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Summary:

In a move that could herald a new age in online content production, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced that the actors in the new online series Quarterlife, are covered by the Union’s contract. This means that performers in the highly-anticipated series will be eligible for […]

In a move that could herald a new age in online content production, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced that the actors in the new online series Quarterlife, are covered by the Union’s contract. This means that performers in the highly-anticipated series will be eligible for SAG pay rates and health insurance benefits under the union’s guidelines, though specific terms of the Quarterlife contract were not released.

Quarterlife was signed January 19 to the SAG Internet Online Agreement, and thirteen guild members are working or have worked on the show. While most Web productions are non-SAG, SAG has covered more than 200 such productions in the past two years.

In its press release SAG said:

“This is another sign that the Internet is maturing into a productive distribution channel for professionally produced content,” said Doug Allen, the Guild’s national executive director.

It’s fantastic that SAG is recognizing online video as not just a legitimate, but an increasingly important distributor of filmed entertainment. But as with anything, there’s good news and bad news with this announcement.

For viewers, having SAG actors in Web productions will mean better performances. Which is good news because let’s face it — the acting on many Web productions could use some improvement. So bring on the (real) talent! For the actors in online series, it will provide some much needed pay and insurance benefits.

But if SAG’s influence spreads online, and major media outlets demand that producers work within SAG agreements, there could be a disruption to the run-and-gun ethic that makes Web entertainment so raw.

While researching a similar story, I spoke with some online series producers. One in particular liked working outside of SAG because it allowed a certain degree of freedom. They could shoot as many hours as they liked without lunch breaks, they could do stunts without a coordinator or fire marshal present, and in general they could avoid an additional layer of red tape.

If you’re just out there with your friends shooting a quick video, it won’t matter, but if you want to distribute it through a major online media outlet who is a SAG signatory, will you have to do your series under a SAG agreement? And how will residuals be counted?

There are no details offered in theInternet and New Technologies section of SAG’s “Contract Corner.” It basically says to call them to hammer out what kind of online production you’re making and they’ll figure it out from there.

I contacted SAG prior to this announcement on Friday to ask them about their role in existing and future online productions. I’ll post more after talking with them and others.

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  1. Look SAG can be a pain in the ass, but sentiments like this:

    “While researching a similar story, I spoke with some online series producers. One in particular liked working outside of SAG because it allowed a certain degree of freedom. They could shoot as many hours as they liked without lunch breaks, they could do stunts without a coordinator or fire marshal present, and in general they could avoid an additional layer of red tape.”

    Show not only a disregard for humanity and common decency among some of my fellow online producers.

    Stunt coordinators and fire marshals aren’t red tape, they are the killjoys that keep people safe while allowing you to get the shot.

    Google Twilight Zone The Movie. No one should get hurt or die for your online vision to be realized.

    And for that matter, feed people a decent lunch. I know budgets are tight, but if you’re paying a low wage the least you can do is feed your cast and crew in an adequate manner.

    SAG can and does get mired in the crappy details. They can be petty and bureaucratic. And I personally don’t think they have any domain over Internet only productions.

    That said, I try to meet or exceed what SAG provides for in terms of compensation and workplace environment whenever I use additional talent.

    It’s just smart practice if you want to build an enduring career.

  2. Kent,

    Like so many things, it’s a balance.

    Yes, of course you feed the talent and crew (well), but should it be mandated that you do it every three hours?

    And I don’t think anyone’s talking about landing a chopper in a war-torn Vietnam (a la Twighlight Zone) without supervision. But how is “stunt” defined? Should you have an actual fire marshal if filming a bbq scene?

    Like I said, I think having SAG involved will be good for online productions. It’s just finding that balance.

  3. Every three hours? Which contract is that?

    “Meal Breaks of no less than 30 minutes and no more than 60 minutes must be given every six hours”

    http://www.aftrasagdcbalt.com/?q=node&page=6

  4. Well, now we’re just splitting hairs. Presumably with a ninja sword.

  5. Well Chris, what do you think is an appropriate amount of time before you have to feed them? 8 hours? 10? 12?

    6 Hours is half way into a 12 hour work day. And to give them a second meal if you work another 6 hours? Again simply humane.

    Office workers do take Lunch about three hours into an eight hour day.

  6. Well, if we go by what I get at NewTeeVee, I don’t get a lunch until Liz throws me a scrap of whatever she didn’t finish.

    Which is usually ten hours into my day since she makes me hop online so early in the morning to scan headlines (and work Sunday nights, evidently).

  7. A SAG Primer For Indie Producers « NewTeeVee Thursday, September 20, 2007

    [...] SAG Primer For Indie Producers When the Screen Actors Guild said recently that its contract would cover the upcoming online series quarterlife, it got me thinking about how a SAG contract would affect [...]

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