Benh Zeitlin's dreamlike paean to the human spirit, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," will likely be picking up plenty of awards in the coming months, but honors from the Screen Actors Guild apparently will not be among them.
Because "Beasts" was made without a SAG-AFTRA union agreement, it is ineligible for SAG Awards nominations. The guild has given the movie's distributor, Fox Searchlight, until Oct. 25 to retroactively bring it under compliance with a union agreement, which would involve paying the performers the difference between their initial pay rate while shooting and the miniumum due had they been under a contract. The daily rate for actors on a low-budget film like "Beasts," which cost about $1.5 million, is slightly more than $500.
"If Searchlight wanted to bring it under compliance, it's not unusal or difficult to do so," says Ray Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA's assistant national executive director for contracts, adding that the process would also include residual compensation to the actors for home video and other platforms, as well as contributions to health and pension plans.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," which follows the relationship between a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her hard-luck father (Dwight Henry) in waterlogged southern Louisiana, has grossed $11 million since its late-June release. Writer-director Zeitlin used nonprofessional actors, including leads Wallis and Henry, and apparently none of the cast members signed the single-page Taft-Hartley waiver form that allows filmmakers to use non-pros in a SAG-covered production.