 from the year before, but down as an overall percentage, when males got 76% of all first-time directing jobs.
And the 108 male Caucasians first-timers hired this season (48%) was still up from the 102 hired last season, but was down from the 65% of all first-timers hired last year.
The guild has been reporting on diversity in hiring for more than two decades as part of its ongoing campaign to encourage inclusion – which also includes numerous member programs such as a recently launched TV director mentorship initiative. The guild says that by seeking to change the pipeline – the point of entry – it hopes to change “the imbalanced hiring pool over the long term.” The DGA began issuing its annual surveys of trends in first-time hires in 2010, and precedes the DGA’s upcoming annual diversity report on all episodic TV director hiring.
The guild is still not pleased, however, with the fact that nearly two-thirds of all first-time directors hired since the 2009/10 season were already affiliated with the series for which they were hired, either as actors, writers, producers, editors and other members of the crew, and that only 28% were what the guild calls “career-track directors” who were unaffiliated with the series but had previously directed in other categories, such as feature films, commercials and reality TV shows.
And while it is not uncommon for stars to be given an opportunity to direct an episode of their own shows, the DGA report makes a strong case that women and minority cast and crew members who are given directing “perks” are much less likely to direct again than are the outsiders with directing experience brought in to direct their first episodic show.
The guild’s data shows that over the last eight years, just 40% of series-affiliated directors went on to work as directors on other series, indicating a “breakage” rate of 60% who never made it from the pipeline to the general hiring pool. On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of career-track directors (71%) did go on to direct episodes on other series. The most successful career-track directors were women and minorities, with 97% of the first-time women directors (28 out of 29) and 85% of the minorities (28 out of 33) going on to direct on other series.
“Despite this strong record among career-track directors,” the guild said, “employers hired a record 125 series-affiliated individuals as first-time TV directors in the 2016/17 season – up from 106 the year prior.”
“The rapid growth in the proportion of episodes given to first-time TV directors is the result of some factors that are very positive, and others that require further monitoring,” Schlamme said. “On the one hand, we’re delighted to see the jump in first breaks for talented women and minority directors who are building long-term careers. This validates what we’ve advocated for years and demonstrates what’s possible when employers adopt more inclusive hiring practices. On the other hand, too many of those valued first-time jobs are still being reserved for individuals who work on a series in some other capacity – and as our statistics show, are much less likely to continue a career in directing. If the goal is to feed the pipeline with the directors of the future, it’s important that employers provide the first-time opportunities to those most likely to go on and become career directors.”
SAG-AFTRA and the video game industry have reached an agreement to end the nearly year-long strike by the union.
The two sides reached an agreement during the weekend. SAG-AFTRA held four raucous rallies during the strike.
“We want to thank our counterparts at SAG-AFTRA for their efforts to conclude this labor dispute and reach a deal that will bring SAG-AFTRA members back to work on upcoming videogame projects,” said chief negotiator Scott Witlin. “The videogame Companies and SAG-AFTRA both worked hard to reach this deal and end the strike.”
The strike began Oct. 21, 2016, against nine of the top American video game producers, developers, and publishers. The dispute was officially resolved in the early morning hours of Sept. 23. The new contract will run for three years from the date of ratification by SAG-AFTRA which should take place in the coming weeks.
The companies said the new contract provides a “substantial” pay increase for performers through both bumps in session fees and additional compensation tied to a performer’s contribution to the video game. In addition, the companies agreed to additional transparency in bookings and to continue to cooperate with SAG-AFTRA in the area of safety, including vocal stress.
The deal on the Interactive Media Agreement was bargained by Activision Productions, Inc.; Blindlight, LLC; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Insomniac Games, Inc.; Take 2 Productions, Inc.; VoiceWorks Productions, Inc., and, WB Games, Inc.
SAG-AFTRA’s last proposal provided for residuals, vocal-stress protections, coverage of stunt coordinators, and disclosure of what the work entails before the performer agrees to the job. During the strike, the companies repeatedly blasted the union leadership for not allowing members to vote on the final offer, providing an immediate 9% pay hike.
The union picketed Activision, Warner Bros., and Insomniac Games during the strike in late 2016. It also marched from its Los Angeles headquarters to the park next to the La Brea Tar Pits for a rally in February, but did not hold a rally after that.
SAG-AFTRA said the deal includes a new bonus structure that provides an additional payment to performers. The bonus payment, which is due no later than the release date of the game, is based on the number of sessions worked on each game, beginning with a $75 payment on the first session and totaling $2,100 after 10 sessions worked.
“This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “The courage of our members and their fortitude these many months has been admirable and I salute them. We are always stronger together.”
Keythe Farley, chair of the SAG-AFTRA Interactive Negotiating Committee, said the strike resulted in key victories for member performers in the video game community.
“The bonus payments we have now are significantly larger now than what we had 11 months ago. And the existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements,” said Farley. “Those are the victories that this strike has brought us.”
Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez, who was the lead negotiator on the new contract, said the transparency provisions will require the companies to disclose the code name of project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role.
“Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required,” he added
Show cancellations and fewer feature films and TV pilots shot on the streets of Los Angeles have put a major dent in on-location film production in the city, according to the latest report from FilmLA, the city’s film permit office.
On-location feature film production fell 18.5% between April and June of 2017 compared to the second quarter of 2016, and on-location TV pilot production plummeted a whopping 60.4%. The number of on-location shooting days on TV dramas plunged 24.3%; digital Web-based TV production dropped 21.8%; TV comedies fell 9%, and TV reality production slipped 1% (see chart below).
Overall, on-location shooting in Greater Los Angeles was down just 4.7% for the quarter, however, thanks to a 12.5% increase in shooting days for commercials – which though not eligible for the state’s film tax incentives still account for the most shooting days in the city – and a 7% increase in “other” production such as student film, public service announcements, industrial videos, still photography and adult films – also not eligible to cash in on the incentives.
Even so, FilmLA president Paul Audley managed to put a positive spin on the otherwise dreary data. “Declines in any category need to be put in context,” he said. “The year-to-date comparison for the last seven years shows 2017 is second only to 2016 for total shoot days.”
FilmLA said that the precipitous drop in TV pilot production mirror the findings in its upcoming 2017 Pilot Study, which shows fewer pilots were ordered by networks over the last year. “As a result,” the permit office said, “production centers from L.A. to New York saw declines in the category.”
The 789 days of shooting TV dramas on location this quarter were driven down because several shows from 2017 are no longer in production including Gilmore Girls, Good Girls Revolt, Hand Of God, Mistresses, Roadies, Sweet/Vicious and The Catch. Even so, the TV drama category is having its third best year of the last seven, trailing 2016 and 2015 year-to-date.
Projects that received state subsidies continued to bolster the numbers, although the number of jobs-rich shooting days they brought to the city is surprisingly low. Incentivized features produced only 232 shooting days in the quarter, or 22% of all films shooting here on location. TV dramas saw 291 incentivized days, or 37% of the category, and TV pilots yielded just 57 shooting days – or 52% of the category.
By contrast, commercials accounted for 1,398 shooting days – more than double the number of incentivized film and TV shoot days combined.
Even so, without the incentives, film and TV production in Los Angeles would have been in the tank for the quarter, and for the year to date.
(Data provided by FilmLA does not include productions shot on certified soundstages or on-location in jurisdictions not served by FilmLA.)