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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Hollywood stars back union crackdown
Kevin Spacey and ER actor  Eriq LaSalle
Spacey and ER's Eriq LaSalle launch the crackdown
Hollywood actors, including Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, have backed calls by the country's biggest and most powerful acting union to keep movie and TV production in the US.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which boasts 98,000 members, announced on Wednesday that it had begun strict enforcement of rules banning its performers from working on non-union projects made abroad but aimed at the US audience.

Under the crackdown, named Global Rule One, performers could face fines, suspension and expulsion if they accept work on such productions.


It starts today, no travelling without an SAG contract anywhere in the world

Melissa Gilbert, SAG president

The move could have serious implications for the movie and TV industry in both the US and in favourite filming locations such as Canada, Australia and the UK.

These places are often chosen because they are scenic and because they offer technical expertise at cheaper rates than in Hollywood.

Many future US productions may, as a result of Global Rule One, decide to compromise quality for the sake of cost-cutting at home.

Meanwhile, studios outside the US could be hit by a loss of business from Hollywood.

Hits

SAG president Melissa Gilbert was joined by Spacey, Harris, Eriq LaSalle, Tony Danza and Elliott Gould, at a press conference to start the campaign.

"While travel is a part of doing business in a global economy, SAG members rightly expect all the protections of our union contracts to follow us when we work out of the country," Ms Gilbert said.

The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand

"It starts today, no travelling without an SAG contract anywhere in the world."

The SAG says that 60 feature films released last year in the US were shot on foreign soil without SAG contracts.

They included some of the year's biggest hits such as The Lord of the Rings movie, The Mummy Returns, Spy Game and Enemy at the Gates.

And the much-anticipated biggest movie event of 2002, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones was also largely shot abroad.

In addition, the SAG says that more than 160 television shows, made-for-TV movies and mini-series were made abroad as non-guild productions last year.

Pact

The SAG's action is aimed at persuading studios to stop what it terms "runaway production," which takes jobs away from workers in the US.

Elliot Gould
Elliot Gould also spoke out for his union

It also wants SAG members to be able to claim the same rights - including salaries set to agreed union pay scales - abroad as in the US.

Its campaign is backed by its sister performers union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

The equally influential Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild of America are also behind Global Rule One.

In return, the studios say Global Rule One goes beyond the scope of SAG's film and TV contract with producers and violates the "spirit and intent" of that pact.

Crippling

SAG's Rule One was first introduced with the union in the 1930s, though it was never enforced abroad until now.

"Although the baby was born in 1933, we're just smacking it today for the first time," Spacey said.

Last year, a crippling strike by the SAG and AFTRA over repeat fees was narrowly averted after two months of talks with studios.

The year before, more than US 130,000 actors who star in television and radio commercials caused studios major disruption and financial losses when they went on strike - again over repeat fees - for more than six weeks.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Film
US actors back UK strike
21 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Union champions 'plus-size' actors
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