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November 13, 2023

An Insider’s Guide to Labor Relations

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0:00  

Welcome to another episode of On Production where we dive into the captivating stories and insights from professionals in the world of production. Today, we're fortunate to be joined by Paul Schoeman, currently serving as the Senior Director of Labor Relations here at Wrapbook. With a career spanning several decades, Paul has been deeply involved in labor relations and contract administration within the entertainment industry. From his days as director of video operations at Spelling entertainment, to his stints as the vice president of contract administration at AMPTP and the Director of Media and labor economics at SAG-AFTRA. Paul has amassed an array of experiences and a wealth of knowledge in the field. Paul, thanks so much for being here.

0:44  

It's a pleasure. And thank you for having me.

0:47  

Let's jump in for our listeners. Could you tell us about your early career and how you ventured into this incredible field of labor relations

0:56  

Absolutely. Going a little bit further back than my start is just as interesting as it might be for some people that during World War Two, my father was born and was raised in South Africa and was on a farm and was near a POW camp where a lot of Italians were sent during the war. They weren't deliberately starved. But food was a bit scarce, it was the war and he would smuggle extra food through the wire and the guards would usually turn a blind eye to these prisoners. And this war, like all wars, came to an end. And a few years later, about 1948, he was on the street dub live in Johannesburg. And he was flagged over by the driver of a limousine, which these days would be creepy, but it was pretty normal back or not normal, but more acceptable back then. And the person in the back was an Italian preserved wart. And he said to my dad, you know, you saved my life. You brought me food, I owe you everything. I'm so happy. I ran into you again. Is there anything I can do? I mean, it's like, well, you know, I'm actually looking for a job. And this Italian, Charles said, you know, well, I'm getting into this new thing. It's just beginning to take off. It's called television. Would you like a job? My father went through and became a camera person and ended up as an editor won an Emmy and some other awards. There's a lot of good reload trotting, he met, my mom was in the industry, she was a script supervisor. And between point A and point B, I came. And very early on as this was the 1960s, you could take your baby to the set. Sometimes if you have the right job, I was going to the set with my mom. And the director spotted me and said Your baby's cute. We would love to have them in a baby food commercial. We saw I'm told I actually don't remember this. And I ended up in a baby food commercial. And so I literally started my industry career before I was one year old. And I've been in here ever since. So throughout the years after that I worked as an actor or performer and various things and various roles and films. I did voice over animated voiceover, commercial work, I did commercial work for Japan and Spain extensively and decided to take a small bit of a break while I was through college, I still ended up doing work as props and costuming while I was in college, because it paid better than any other job. And afterwards, went to spelling and worked at spelling entertainment slash spelling television during the years where we launched such shows as 90210, Melrose Place, Seventh Heaven, Charmed, and so on. And it was while I was there in the 90s, that I started to develop this fascination with the labor world, the unions and all these people were dealing with, because I've been familiar with SAG Bing for her. But these other groups were were getting really interesting to me. And for whatever reason, is something that I had a knack for. And so I eventually ended up through one or two steps of getting into a payroll company. And I very quickly moved up through the ranks and ended up in EVP at that particular payroll company. And after about eight years, I was headhunted away to the MPTP. Where I did a stint there a little over a year and was there during the Oh 708 Writers Guild strike. So saw quite a few turbulent times and then went back into the payroll game for another stint. That was seven or eight years and I went to SAG after five years and there I was an economics what we call the meat mle, the immediate labor economics division, where I would do things such as help with bargaining, bargaining research, wage tables is just all across the realm of contracts. And then after that, I ended up joining rep book after five years at SAG and I'm very happy to say that I'm still with Wrapbook Few years later. So that's kind of how that's my little backstory in less than five minutes. I think.

