Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Hollywood talks over actors row

SAG rally in June 2008
The deadlock could derail next year's Oscars ceremony, some fear

Hollywood film studios have met with the Screen Actors Guild for the first time in four months in an attempt to defuse deadlocked contract talks.

The two sides came together under the guidance of a mediator, but it is not known what was discussed.

At least one Hollywood has figure said the deadlock could last until next year and may result in strike action.

SAG wants actors to get more money from DVD sales, plus a greater say in the endorsement of products on-air.

The four major Hollywood Studios quit talks with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in June.

In July, another actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, approved a new prime-time TV contract with studios.

But a similar deal - which would boost the minimum wages of members by 3.5% in the first year of the contract, 3% in the second and 3.5% in the third - was rejected by SAG.

The two sides last met face to face on 16 July for a two-hour session that yielded no perceptible progress.

Strike threat

Those negotiating on behalf of SAG's 120,000 members called in a mediator last month.

The big question is whether the studios are going to blink
Jonathan Handel, former SAG lawyer
At the same time, the union's governing board declared it would ask members to authorize a strike if mediation failed to achieve a settlement.

Industrial action will go ahead if 75% of balloted members vote for action.

Jonathan Handel, a former Writers' Guild of America (WGA) lawyer, said the current dispute said SAG could drag the dispute on until the Oscars ceremony in February.

"The big question is whether the studios are going to blink, or are the A-listers with SAG going to stand behind the union or attend the Oscars regardless of whether the union boycotts them," he was quoted by Reuters.

The situation is reminiscent of the 14-week writers' strike which brought Hollywood to a standstill earlier this year.

The action, by the Writers' Guild of America (WGA), led to the cancellation of TV chat shows, a halt to filming, and the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony.

It is estimated that the strike caused $3bn (2bn) damage to the California economy.

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