I am pleased to report that on March 9, after a week of intense negotiations, an agreement was reached with major Hollywood-based film producers and their television film counterparts to extend the existing Theatrical and Motion Picture Film Agreements for one year with a 3% increase in wages. Upon ratification, the extension and wage increase will become effective April 5, 2018.
The short-term contract solution was seen by both sides as an acceptable alternative to a positional deadlock that arose from the producers’ reluctance to address two important Federation bargaining objectives—the improvement of existing residual payment obligations when theatrical and TV films are streamed and the introduction of streaming residual payments when films are made for initial release on streaming platforms.
The parties—the Federation on one hand and the producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on the other—actually negotiate two separate agreements simultaneously, which become effective and expire concurrently. One covers the production of theatrical motion pictures and one covers television motion pictures initially released on free television.
Despite the studios’ unwillingness to settle our key issues, and despite the tensions that were present (as they are in practically all negotiations, which by nature are consistently adversarial), the negotiating environment was decidedly different in this round compared to the last, where an agreement was reached after six rounds of bargaining spanning more than two years.
This round, members of our team held meetings with bargaining unit musicians and representatives of other workplace unions well in advance of the bargaining sessions. Our team diligently researched and analyzed information necessary to formulate reasonable Federation proposals that would address musicians’ concerns over the rapid rise of viewer consumption of theatrical, TV film, and made-for-streaming productions on advertiser supported video streaming on-demand (AVOD) and subscription-based video streaming on-demand (SVOD) platforms.
Every round of negotiations has a theme that dominates. The challenges we faced in this round were different from the previous round, but no less important. In the previous round, the prevailing themes were clip use, the banking of scoring hours associated with certain domestic and foreign productions, and language updates to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF). This round was dominated by streaming.
The Federation obtained coverage for new media in 2010. The term “new media” made sense to the entertainment unions a decade ago, after the 2008 Writers Guild strike, when it was coined to describe the online exploitation of recordings. In our film agreement, it refers to products made under the theatrical and television film agreements that are eventually streamed, and the making of original productions for digital (streaming) distribution in the first place. Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix are now producers and distributors of products we used to call “movies” and “TV shows.”
As musicians, we can only feed our families and make a decent living, if we get paid fairly for our work. There are two components to that scenario—original session payments and FMSMF distributions. As entertainment consumption has shifted toward on-demand platforms, the Federation is rightfully concerned about how musicians will be paid in the digital future. We are determined to engage the film industry on these issues, drive a fair bargain, and obtain a fair agreement for our members.
That said, the atmosphere in these negotiations was also decidedly different. Animosity from the conclusion of the previous round had subsided. In its place was an attitude of real respect. That difference, I believe is a product of the Federation’s program of contract compliance and enforcement toward these agreements.
Six weeks after the 2015 film contracts were ratified, the Federation sued every major film studio, either for offshoring union jobs or for clip use violations, and some were sued for both. From those suits, we’ve collected money for our members and we’ve busted several of the studios for flagrant violations of domestic scoring obligations. Today, there is only one pending action against the producers. We will prevail on it, and they know it. They also know that, if our agreements are violated and no settlement is forthcoming, we will proceed directly into court against them.
There is another factor that changed the negotiating atmosphere for the better—our side was extremely organized, well prepared, and completely, totally unified.
In the meantime, the Federation will engage in negotiations with the media industries, we will follow the pattern examples of our sister entertainment unions, and we will aggressively bargain our digital future.
I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest thanks to the many talented musicians, members of the AFM International Executive Board, and local union officers and representatives who spent countless hours working to identify, articulate, and prioritize workplace issues in advance of the negotiations. I would like to especially thank the small group we put together during the negotiations—Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President John Acosta; Local 47 Vice President Rick Baptist; Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy; Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President Marc Sazer, and rank-and-file representative and RMA Secretary Steve Dress.
We had the benefit of superb legal representation from Federation in-house counsel Jennifer Garner and Russ Naymark, and outside counsel Susan Davis of Cohen, Weiss, and Simon. Lastly, my thanks go to Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) Director Pat Varriale, EMSD Contract Administrator Matt Allen, and all the hardworking Federation staff for their valuable contributions throughout the process.
We will reconvene these film negotiations in one year. It’s another opportunity to adapt, advance, and achieve improvements for the finest musicians in the world. I can’t wait.Read More