LOS ANGELES – A laid-back but focused attitude prevailed Sunday morning among representatives of movie and television actors and producers negotiating to avoid an industry-crippling strike.
The contract for the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists expired at 12:01 a.m., but most of the 100 negotiators appeared in good spirits as they returned to the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers later that morning.
“We’re all working over there,” said SAG spokesman Greg Krizman, who would not comment on whether an agreement was close at hand. But unnamed sources told the Los Angeles Times that an agreement could be reached as soon as Sunday.
The alliance’s courtyard also offered a sign that the closed-door negotiations were heating up.
During talks Saturday, the courtyard invariably held at least five or six negotiators taking a break; some of them killed time tossing a football. After two and a half hours of talks Sunday, the courtyard had drawn only a few people for cigarette breaks.
“We couldn’t find the football,” Krizman joked.
Television crews crowded outside the headquarters Sunday in anticipation of an agreement. The pace of the talks picked up as the contract deadline approached, although the expired contract will remain in effect as long as the talks progress.
Both sides said they remain committed to reaching a new contract that would avert a potentially damaging walkout for the entertainment industry. Neither side has commented in detail about the status of negotiations.
Uncertainty over the negotiations had prompted studios to accelerate production. Even with an agreement, Hollywood production could stall because producers wouldn’t start a new movie until an actors’ deal was made final, and it takes nearly eight weeks to complete preproduction work.
Fall TV shows, which begin filming in the summer, also could be delayed for weeks.
Among the guilds’ top concerns is increasing pay for the nearly 75,000 actors who earn between $30,000 and $70,000 annually.
Only about 2 percent of the guilds’ membership earn more than $100,000 a year, including multimillion-dollar celebrities such as Jack Nicholson and Russell Crowe.
Krizman said a strike was not imminent. Even if talks broke down, he said, the guild would require a strike authorization vote from members before initiating a work stoppage.
That vote would take between four and five weeks to complete.
Fears of a walkout rumbled through the entertainment industry for much of last year when the robust economy prompted speculation that union demands would be steeper.
The fluctuating market has since cooled that sentiment and has been credited with pressuring both sides to reach a compromise without a work stoppage.
Last year, the actors’ unions staged a six-month strike by commercial actors that might have driven as much as $1 billion worth of work overseas.
The actors’ negotiations have been more low-key than the Writers Guild of America talks in May.
The writers guild settled its new contract in early June, increasing overall pay by more than $41 million over the previous agreement. After that, many analysts predicted the actors would accept a similar deal.