Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back Into The Maw

Now with vitamin-packed Add Ons.

For the last week and a half, I've been away from blogging, unioning and everything else work related (and kudos to Jeff M. for posting in my absence.)

Mostly I've been around a lot of retirees on a cruise ship. Care to guess what one of their chief preoccupations is? (It ain't shuffle board ...)

Response to the financial world’s meltdown runs the gamut among ... retirees or those near retirement. Some, though concerned and economizing, have held steady and continued to maintain their balanced portfolios.

Others ...restructured their holdings six months or even a year ago, anticipating problems.

Still others could not bear to see their nest egg rattled by the topsy-turvy market and cut sharply on their stockholdings. Many recall the lessons learned as children of Depression survivors ...

The first three seventy-somethings I met remarked how they were ... ah ... concerned about having enough to see them through retirement. ("We had 60% in stocks and for percent in bonds and without doing anything we now have 60% in bonds and 40% in stocks. Wow.")

But shrinking retirement portfolios are just one part of today's world. For those of us working in the entertainment industry, there's the nerve-jangling reality about what the Conglomerates that Rule Us will next do:

... Companies, many of whom had already begun trimming costs during the writers strike and earlier stages of the decline, are taking a hard look at their operations. Among the retrenchments: Paramount said it would trim its slate 20% to 20 pics a year, and 25 employees, to meet targets set by parent Viacom. Disney has put its makeover of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida on hold, and J.P. Morgan has suspended efforts to raise DreamWorks coin for now ...

The animation sector of the business, both theatrical and television, has a long gestation period before product hits the marketplace. Balanced against the robust box office performance of theatrical animation are the long lead times and high costs. My educated guess is that there are just now lots of execs who tense up at the prospect of greenlighting projects that will cost $150 million (and more) and take three to five years start to finish, if they're lucky.

Lastly, there are upcoming and ongoing negotiations to be completed. Back east, I heard about the Screen Actors Guild negotiation committee punting to SAG's national board abot whether to authorize a strike vote of not. And this morning I read this:

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have recessed for the night without deciding on whether to ask members for a strike authorization.

SAG's national board will re-convene at 8 a.m. Sunday in Los Angeles ...

SAG's negotiating committee recommended that the national board seek a strike authorization two weeks ago.

It's not only movie execs who are tense. It can't be any walk through the daisies for a SAG officer right now ... or any union officer. Anyone think union rank and file are in a mood to hit the bricks and shut the movie industry down? In the midst of a financial tsunami? With their savings and retirement accounts melting away?

Don't think so.

In the next few days, SAG will have to make some hard decisions and deal with the studios, networks and the gale that is whipping around all of us. In the next few months, The IATSE and all its varied unions and guilds (us included) will have to sit down at the long oak conference table and hammer out new contracts that will carry us through the next few years.

Gonna be interesting. Gonna be real interesting. On every level.

Add On: What the hey. From the time I started writing this, to the time I posted it, SAG's board voted to go for the Big Enchilada.

Like people who have to work for a living aren't in enough deep crapola already. Now we might get a second strike?

Add On Too: Richard Verrier of the L.A. Times writes this piece, saying that it's Yes to a mediator, and MAYBE to a strike vote if the arbitration idea goes south:.

... the deepening recession has made the prospects of obtaining a strike authorization from members increasingly dim, and some board members fear that failing to muster the necessary votes for strike authorization would further weaken a union that has few remaining options.

You think?


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