Frakking Kidding Me - jenahville

The WGA Strike and It's Effect on 'Battlestar'

wisteria_ gave me the heads up to a deadlinehollywood.com report that the BSG actors may be getting screwed over more than other actors contracted to NBC/Universal

I've read the article three times and am still a bit unclear as to what is happening. To me, it reads as if NBC/Universal is in direct violation of the SAG agreement if they are suspending the actors without pay and prohibiting them, indefinitely, from looking for other work. And if the BSG actors fulfilled their contract by filming 13 episodes, aren't they free to go? On the other hand, the responses coming from 'someone in the business office' may not be entirely accurate, as in, it could be someone who isn't directly involved with all this. I'd love to know who the unnamed BSG source is and if Katee or Jamie will let loose at the Con this afternoon.

Ron Moore also updated his blog today with a brief recap of the situation. I still feel the show will be back to finish up, but yeah, there is a possibility that it might not. Could we be looking at a mini-series like Farscape got rather than another ten hours?
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*scratches head*

I think I get part of the source of the confusion.

One of the studios (I think it was Sony but I'm not sure) actually did notify its actors that they were "putting them on hiatus" rather than invoking the force majeur provisions of their contracts. They're basically trying to have their cake and eat it too: retain the actors under contract without paying them anything or giving them a chance to walk after five weeks. This seems to be a pretty clear violation of SAG contract terms, and will likely end up in court if the strike drags on much further.

NBC/Universal has actually invoked the existing force majeur provisions in actor contracts, which means that the contracts are suspended for five weeks, the actors are on half-pay, and at the end of that five weeks the studios can either pick up the contracts and resume paying the actors, or the actors are free to pursue other contracts.

What seems to be the particular wrinkle in the BSG case is that production has stopped at episode 13, and it sounds like there are additional provisions in the actor contracts (this is probably standard) governing the studio's relationship with the actors if a show isn't picked up/continued after the front 13 episodes of a season. It sounds like rather than invoking force majeure, NBC/Universal is using the timing as an excuse to say "we're cutting you off after the front 13" so that they don't have to pay them. I don't know how that works with SAG contracts, but if the studio is treating this as basically a cancellation, the practical effect could be the entire cast being out of contract starting now rather than in five weeks. What a mess.
What seems to be the particular wrinkle in the BSG case is that production has stopped at episode 13, and it sounds like there are additional provisions in the actor contracts (this is probably standard) governing the studio's relationship with the actors if a show isn't picked up/continued after the front 13 episodes of a season. It sounds like rather than invoking force majeure, NBC/Universal is using the timing as an excuse to say "we're cutting you off after the front 13" so that they don't have to pay them. I don't know how that works with SAG contracts, but if the studio is treating this as basically a cancellation, the practical effect could be the entire cast being out of contract starting now rather than in five weeks. What a mess.

Ok, I'm getting a clearer picture of this now and you could be right. But, if they are saying, 'oh, you filmed thirteen episodes so the show is over' then the actors would seem free to pursue other work, but the actor speaking to Nikki said they aren't able to look for other work without permission from the studio. Maybe it's because there is an option clause? But then I still don't see how you can prohibit them from working indefinitely *and* not pay them? It's unlikely it would come to a dire scenario, especially if some headway is made at the next round of negotiations, but the studios seem to have no care that these people would not be able to support their families.

Edited at 2007-11-18 05:16 pm (UTC)
Okay, I just reread the article with a particular eye toward the quote you mention, and I think it reinforces my theory. What he or she actually said was:

Until that time we are in first position with BSG and will have to clear any other project with Scifi/Uni.

This seems to me to confirm that NBC/Universal is treating this situation like they haven't decided whether to pick up the back 7 part of the show, and the actors are under contract until they do. In a universe without a strike, the studio would either pick up the rest of the episodes or cancel the show and release the actors; the standard contract does in fact specify that the studio has first priority on the actor's time while the actor is under contract for the show. With the strike, NBC/Universal seems to be treating the fact that Moore has delivered the first 13 as a point where all parties have completed their contractual obligations for the front half of their contracts, and are retaining first priority claims over the actors without actually moving into the part of the contract that covers the back half of the season.

I could be completely off base here, but it the way the 13-episode figure comes up as a major factor in this situation strikes me as significant.
the standard contract does in fact specify that the studio has first priority on the actor's time while the actor is under contract for the show.

Which is standard to any contract. Without it, any actor, at any time could decide to take an another role and walk off the set.