4:49  

I love it. Paul. You know, it's a pleasure to work with you. But you know, one of the reasons why I really wanted to get you on the show is just because of the wealth and the breadth and the depth of your experience and Even more so is is just the complexity and the importance of folks like you and kind of keeping the administration of these contracts kind of working for everybody. I am curious, you know, you know, as you move through different roles in the industry, how did your understanding of labor relations evolve, and, you know, you've had everything from onset jobs, being in the Union yourself to like working at an PTP. And across these different roles and different payroll companies, you know, I'm curious, like what commonalities you've seen amongst all these different positions. And like, if you could just help us kind of get a better understanding of, of labor relations across the board. From your experience,

5:44  

well settled, there's many things about the experience, which I can't talk about for various reasons. But I will say that one of the common threads, which I always smile about, is that both sides look at the other side and think that there are master plans and that everything is smooth. And I think both sides are just as confused as the other side is. And we both have the same problems frequently, but they are different. The benefit that I had is having worked on a set and having worked in production, and having worked on exactly the opposite side, gave me an interesting place to bridge when working on either side. Because when I was starting to work with the union, folks from the management side, I was able to garner a lot more traction with the many discussions because I had actually done some of these jobs where many of the labor people had not. And then it ended up being the opposite. Why would I go to the other side? I had so many years in exec or besides, I was able to translate that. So it gave me a very interesting perspective. And also for the payroll time, it wasn't just looking at a physical contract. And it wasn't just looking at it from the Union or the management side, the payroll company forced me to study the practical application of those agreements, which in its own way became a nightmare. Because it's one thing to sit on either side of the table and say we want a better this or that in our contract and the other side to say yes or no. But frequently, both sides. Don't ponder how difficult it will be to administer these changes or track these changes. And so it's given me a very interesting perspective, which I think has allowed me to help solve some of these problems for us on an administrative level.

7:25  

That's super interesting. And I think it leads nicely into kind of something else that I was hoping you could provide some insight on, which is, can you give us maybe an overview of labor relations within the production industry and why it's important,

7:39  

the term away, or the words labor relations are thrown around frequently, but very few people actually know what they mean. And I would sum that up as I went to a safety meeting, at a Los Angeles local, some years ago, incognito, I was just dressed out, and I was there for safety reasons, just as an attendee, and there was a discussion that came up about labor people and the voices in the audience were very interesting. And it got me a lot of insight that many of the rank and file members of the Union, it was just a term that they had as a synonymous thing for the bad guys on the other side, that they really didn't know. So I'm very happy to actually explain a little bit of what we do. On the Start somewhat backwards, the unions, the IRC, the Teamsters, SAG and so on, they have representatives inside those unions, that are specialists that know their agreements, know the terms, and that you have a producer can call up and say, Why do I have to pay this and do that? On the management side? There are labor relations people who have those, the studios, specifically the majors. So if you go to a company such as paramount or universal, they'll have labor relations groups, the payroll companies, the ones that are of any size, have their own labor relations. And the reason for this is people will debate this, so there's never going to be a right answer on this one. So everybody can hate me on this. There's approximately 80 Odd agreements that we deal with and some people will send us too many or too few. Okay, that's the number I have. They vary in complexity to all sorts of degrees. Some are 30 pages long and they just tell people you get a certain amount of overtime and there's some pension and health that gets paid here. My visual aid I always use. This is one of the SAGs. This is the main book, it's about 850 pages and growing every three years. The labor relations people essentially are tasked with having familiarity, if not extreme familiarity with all of those agreements. And that is very important and that when they produce for a payroll company such as Wrapbook, when clients come in and they say, Why do I have to pay it this way? Are they entitled to that? What type of scale is all that almost always a production is answered, they need it quickly, and they need it definitively. And if you get it wrong, it blows the budget. So the role becomes very important when you're paying attention to all those details. And one of the things is the studios, such as a major studio, a production for that major studio can lean on that Labor Department. There's so many of these productions, that's a luxury item, which is one of the reasons payroll companies maintain groups and people such as myself and my co workers in the labor division, because you can lean on us for that support whenever it is needed. And so in the case of a payroll company, one of the terms we've always used at the companies I was at prior is we view ourselves somewhat as Switzerland, we're not supposed to be on the Union or the management side of the payroll company, we're just there to tell you what it says whether or not the client wishes to do which, whatever they wish to do, is ultimately the client's decision, and they're usually the signatory, we can advise against it. Or we could tell you that there have been issues or problems with it, you shouldn't do this. But that is the type of advice that we can bring. And so if someone would say, I want to take a truck full of camera equipment from Los Angeles, and I'm going to take it to Louisiana, no one's going to tell me otherwise, I can walk through you all the problems you will hit, why you're really don't probably want to do that if you're a shoot of a certain size, the history behind we're always arbitrations were lost. And I can explain to you in depth where all that came from. And beyond that, Steve is on the staff, Steve has been with the teamsters for many decades, he can give even more detail. But it's not just so that, you know, gosh, that's a mistake, gosh, it might cost you money. But most producers want to know exactly why they don't want to be told they have to pay money. And that's also part of what we do. So that's a slightly longer winded explanation that is meant to give. But that's an explanation,

11:49  

Paul, that's super interesting. And, you know, it sounds as if the labor relations name is just as helpful for the production company or the workers as well, because, you know, you're making sure workers are getting paid accordingly to their contracts and enabling production people and production managers to kind of be able to budget correctly and navigate the contracts appropriately. And hopefully just reduce the friction in the process.

