Understanding the “Force Majeure” Provisions in Hollywood Guild Contracts

Understanding the “Force Majeure” Provisions in Hollywood Guild Contracts

As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) negotiations for a new contract reach their final phase, the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) has provided its member-agencies with a 22-page summary of the “force majeure” provisions contained in the contracts of the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, and the DGA. The summary aims to help agents better understand how to handle extraordinary events that might prevent one or both parties from performing contractual obligations.

The Meaning of “Force Majeure”

“Force majeure” is a contractual provision that outlines the parties’ obligations if an extraordinary event directly prevents one or both parties from performing. In the entertainment industry, the guilds establish the terms under which companies can or cannot contractually suspend or terminate deals.

How Guilds Treat “Force Majeure”

Each guild treats force majeure differently. At the start of the 2007-08 WGA strike, Universal Media Studios cited the force majeure provisions in the Screen Actors Guild contract when it notified regulars on several of its shows that they were being suspended on half-pay for five weeks. However, Sony Pictures TV told the regulars on two of its shows that they were being put on unpaid hiatus while having to remain exclusive to the studio. SAG and AFTRA both objected, arguing that it violated their contracts.

The force majeure provision in the DGA’s contract states that “No suspension or termination of Director’s services shall be permitted or effected by Employer under such force majeure clause or provisions unless the entire cast and the Director of Photography of the picture are likewise suspended or terminated, as the case may be.”

Complications and Disclaimers

As the ATA’s summary of the guild’s various force majeure provisions shows, it’s a complicated issue. However, the ATA notes that the summary is not intended to constitute contract language and that it is to be used for informational purposes only. The summary comes with a disclaimer that it is not represented to be error-free, and the ATA encourages agents to contact appropriate guild representatives to assess their specific circumstances.

The WGA’s current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on Monday night, and negotiations are ongoing. The DGA begins contract talks with the AMPTP on May 10, followed by SAG-AFTRA on June 7. Given the complexities of force majeure provisions and the potential for extraordinary events to disrupt contractual obligations, it’s essential that agents remain informed and prepared to handle any eventuality.

Entertainment

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