FOUR TOP ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY GUILDS PROTECTED MEMBERS AND HELPED THEM SURVIVE AND THRIVE THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC AND BEYOND.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS/VALERIE DURANT
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD-AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TELEVISION AND RADIO ARTISTS (SAG-AFTRA)
BY THE NUMBERS: Approximately 160,000 members
MEMBERSHIP BASE: Labor union representing performers and media professionals
YEAR FOUNDED: 2012
PANDEMIC AID: “We are extremely proud of the collaborative efforts between our unions (including DGA, IATSE, Teamsters and Basic Crafts, and SAG-AFTRA) and the AMPTP, which has resulted in the implementation of the Return to Work Agreement. Similar agreements have also been reached with the joint policy committee for our commercials agreement and with producers working under our video games agreement,” says Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA national executive director of the agreement that ensured that TV and film productions have strict safety guidelines on set. “The safety protocols in these agreements were designed with the guidance of eminent epidemiologists and have kept the cast and crew on sets extremely safe,” he adds. “Many of our members have reached out to tell us that they felt safer on set than anywhere else other than home.” SAG-AFTRA also hosted live webinars about everything from unemployment insurance to how to self-tape auditions. The virtual events didn’t stop there: The Guild also held the third annual Labor Innovation & Technology Summit and a Stop the Hate Week. Other SAG-AFTRA initiatives throughout the pandemic included legislative work, such as negotiating the inclusion of entertainment industry workers in the CARES Act as well as supporting the American Rescue Plan and the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation—along with the SAGAFTRA Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund—also created the COVID-19 Disaster Fund for those impacted by the pandemic and has given out $6.6 million in emergency assistance to members.
DIRECTORS GUILD OF AMERICA (DGA)
BY THE NUMBERS: More than 18,000 members
MEMBERSHIP BASE: Labor union representing directors and members of the directorial team (unit production managers, assistant directors, associate directors, stage managers and production associates) across film, television and new media
YEAR FOUNDED: 1936
PANDEMIC AID: “There was no template when COVID hit. It is a testament to the strong foundation of the DGA and the leadership of our members—both on and off set—that we were able to turn to science, create a new playbook to keep everyone protected and carve our path forward,” says National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Russell Hollander of the unprecedented multiunion negotiations. Hollander adds that the protocols created became the gold standard and were the reason production rebounded so successfully. When productions were shut down due to COVID in March 2020, the DGA began to develop science-backed protocols for a safe return to work. The Guild also helped enforce members’ contractual rights and fast-tracked residual and foreign levies payments, and their pension and health plans provided health benefits and low-interest loans to members premium-free. Additionally, the DGA Foundation launched an emergency relief fund providing members in need with grants.
PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA (PGA)
BY THE NUMBERS: 8,000 members
MEMBERSHIP BASE: An inclusive and diverse community of producers working across TV, film and new media
YEAR FOUNDED: 1950
PANDEMIC AID: “At the outset of the pandemic, the Producers Guild organized around the goal of being helpful to our members and to guide them through the personal and professional uncertainty that so many were facing,” says PGA President Gail Berman. “One of our immediate actions was to set up a members relief fund in partnership with the Actors Fund, which provided more than $230,000 in financial support,” PGA President Lucy Fisher continues. “Additionally, we formed a production safety task force led by President Emeritus Lori McCreary that worked with SAG-AFTRA and a wide range of industry groups to ensure industrywide standards and protocols for independent film productions, which is still in progress today.” The Guild started a Hire PGA initiative, where the PGA worked with employers to share job opportunities directly with qualified members. Since March 2020, the PGA has held more than 418 virtual events—such as those with producers including Barry Jenkins, David Hinojosa and Stacey Sher—and supported inclusivity through its One Guild initiative. Additionally, the Guild hosted a virtual PGA Awards, which allowed them to host their largest audience yet to celebrate the art of producing. In spite of the past year’s challenges, the Guild persevered through 2020. “Resiliency is always a word that we come back to, to sum up producers above all else, and this year, our staff and the Guild at large embraced it in unimaginable, impressive ways,” Berman adds.
WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA WEST (WGAW)
BY THE NUMBERS: More than 10,000 members
MEMBERSHIP BASE: Labor union representing film, television, radio and new media writers
YEAR FOUNDED: 1954
PANDEMIC AID: “WGAW continued its primary work of providing contract enforcement and services for our members, including the negotiation of the 2020 Minimum Basic Agreement, the successful conclusion of our two-year agency campaign that ended the practice of packaging and agency-owned production studios, and maintaining stable and strong pension and healthcare plans,” says Bob Hopkinson, a representative from WGAW. In addition, WGAW started a biweekly newsletter, Connect, which focused on COVID-19 news and resources. The Guild also gave guidance on conditions for safe writers rooms during the pandemic and coordinated member-led fundraising for The Actors Fund COVID-19 emergency financial assistance program. WGAW also doubled the amount of financial assistance available to individual members who applied for the WGAW Good and Welfare fund. Similar to other Guilds, WGAW engaged with members through virtual Zoom meetings—they even came up with a best practices for Zoom writers rooms to minimize Zoom fatigue—and even hosted a virtual Writers Guild Awards show with presenters such as Sacha Baron Cohen, Leslie Odom Jr. and Rachel Brosnahan and winners including Desus & Mero and Ted Lasso.