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January 26, 2005

More Casting Director Ink

Excerpts from Lights. Industrial action! from The Economist.

Is Hollywood...about to indulge in a hardball labour dispute? America's 500-or-so casting directors and associates--the unsung people-brokers who select actors for a film's director or producer--are threatening to strike if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) refuses to grant them union recognition and health and pension benefits.
Since the AMPTP represents the big studios and, by extension, big corporations such as General Electric and Viacom, it might seem an unequal contest--except that the Casting Society of America (CSA), representing 368 of the casting directors, has the backing of the 1.4m-strong, much feared International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters represent some 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and location scouts, and their refusal to cross picket lines would be hard to ignore. In other words, the AMPTP has a bit of a headache....
Even so, the studios are not about to admit defeat. In an informal meeting with the CSA last week, the AMPTP offered to provide health and pension benefits ("the studios are very sympathetic," says one studio insider), but remained adamantly opposed to unionisation.
Yet virtually every other group in Hollywood, from scriptwriters to costume designers, belongs to a guild or union that negotiates working conditions. Moreover, as the CSA pointed out late last week in an advertisement in the trade press, "almost all other groups, including actors, directors, writers, drivers, location managers, production office co-ordinators, grips, electricians, editors, costumers and craft services" receive health insurance and a pension plan. Steve Dayan, of the Los Angeles Teamsters, says bluntly: "Forget the legal issues. Morally and ethically the studios should be taking care of these people." The studios may be ready to agree benefits, he says, but without a union to protect them, how can the casting directors be sure that the agreements will be kept?

BTW, we (casting directors) have a mandatory meeting next week. That can't be a good sign, eh?

Posted by bonnie at January 26, 2005 6:27 PM