Screen Actors Guild holds the line on pay for Web shows
As Hollywood braces for what could be its second labor walkout in a year, the fundamental contract issue dividing the Screen Actors Guild and the major studios is what the future holds for online entertainment.
But it's what's happening now with online entertainment that could shape the outcome. Companies that make shows to be watched online are scaling back and laying off employees, making it more difficult for actors to make the case that the Internet is Hollywood's new frontier.
For months the sides have clashed over how actors should be paid in the digital era, especially when it comes to their appearances in programs created for the Internet. So few were surprised when last-ditch mediation efforts recently collapsed between SAG and the studios.
Although the Internet has yet to produce the online equivalent of a "CSI," SAG anticipates that one day programs created for the Web could be as big as those created for network television.
As a result, the guild wants actors who are hired on all online shows to work under a union contract, just as they are when they appear in conventional sitcoms or dramas.
Behind the union's hard line is the still-sore memory of how actors left money on the table in the early days of cable TV and home video by negotiating contracts that failed to anticipate the huge surge in growth of those businesses.
-- Richard Verrier and Dawn C. Chmielewski
Photo: Actress Zoe Bell and writer Ed Brubaker horse around on the set of the Web show "Angel of Death." Credit: Crackle.com