SAG-AFTRA — Publicists in the entertainment business help manage the publicity of industry personalities and are typically involved in the marketing of film and television premieres. These people usually labor in the background to assist the sector progress. However, there has been a change in how things are done.
Publicists met with SAG-AFTRA leadership this week to discuss how they would handle the WGA and SAG-AFTRA combined strike. The conference concluded on an unpleasant note.
A Zoom meeting was arranged for Tuesday to discuss how talent businesses may negotiate the big strike. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, attended the meeting. When Crabtree-Ireland apologized for the strike’s overall impact on their business, many people were dissatisfied. He also stated that the walkout will have unexpected implications for other industry workers.
A SAG-AFTRA official declined to comment on what transpired at the meeting.
“We do not comment on private meetings with our allies in this very difficult fight for the respect, dignity, and economic equity our members, who are also their clients, demand,” the spokesperson explained.
“The support of our membership and partners throughout the industry is a powerful foundation from which we will ultimately secure a fair and just deal from the studios and streamers.”
SAG-AFTRA and PR
According to a senior publicist from a large company, the tone of SAG-AFTRA leadership at the conference was harsh and nasty to PR professionals, many of whom were trying to make a living.
According to a source, the true nature of the meeting was that Crabtree-Ireland rejected those who could throw light on the situation and influence the general public’s support.
“He referenced that the membership voted for this to happen,” the source said. “They voted for a strike, and in order to achieve the goals of the union, these are the circumstances.”
The publicist expressed concern about the state of the industry, particularly in the aftermath of the meeting.
Calls to loosen the grip on publicity
Public relations professionals, according to one source, are lobbying SAG-AFTRA to change its public relations laws. They emphasized the contrasts between SAG-AFTRA and WGA promotional strategies.
When the union went on strike at the start of the month, over 160,000 members were warned they would be forbidden from supporting any future projects with the corporations involved, even if they had worked on the project long before the strike.
Although the writers guild went through a similar process at the outset of their strike, the restrictions were temporarily relaxed when several writers and writer-directors worked on award season and theater promotions.
Effects of the strike
The talent public relations industry is undergoing significant transformation, with rosters being emptied and stars taking a temporary hiatus. According to publicists, if the strike persists into the fall, many firms that survived Covid would be forced to close.
The gap in decision-making between the two guilds, according to sources, is related to the basics of what permits craftspeople to thrive.
“Writers create words. They’re used to going their own way,” an individual noted. “Actors interpret words and express them for a living, and look to the directors more so for guidance.”
Another complaint is that only a handful of SAG-AFTRA members are allowed to market projects, notably those from independent producers. For example, Unknown Country reached an interim deal with the guild. Everyone else is on lockdown, and no one wants to take the first step otherwise they would be facing the penalties of breaking the order.
Fear among publicists
Publicists are anxious about what could happen in the next months, and one high-level representative has scheduled a secret Zoom conference with its members. The email was addressed to major public relations firms representing renowned celebrities and independent operators prior to the conference on Monday.
“A lot of you reached out to me after the SAG[-AFTRA] call this week to set up a meeting with all the PR companies to discuss next steps, strategy, etc,” the email begins.
“I have one set up for Monday, July 31st at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. Hope most of you can join. This is a difficult time, and we need to stand together.”
In Hollywood and the entertainment business, the year 2023 will be remembered as a watershed moment because it will be the first time in decades that performers and writers have walked picket lines together since 1960. The labor upheaval is especially alarming for publicists, who are concerned that the SAG-AFTRA public relations effort has gone too far, despite their support for both unions.
Participation in the networked Hollywood community, according to several officials, should be carefully explored.