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AMERICAN THEATER | Actors’ Equity, SAG-AFTRA settles the dispute over filmed theater

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Bukola Ogunmola as Juliet in Independent Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

NEW YORK CITY AND LOS ANGELES:Association for stakeholder equity and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced that the two unions, which had spent months at odds over recorded theater contracts, have reached an agreement on coverage of live theater “which is recorded or streamed for exhibition at one. remote audience ”. The tentative agreement was reached on November 14 and was then unanimously approved by the SAG-AFTRA National Council and the Actors’ Equity Association National Council on November 19. The full eight-page agreement is available online.

In the press release, the two unions applauded the collaborative process which led to a solution “that serves the best interests of both of their members”, an outcome that seemed distant only a month ago. The deal, released amid encouraging news of a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future, establishes parameters for the duration of the so-called “pandemic period”, ending on December 31, 2021. If necessary, the two unions will meet again no later than October 1, 2021 to determine whether this deadline should be extended.

Established metrics claim that during this special period Equity will cover theatrical work that is recorded or produced for a digital platform, which includes both productions recorded for live-only online, replacing what should have been a production Seasonal Live, as well as online performance streams captured in front of a low-capacity live audience. Work covered by Equity may include live readings, staged readings, live theater and “other performances in the general nature of theater”.

Other stipulations regarding what Equity will cover include that digital productions involve only “minor editing”; that the performances be similar to the programming that the theater would generally offer to its subscribers and ticket holders; and that the digital platform is a platform accessible only by ticket holders or subscribers, and not “on paid streaming services which regularly offer access to recorded programs”. The agreement also establishes that these digital productions can only remain online for a maximum of three months (or the duration of the contract broadcast, if it is less than three months), and that the total digital audience cannot exceed 200% of the seats in the physical theater during the race. There is a special exception for theaters with less than 350 seats, where the total digital audience cannot exceed 300% of its capacity for the race.

The agreement more clearly defines the distinction between cinema and theater: productions covered by Equity cannot be “substantially edited”, include the use of visual effects “or other material which cannot be reproduced in direct ”or cannot be shot sequence. While even these requirements seem to leave some gray areas, the point is that work that looks more like a TV show or movie should be covered by SAG-AFTRA.

A major sticking point in that deal seemed to be that SAG-AFTRA wanted recognition that any production made for streaming or viewing on a screen was still their domain, while Equity argued that theaters, no matter what. or the distribution platform, should be covered by their contracts. This agreement appears to address both of these issues, with a provision stating that “both parties agree that work performed for recorded or broadcast / live broadcast media, including the transmission of a live theatrical performance outside of the theater itself. Likewise, usually falls under the exclusive competence of SAG-AFTRA. jurisdiction. ”This is“ usually ”the key – that is, outside of this defined pandemic period, Equity has admitted that on-screen theater is the domain of SAG-AFTRA. But Equity does not leave empty-handed: it will retain arrangements allowing for limited recording and / or transmission, such as archival recordings and recordings for promotional, educational or reference purposes.

The document also acknowledges that Equity has filed grievances on behalf of the members asking for compensation and weeks of work in relation to the pre-agreement productions, and Equity is now in a position to proceed with the resolution of these claims as long as the resolution does not conflict with the rest of this agreement. A dispute resolution process, if any issues arise within the next year, is also provided for in the agreement.

To read the full agreement, both unions posted the agreements on their respective websites.

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