Fran, “The Nanny,” is Bowling For Strikes
By Roger Paradiso
You could not have a more perfect president of SAG-AFTRA than the ex-Nanny, Fran Drescher. While she may appear to be ‘union-light’ based on her role as “The Nanny” on the popular TV series, she is proving to be tough as nails. Her very first shot fired hit the mark.
“The members of SAG-AFTRA are in a David-and-Goliath, righteous fight for the future of our profession and our industry.” —Fran
Then she goes on to say in a clear and concise tone, “The 10-year grace period we have given the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) companies to build their streaming platforms at the expense of my members’ fair compensation has come to a screeching halt.”
The AMPTP ran for cover. They sent for the marines. Yes, the Streaming CEOs were called in to fight this fiery actress. “Mano a Womano.” The men took out their perfectly dry-cleaned gents’ handkerchiefs and started wailing. “This will destroy us. This is not fair. Why didn’t the actors take the deal we gave the DGA and WGA?” But for all their crybaby tears, Fran kept her eye on the ballers.
Did you know that 90% of President Drescher’s actors are flirting with the $27,000 poverty level? To qualify for SAG insurance an actor needs to make $26,400 a year. That figure allows these Mary Poppin actors to get their elusive Union Health Insurance. Below that, there is no SAG-paid insurance.
The CEOs snarl at this and do their best inner Scrooge. “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” —Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
When the coalition of wealthy actors offered to decrease their residuals to increase their poor cousins’ residuals, Fran let that marinate with members. She also let the American public get a sniff at the benevolence of her rich actor constituents. The offer was rejected by the poor actors as it had not much to do with the issues at hand.
The mighty CEOs base their ability to raise money and market our dear actor talents into windfall profits for their own pockets and for their conglomerates who are also loaded. But no, they cry, “we are hurting. How could they do this to us?”
That fact is, in their greed, the CEOs have messed up the economy of the entertainment business, specifically the Movie Business. Let’s go way back to the good old days, when you went to a movie theater and lay down a buck or two and got a ticket. That ticket or receipt was income and it was divided in ways that made everyone think they were doing ok. But that wasn’t good enough. They had to mess it up.
Home Video was a new way for the CEOs to cut out the theater owners in this cutthroat business, but what they failed to see was that they made pirating very easy. You had people in the theaters shooting horrible home video versions for piracy sale of the glorious images on the screen. And yet another unforeseen genie was let out of the bottle. The CEOs were showing the audience that they could stay home and watch movies, not on the big screen, but on their TVs.
Then they impulsively jumped to DVDs which made piracy even easier and continued to train the audience to stay home and watch DVDs on TVs which kept getting bigger and which was a cheaper way to entertain the family. One purchased DVD at 10-20 bucks (or rental fee of 3-5 bucks) fed the whole family and you could watch it over and over again. And the pirates loved the convenience of a disc.
Oops. What did they do next? Streaming? Uh oh. This caused a whole new bunch of problems. Pirates really love the actual “link” steal. So, this strike is designed to resolve those problems. Come on CEOs, admit it. You screwed up. We will forgive you if you give us a fair deal. After all, isn’t America today all about sleeping with your strange bedfellows no matter how much they don’t look like Taylor Swift or George Clooney?
To figure out all this mumbo jumbo, I went down to my favorite Bodega. Uncle Vinnie’s on Bada Boom Street. I said, “Vinnie I need to use your calculator.” Vinnie whipped out a paper bag and a pencil with an eraser. I said, “Vinnie can you write down a couple of columns for me? One, call it Movie Receipts 2023. The other, call it Streaming Receipts 2023. And the other, call it Streaming Subscriptions 2023.Vinnie said, “Hey, ain’t these last two the same thing?” I said, “They are Vinnie but let’s go along with this three-card monte game.”
So I instructed Vinnie…for Movie Receipts put down an average of 10 bucks a tix. On the Streaming Tix put down an average of $2.99 a stream or click. Now on the streaming subscription put down an average of 10 bucks. Now let’s just use a simple number like say 10 individuals buy movie tix. That comes out to 100 bucks. Now 100 streaming tix cost, round it out to like 3 bucks times 10 that comes out to 30 bucks. Now the streaming subscription, it’s 10 bucks times 10 that equals 100 bucks.
Vinnie looked at the numbers. He scratched his head. “It looks like the movie theaters make 100 bucks on a movie and the streamers, if you add the two things, those grifters makes like 130 bucks. I don’t get it,” he says. “Well, “I says, “it is tough to see behind the curtain but with streaming you make the whole 130 bucks — with no movie theater guys involved in splitting the money up. If you look at the 100 bucks with the movies, the movie guy gets to keep 50 to 70% of that money. And the movie guy gets to keep the popcorn and candy money.” Vinnie laughs at that. “Hey that’s a good grift.”
I ask Vinnie to add six zeroes to the streamers new take and Vinnie starts laughing. It comes out to 130,000,000 million free and clear for the streamers. And nobody really knows what the numbers are ‘cause they aren’t transparent on the subscription money. And there’s some voodoo on the way they count the money on the $2.99 ticket or click. Vinnie looks at me and says, “How do I get in on that game? It’s the best grift I’ve heard of. The people who make the movies, they get the lowest amount of loot with this streaming. 30 bucks? And they make the product. I want some action on that game.”
Since nothing is transparent, these numbers are just theoretical. But don’t tell Vinnie and me you ain’t got no money to give to the people who make the films. That’s just baloney.
“Over the past decade, streaming has cannibalized much of the entertainment industry’s more traditional forms of exhibition and it is clearly here to stay. It’s a fact: streaming is generating tens of billions of dollars in revenue for these companies, but that economic success is not trickling down to actors.”
“It is the AMPTP and the companies they represent who are prolonging this strike. It can only end when the parties reach agreement, and to do that, the AMPTP must return to bargaining. With the very existence of the acting profession at stake, to settle for anything less than a fair payment structure and guardrails for AI would be irrational.
For the sake of everyone who makes a living in this business, we hope the strike is resolved soon, but make no mistake: We’re in this fight until the end.” —Fran
I say, this is a strike with resonance to all of us. Wake up before you lose your shirts or worse.
The Streaming CEOs have asked SAG-AFTRA back to the negotiating during the week of October 30. Stay tuned.