This is gradually making more sense to me, though I would think SAG could argue that, should the strike continue indefinitely, Universal has to start paying the actors or let them go. While it's clear Universal is using this as a bargaining chip, SciFI has also stated that they were looking to have twenty episodes of BSG to air when other networks were struggling for new product to show.

I'm also wondering if Ron Moore possibly created this scenario when he negotiated to extend the thirteen episode commitment to twenty in order to wrap up the series. I'm not faulting him for this mess, just wondering if an unforeseen circumstance was unintentionally created.
Somewhat different opinion on RDM's involved in this thread. I thought you might be interested!

The pay thing is interesting because I was under the impression that actors were paid for each episode once it's completed, rather than on a traditional "weekly" basis. Unless it's something more like my system -- I'm paid for 192 days of service at a daily rate, but the lump sum salary for those 192 days is prorated out into twelve monthly checks. Then again, that wouldn't take into consideration the actors' pay fluctuations if a series is cancelled before the expected 22 episode season.

I'm also wondering if Ron Moore possibly created this scenario when he negotiated to extend the thirteen episode commitment to twenty in order to wrap up the series.

Might be wrong here, but the actors are all on 5-season contracts, with the individual episode terms subject to change upon each season's renewal order. They were locked in, regardless of what might happen. And as far as I know, the episode commitment is actually 22, including "Razor" (a double episode.) Then again, SciFi might do things differently from the broadcast networks because they don't always do the traditional 22-episode seasons. Or something. I'm just guessing. ;)

As I told you last night, I was thinking the quotes were from Mary because of the "actress" designation at the start of the DHD post. Could be someone else, though. Plus, DHD says that actors from four NBCU shows received these -- I'm assuming ALL of the NBCU main cast members got them too; we've only heard about the shows with actors who've talked to Finke.

Must run errands now, but all this is starting to get really fascinating (and a bit scary)!
I was under the impression they were paid per episode as well, but I guess the payments are structured differently than that. Or perhaps since most actors would be working right now, if not for the strike, they expected to still get paid and complete the episodes once the strike is resolved? I don't know ---> is very confused.

You are correct, they are all locked into five year contracts, but it seems the loophole here is that for year four they were originally only picked up for "a minimum of 13 episodes" and when that later got extended things got mucked up. I was also under the impression that Razor was separate from the twenty episode season - SciFi was making that clear up to this point and the film is only airing on SciFi before the DVD release due to Glen Larson owning film rights - but now we are being told that Razor is episode 1 and 2 of the season. Ultimately, I think this is NBC/Universal trying to save themselves some money (I won't even blame SciFi for this issue) and that once the lawyers get involved Monday things will change.

I am so dying to know if Jamie and Katee talk about this today.
I was giving my mom a recap of the BSG situation and what an unnamed source reported and she thinks it's Mary. ;)
Hmmm, the first thing that occurs to me is that if it's only the BSG cast who've been extra screwed over like this, they picked the wrong cast to mess with as the BSG cast has always struck me as being one that is more willing than most to give voice to their opinions and to be able to do so lucidly - can't see activists types like EJO taking this lying down - not that anyone would, but you get what I mean (or at least I hope you do, quite possible I'm not explaining myself well!!).

Interestingly there are a couple of ABC shows (inc Ugly Betty I think) that are up to about episode 12 or 13 so it will be interesting to see what happens to those casts if ABC becomes another network to start invoking contract clauses...

But yeah, the situation stinks and I can imagine the lawyers having a busy Monday morning tomorrow. Maybe going forward these kind of clauses are something that actors need to be wary about - something else for SAG to think about ahead of their own contract negotiations
I'm like 85% sure the actor quoted from BSG is Jamie. It just...sounds like him, some of the phrasing. And he's never been shy about voicing his opinion.
No, he's never been shy. ;) I also think it could be James, perhaps even Mary. I eliminated EJO since I think his words would be even stronger.
Any reports from the Con yet? Honestly, this is getting more and more ridiculous. The networks are so biting the hand that feeds them.
No con reports yet. Katee just finished up with her Q&A a short time ago and now she and Jamie should be doing autographs. Yes, I checked the schedule. ;) greycoupon and roadrunnerdm are both there and I expect awesome reports from them. I'm dying to know if the strike and it's fallout was brought up.
:(

All that contract chat hurts my head. *confused* I trust you will explain it to me when it's clear. *crosses fingers for completion of BSG*