SAG-AFTRA — Publicists in the entertainment industry assist in the management of industry stars’ publicity and usually participate in the promotional efforts of film and television premieres. These individuals usually work in the shadows to help the industry flourish. However, there has been a shift in how things are carried out.
Publicists met with SAG-AFTRA leadership this week to discuss how to manage the WGA/SAG-AFTRA joint strike. The meeting ended on a sour tone.
On Tuesday, a Zoom conference was organized to examine how talent companies can navigate the massive strike. The meeting was attended by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator. Many individuals were displeased when Crabtree-Ireland apologized for the strike’s cumulative effects on their companies. He further said that the strike will have unforeseen consequences for other workers in the business.
A SAG-AFTRA official declined to comment on the meeting’s events.
“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
The tone of SAG-AFTRA leadership at the conference, according to a senior publicist from a prominent company, was harsh and disparaging to PR professionals, many of whom were attempting to make a livelihood from their work.
According to one account, the true objective of the meeting was for Crabtree-Ireland to fire the people who may have shed light on the matter and sway public opinion.
“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 voiced concern about the business’s situation, especially in the days after the meeting.
Calls to loosen the grip on publicity
Public relations specialists, according to one source, are proposing that SAG-AFTRA modify its public relations laws. They highlighted the differences between SAG-AFTRA and WGA advertising strategies.
When the union went on strike at the start of the month, it warned its more than 160,000 members that they would be barred from supporting any further efforts with the enterprises involved, even if they had been employed on the project for a long time before to the strike.
At the start of their strike, the writers guild went through a similar process, although the limits were briefly loosened while numerous writers and writer-directors concentrated on award season and theatrical marketing.
Effects of the strike
The public relations sector for celebrities is quickly changing, with rosters being reduced and stars taking time off. According to publicists, if the strike continues into the fall, many of the businesses that survived Covid would be forced to close their doors permanently.
According to research, the gap in decision-making between the two guilds is related to the principles that allow artisans to survive.
“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 source of concern is that only a handful of SAG-AFTRA members are permitted to sell projects, particularly those produced by small producers. Unknown Country, for example, achieved an interim agreement with the guild. Everyone else is on lockdown, and no one wants to make the initial move since they will face the consequences.
Fear among publicists
Publicists are concerned about what will happen in the next months, and one high-ranking official has scheduled a secret Zoom meeting with its members. Prior to the conference on Monday, the email had been distributed to major public relations agencies representing prominent personalities as well as independent entrepreneurs.
“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.”
The year 2023 will be recognized as a watershed event in Hollywood and the entertainment industry because it marked the first time in decades when artists and authors marched together to picket lines since 1960. Despite their backing for both unions, publicists are concerned that the SAG-AFTRA public relations effort has gone too far.
According to several authorities, participation in the networked Hollywood society should be carefully evaluated.