12:15  

Exactly. I was going to say one of the things for the union side, is most of the Union reps are familiar with the labor relations team. And so if there is a problem, or more importantly, perceived problem on a project, the union knows, or unions, whichever one will know, to reach out to the labor group, rather than just randomly calling up the payroll company, they will reach out to the labor group. And they'll describe the problem. And then it's tasked us to go and investigate to see is it a legitimate concern? If it is not and then to explain back if it is a real issue, then to advise the client and so on and so forth and become almost to the extent possible, a mediator between the two groups if it comes down to that usually we resolve things peacefully? Usually, it's just an honest to god human error. It's not deceit. So then that's something that can always be fixed.

13:02  

You know, Paul, I'm curious for our listeners, you know, and I guess I asked this question, because I think for folks to get an insight into the challenges that you and your team face within, like the process of enabling labor relations between these different parties. Maybe your hand, sir, can help, you know, facilitate a way for people when they're engaging with the labor union to have a smooth experience. But what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in labor relations within the production industry over your long career?

13:32  

That's a good one. They vary in degree. One of the things with labor is we work very heavily with accountants, and we will get asked well in advance of a production to assist an account, which on the surface doesn't sound like much. But I've had many accounts say that I'm doing a budget for a film that might be $150 million is filming in this time range in this location. And to gather all that information and make sure it's accurate will be appropriate to the time the location is extremely challenging. But some of the bigger ones I've had that have come along without using production or producer names, major films going into large cities with massive street closures. A good one was we had one that was filming in a major city on the East Coast, in federal buildings. And those buildings were only closed, I believe it was Sundays and Wednesdays. And we had to work very heavily with the union to come up with a schedule where the producer didn't have to pay endless amounts of crew for all these unused days. Thankfully, we were able to come to an agreement. There are many other circumstances that have come along and they arranged the whole gambit. One of my favorites is I get a lot of questions depending on the season with force majeure. We had a film crew where the director said the weather forecast is bupkis. It's gotta be wrong. It's Atlanta, Georgia, everybody Come in, we'll wrap it five o'clock because the weather's not going to happen. They got snowed in for two days, and they had to live in the soundstage for two days. contracts don't sell a lot about when that happens. And it's getting in there and figuring it out and trying to mitigate those issues. And that's just a few of them. I'm just I have no there's better ones. But that's just with sleeping the mind.

15:16  

It's super interesting. And you can imagine with something that is as variable and ever changing as production, that these things come up all the time, whether they're small or enormous, like, the contract could not possibly stipulate everything that can and will happen on a set. So it makes a lot of sense. And that's a really good pivot, Paul, because, you know, we've been chatting about labor relations and how it relates to production and how labor relations is a useful kind of division at a payroll company to provide guidance to production companies to pay workers appropriately but pivoting slightly from labor relations into contract administration, which you have experience on as well, you know, how does Contract Administration play into the larger picture of production as an industry,

16:04  

it's tricky in that there are so many contracts and sub variants. And I'm not picking on a particular group, because there's a few unions that have low budget agreements. And they will say that there's three tiers, but when you open the agreement and you start reading it, you realize there's actually four or five, six different tiers, because there might be a two, but there might be a two a, b, and c. And then that gets confusing. Another point with administration is one of the things I dealt with at SAG, not directly, but when I was assisting them, was the residuals department. And so many residuals are paid based off of the scale rate that was a tie in effect at the time of the recording. So if you're paying TV episodic that was made in 1975, you need to know the pension and health rate from that year, you need to know what the scale rate was from that year, then these other aspects. And this stuff becomes very voluminous, very quickly, some of the, you know, we figure out that these agreements are generally negotiated or renegotiated every three years. And some of these contracts are back to the 20s and the 30s. That's a lot of contracts, and a lot of them look back, for example, a lot of SAG projects for what is now New Media might make a reference to a residual formula, it's older, for example, one of the older residual formulas is that what we call the basic cable residual formula. If you pull up the site, TV book, it says, There is a thing and it says basic cable, that's just wonderful. But it doesn't really give you the details. It is all based off of this whole thing that was a deal struck between a studio and a union. And it was called Sanchez of Bel Air, because that was the name of the show. And so it's a deal that you have to be familiar with. And you have to have the details on in order to process the residuals, but it's not published anywhere. It's not the agreement. So unless you are very careful with your administration, you're not gonna be able to find these types of things. And then people get upset because they're not getting paid.

