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MPA CEO Charles Rivkin opposes California AB 437

MPA CEO Charles Rivkin opposes California AB 437

Are you enjoying the golden age of film and TV series? Fast-moving legislation in Sacramento could bring it all to a halt.

Film, TV and streaming have never given us so much content to love. In 2021 alone, nearly 950 films were put into production and 560 original scripted series were released to American audiences – an all-time high. Many were created here in California.

But these projects are only possible when complex production schedules involving hundreds – or at times even thousands – of people can be synchronized up to the availability of talent. If producers can’t solve that Rubik’s Cube scheduling, audiences will lose out on compelling and ongoing stories, putting California’s creative economy (which supports nearly 570,000 jobs each year) at risk.

And that’s exactly what a proposal being rushed through the Legislature, AB 437 by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, would do. By virtually outlawing the exclusive employment agreements used today as the basis for film, television and streaming productions, this bill would jeopardize countless productions in this state. And while being marketed as “pro-artist” labor reform, AB 437 will effectively tie the hands of performers and studios as they work to negotiate creative deals that move exciting new projects forward.

Performer exclusivity agreements provide the security necessary for producers to finance, underwrite, plan for and complete major feature film, television and streaming projects, especially those involving long-term story arcs. They assure writers and showrunners that characters developed during one season can be brought back for subsequent storylines. When fans, talent and crew are all clamoring for a second or third season, the tailored exclusivity deals common to lead actors allow anyone working with or watching a production to benefit from a continued run. In other words, they provide the basis for large-scale and long-term productions – and lay the financial basis for everyone from screenwriters to stage artists.

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Today, exclusivity deals are carefully negotiated, and producers pay handsomely for them—not just for top talent, but for supporting roles and characters. And while the term “exclusivity” suggests that actors can’t take on other projects, that’s not the case. Under the carefully constructed and hard-fought exclusivity deals used in today’s productions, actors can take on a lot of additional work and not be kept out of the market. For example, actors working on a streaming show can still appear in feature films, commercials, live theater, voice-over work, animation projects, and even make guest appearances on other shows.

Banning these agreements would ripple through the industry, jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of creative professionals (including those with high-paying, high-quality union jobs supported by productions) whose incomes depend on the security these agreements provide. Without assurances that talent will be available, producers will not risk investing in and creating characters or stories that span multiple seasons. Many series may not go beyond a first season. Additionally, under AB 437, there is no amount of compensation that a producer can pay, and a performer can accept, in exchange for exclusive services. This proposal would unnecessarily tie the hands of actors and performers and prevent them from negotiating deals that serve their own interests, while jeopardizing thousands of jobs and California’s cultural and creative leadership.

The studios are a good partner. In fact, through the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), they are right now negotiating exclusively on this issue, almost a year before the current collective agreement expires. This bill is a totally unnecessary invasion of negotiations and negotiations between performers and studios, including the agreements the bill would override.

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Two previous versions of this legislation have already failed to pass the California Assembly in the past two years. Now, bill sponsors are trying to take another swing at the Senate, but three strikes should definitely put an end to this bad idea. It simply puts too much risk.

Film, television and streaming boost California’s economy, provide thousands of high-skill, high-wage jobs across the state, and cement our cultural and creative leadership around the world.

The California Senate should reject this effort to erode the foundation of that great success.

Charles Rivkin is chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association.

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