It’s not that often that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP high command get a direct request from Hollywood, but the chaos, losses and wounds of the coronavirus pandemic have created a new normal in more ways than one.
Looking for some significant measures to help the hobbled multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry get back on its feet from the once again rising public health crisis, the Motion Picture Association, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Independent Film & Television Alliance today wrote to top Republicans in Congress along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leading Democrats .
And they were very specific: it’s about the insurance, stupid!
“This letter contains certain recommendations to help our industry resume productions and create jobs,” announced the four-page missive that Deadline has obtain that was sent Monday to the big dogs on Capitol Hill. If there is any doubt that labor and the big corporate studios are march in step with each other, you only have to see the signatures of MPA CEO Charles Rivkin, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White, IASTE chieftain Matt Loeb, IFTA Prez & CEO Jean Prewitt and DGA National Executive Director Russell Hollander on the correspondence that went up to the legislative heavyweights this morning (read the full letter here).
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“Thus, as Congress considers additional legislation to address the serious challenges to our nation’s public health and to help restore our economy, our organizations respectfully request that you adopt the following tax-related and other priorities,” the letter proclaims in what is essentially a shot across the legislative bow as COVID-19 cases surge around the nation and in the home of Hollywood itself.
“These policies would help jumpstart domestic film and television production, encourage hiring, and ameliorate the higher costs that must be undertaken to protect our industry’s workforce,” the studio and Netflix-back lobby group and the muscular guilds add of a Hollywood that saw all production come to a halt in mid-March as state, regional and local governments imposed stay-at-home measures to gain some control over the spread of the potentially fatal virus.
Specifically, the MPA and gang today want tax credited hiring incentives, more write offs for expected to balloon production costs and more tax relief for performers’ work related expenses. “We ask Congress to pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, which will raise the maximum income cap to $100,000 for individual filers and $200,000 for joint filers,” the letter asserts in an update from the current decades old exception scheme.
And then, as always in Hollywood, it’s protecting the assets.
“The ability of our industry to return to active production, whether on set or on location, is severely compromised by the inability to purchase insurance to cover losses stemming from communicable diseases amongst cast, crew, and others involved in the production,” the studio and union united letter says to Speaker Pelosi, Senator McConnell and the respective leadership as new relief packages are moving their way through Congress right now.
“Without it, production – especially independent production – cannot resume on a significant level,” Hollywood’s ask bluntly states in what has been a case of hot potato for both parties in this year of election and much needed corporate donations. “We urge Congress to develop a program of federal insurance (or guarantee to fill this gap) to cover pandemic-related business losses in the future,” the MPA, DGA, IATSE, IFTA and SAG-AFTRA state, drawing a very clear line in the reopening sand for an industry still struggling to find protocols and guidelines for a safe restart.
Having already given Congress a standing ovation upon the passage of the CARES Act back in late March, it is worth noting that today’s correspondence comes as overall contact talks between the WGA and AMPTP go down to the labor wire. Right now, the 2017 WGA Minimum Basic Agreement is set to expire tomorrow – which could send the considerably weakened industry to the mat again if either side decides to blow things up.
Certainly, as a Jeffrey Katzenberg hosted virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden that raised more than $6 million this weekend displays, the GOP can not help but consider the political realities of what is in it for them to give Tinseltown a leg-up. Even as tax incentive rich Georgia opens up and sees production move closer to restarting, the top hubs for the entertainment industry remain California and New York – neither of which are going to be providing too many Republican votes comes November.
On the other hand, as previous COVID-19 relief packages have shown the past few months, there is a bipartisan appetite in DC – and that’s a true Hollywood end waiting to happen.
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