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Actors, Producers Continue Talks

July 2, 2001

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Hours after their old contract expired, Hollywood actors went back at the bargaining table with producers Sunday in hopes of averting an industry-crippling strike.

``We’re all working,″ said Screen Actors Guild spokesman Greg Krizman, as both sides expressed hope that an agreement could be reached before talks ended for the day. The actors’ contract had expired at 12:01 a.m.

``We all want to get a deal as soon as we possibly can,″ added producers’ alliance spokesman Barry Liden.

Sunday morning, most of the negotiators appeared in good spirits as they returned to the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Television crews crowded outside the headquarters in anticipation of an agreement, and the lack of activity in the building’s courtyard provided indications the closed-door negotiations were heating up.

On Saturday, the courtyard invariably held five or six idle negotiators, some of whom killed time tossing a football. But after 2 1/2 hours of talks Sunday, the courtyard had drawn only several people for cigarette breaks.

``We couldn’t find the football,″ Krizman joked.

Even if talks broke down for a new contract for the actors’ guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, no strike was imminent, Krizman said.

Before beginning a walkout, the guild would require a strike authorization vote from members. A vote would take four or five weeks.

The expired contract will remain in effect as long as the talks progress. Neither side has commented in detail about the status of negotiations.

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 guild’s 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 guild members earn more than $100,000 a year, including multimillion-dollar celebrities such as Jack Nicholson and Russell Crowe.

Fears of a walkout spread through the entertainment industry last year when the robust economy prompted speculation that union demands would be steeper.

Since then, the more uncertain economy has been credited with pressuring both sides to reach a compromise without a strike.

Last year, the actors’ unions staged a six-month strike by actors who make commercials. The walkout 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.

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On the Net:

Screen Actors Guild: http://www.sag.org/

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists: http://www.aftra.org/

Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers: http://www.amptp.org/

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