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Producers' Strike May Be Averted

August 16, 1985|JACK MATHEWS | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood may have averted another labor shutdown Thursday with concessions won by the Producers Guild of America from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group that represents the major studios and TV production companies.

The Producers Guild, buoyed by a letter from a local Teamsters union leader urging members to honor its picket lines, went into a meeting with the alliance Thursday morning talking strike and came away 2 1/2 hours later not talking at all.

A two-sentence statement, prepared jointly by the two groups, said only that the Producers Guild would report to its board and then get back to the alliance. What the guild was taking back to its board was not revealed, but the main issue is recognition of the 30-year-old group by the industry as a legitimate labor body.

Producers Guild Executive Director Charles FitzSimons had called Thursday's meeting a last-ditch effort to avoid a strike, which the union's 860 members had authorized overwhelmingly a week earlier.

"We are ready to strike and we will strike, I assure you," FitzSimons said.

The Producers Guild wants recognition so it can begin negotiating for health, welfare and pension benefits, FitzSimons said. The guild is also anxious to negotiate for profit-sharing in the secondary markets of their work--from TV reruns, cable and pay-TV, and videocassette sales.

The actors, writers and directors guilds--by means of strikes, or threatened strikes--have already won those benefits from management. The producers must negotiate individually.

From 1977 to 1981, the Producers Guild had contracts with Universal and Paramount that provided health and welfare benefits, but FitzSimons said the contracts were not renewed because the guild was unable to draw the rest of the industry into line.

Since then, the guild has allied itself with the Teamsters Local 399, and with its support, seemed finally to have the clout to halt production.

"If the wheels don't roll, the show stops," FitzSimons said.

One problem the guild has had in enlisting support, FitzSimons acknowledged, is the misuse of the term producer. In the public's mind, there is no distinction between the people who put the projects together and see them through to completion and the companies who deliver them to viewers via TV or movie theaters.

Also, people widely assume that producers are fat cats who should be able to provide their own benefits.

FitzSimons said that some producers are indeed reaping fortunes, but most are barely making a living and many work on speculation, developing projects that may or may not pay off.

"Producers are not fat cats," FitzSimons said. "The going rates for producers on TV compared to directors is ridiculous. On a 2-hour movie, a high rate for a producer is $50,000, and he'll work 26 weeks. The minimum for a director is about $49,000, plus residuals, and he may work 30 days."

FitzSimons said a union would help rid the industry of phony producer credits--the friends, agents and attorneys of stars and directors who are paid but do no work.

"We've told the studios that a contract with us would save them money," says producer Robert Radnitz ("Sounder"). "When a star came to them and said 'I want my hair dresser to be the producer,' they could say, 'We'd really like to help, but we've got this contract that defines producer and we're afraid your hair dresser doesn't fit."

If the PGA wins recognition from the AMPTP, FitzSimons said producer qualifications will be one of the first items on the agenda.

Thursday's announcement did not give a date for the PGA's board meeting, or a deadline for its response to the AMPTP.

PFFFT: Oscar-winning actor Timothy Hutton took a giant stride toward a career as a film director Thursday when he went behind the cameras to direct an episode of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories" TV series.

How giant a stride is it?

Hutton reportedly turned down a $1 million-offer to star in a Warren Beatty production called "Stick-Up Artists" because the two projects would have overlapped.

"Stick-Up Artists" has not been announced, but sources say it is a go project at a major studio, with another actor in the role offered to Hutton. Neither Hutton nor Beatty was available for comment.

Hutton's "Amazing Stories" episode, "Grandpa's Ghost," is based on an original idea by Hutton and it stars Andrew McCarthy. It is the 25-year-old Hutton's first dramatic directing opportunity, following two well-received rock videos--Don Henley's "Not Enough Love in the World" and The Cars' "Drive," which was nominated this week for an MTV Music Video Award.

ROOKIE JINX: As reported by writer Patt Morrison in The Times July 17, 24-year-old Santa Monica police officer Anita McKeown just completed a rookie year in which she was beaten up, hacked with a butcher knife, shot at, run over by a drunk driver, bitten by a snake and smashed-up in a high speed chase.

One night, a man held a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. It misfired.

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