Two of the largest American unions representing performing artists, Actors' Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, reached a deal November 19 over the jurisdiction for theatrical streaming productions during the pandemic.
According to the agreement, Equity can represent “work that is recorded and/or produced to be exhibited on a digital platform, either as a replacement for a live theater production that cannot take place because of the pandemic or for a partially virtual/digital audience that supplements a live audience during the pandemic period.”
The pandemic period is currently set through December 31, 2021, but will be reviewed in October with an option to extend depending on the state of the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, SAG-AFTRA will not seek or accept work as detailed in the deal.
Among the stipulations, recorded performances under Equity’s representation must be similar to a live performance that the theatre company normally presents, with access only available to ticket holders with an audience not exceeding 200 percent of the venue’s capacity (or 300 percent for houses with less than 350 seats). Performances can remain on a digital platform for up to three months or the length of the run, whichever is lesser. In addition, editing in a manner similar to TV/film and using paid streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Max is not allowed.
One of the biggest sticking points previously was SAG-AFTRA’s demand that Equity acknowledge SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdiction over filmed media. As part of this new deal, Equity has acquiesced—but SAG-AFTRA has also acknowledged that recording theatre productions for archival, promotional, educational, or reference purposes will continue to fall under Equity’s purview.
Should any production that Equity is representing extend beyond the pandemic period, AEA will retain ownership.