Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 09:51 UK

Actors get set for contract talks

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Minnie Driver
Minnie Driver was among actors who supported the writers' strike
Two months after Hollywood screenwriters returned to work, film and TV actors are preparing to begin negotiations over a new contract.

The Screen Actors Guild, which represents about 120,000 members, will open talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, on Tuesday.

The writers' strike is estimated to have cost Los Angeles about $2.5 billion (1.26 billion). During the course of the strike, thousands of workers were laid off, even though many had nothing to gain from the protracted negotiations.

The collateral damage affected entertainment industry professionals such as sound engineers, makeup artists and set designers. Others, such as lorry drivers, limousine companies and restaurants were also affected.

The actors' negotiations are likely to focus on the same issues that divided the writers and the studios and resulted in a damaging 100-day strike.

They want a greater share in the profits from DVD sales and internet downloads. But unlike the writers, the actors are getting a head start on their negotiations since their contract does not expire until the end of June.

Jon Voight
It's not a game, egos should be put behind us and we should get business done
Jon Voight

"One of the complaints about the writers guild situation was that from July to November of last year there were also no talks to prevent the strike," says Daily Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos.

"People have been trying well in advance of this to get everyone at the table and get them talking. We're two and a half months away from the deadline and they've already been talking."

The talking is likely to be tough going. Actors, like writers and directors, see the current round of negotiations as a hugely significant if they are to take home what they see as a fair slice of the cake from entertainment sales in new media.

"The deals that were set by the writers' guild and the directors were deals that a lot of people would like to see replicated here," says Mr Gaydos.

In fact, the Screen Actors Guild is understood to be seeking a better deal for its members than the writers achieved.

Charlton Heston leads SAG strikers in 1980
Many actors want to avoid a repeat of 1980's all-out strike
But whether or not the union will implement its ultimate weapon is in doubt. Hollywood is in no mood for another strike.

"We've got to be very careful here," says Oscar winner Jon Voight.

"It's not a game, egos should be put behind us and we should be in good faith and get business done. That's I expect from my union."

"It's a very tough time for us here. I dearly hope it doesn't go to a strike. We can't afford it here, it's very damaging to the economy."

The fear of a new strike is also reflected on the sets of TV shows - many of which have only just returned to normal after lying dormant during the writers' dispute.

"Anything can happen but the feeling is, 'let's not do this again,' says William Peterson, who plays Gil Grissom in TV drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

"I think there's going to be an attempt, certainly on the part of the Screen Actors Guild to get the thing done and stay at work. Hopefully the companies will feel that way as well."

US TV and film actors sever ties
30 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
Studios start actors' talks early
13 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
Actors urge talks to avert strike
14 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Film directors agree studio deal
17 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Hollywood writers to end strike
13 Feb 08 |  Entertainment

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