18:09  

That is one example. I'm sure of many. I mean, to that point, can you talk about some of the key aspects and then challenges of contract administration in the entertainment industry? I mean, like, you've kind of touched on it a little bit. But I'm curious how professionals such as yourself, on both the union side, or the payroll side, kind of like to navigate this sort of complexity to find solutions for all the participants in the industry. It's kind of

18:35  

like herding cats. Kind of like herding cats. But one of the big administrative challenges is something that on the surface is very simple. Which is, let's suppose you go to SAG and you sign with SAG because you're going to make a project that's a new medium. While on the surface, that's fairly simple. However, then come the questions. Is it prime time? Is it not that Prime Time is dramatic? Is it true nondramatic? And there are variations between all of that. So some, almost all of the contracts we deal with, at some point for episodic projects, cover those, they have language, and that in itself is a good example of we have to be careful how you're administrating. Because if under, for example, if I'm making a TV show and very vanilla, a TV show in Los Angeles, and I have an ache for well, their agreement has language, it says it's a TV show, and it's either as a half hour or one hour, hour and a half, two hours. Well, suppose it's a half hour. Well, the first year the crew if it meets the requirements, they would not receive the vacation and holiday pay that they normally would get. However, it will start to kick in incrementally as the show progresses. So by the time you move into it and further and further, that does become an effective term. So by The time you're in year five of the contract, you're getting pulled vacation and or even you three, you're getting full vacation and holiday by that point. And it's incremental. So even inside that clause, there are sections that change over the course of the production and the production has a lifespan. And you have to be very on the ball and paying attention to that. Because there are no automatic flags that pop up. And if you miss it, you're gonna have a very angry crew, because they're not getting the money in and they have to do a retro, which is messy and expensive. So it's just paying a lot of attention to details, I have mountains of spreadsheets and charts, and that track and dates effectively expire, it's the only way you can do it. Sometimes you should have large lists of things. So unfortunately, it's not a particularly exciting answer. But that's the reality of it.

20:49  

You know, it's a slight pivot off of this, but like you talked about the details, you see the impact of these contracts, and these these payments on the entirety of the industry, you know, something in your career experience was actually serving as, like an economist or really dig into the implications of transactions and entertainment. Can you speak to kind of your experience of doing that role and what you learned and how uniquely see entertainment fitting into the like, the larger macro picture of the US and even potentially global economy?

21:19  

I can't, I cannot tell you the exact numbers. And I cannot tell you who I did it for. Sure. But with that said, just as a general, I find it fascinating because, for example, a lot of people have asked me about what type of impact does the WGA strike have right now? Well, usually that question is not well, what does it mean to Jane and Joe? True person or whatever? I mean, we all know there's a slowdown of work and so on. But the question is, well, what does that really do to the economy. And it's always fascinated me. I love working on these problems, because there's so many moving parts. So in that case, it's not just Joe, the lighting technician, is not getting paid, because there's no work this week, because there's a strike going, well, that means Joe may not take his family out to dinner at Denny's, he may not go to the dry cleaner, he's probably going to push off getting those tires replaced on his car. And so starts to trickle down and then hits your state in the history of federal, and it is very, there's so many moving components that it took me many, many, many days of staring at these numbers start even begin to figure out how to actually articulate them in the numbers. But somehow, eventually, we do come up with numbers that are representative of the gross payroll value of the industry in a given year. How many workers are entertainment? Admittedly, yeah, there's a good portion of it, that's black magic, but some of it we can drill down and get extremely specific on it is part of the variables usually every wants to data yesterday, and to do it any sort of justice. That takes a lot of time. So the compromises is a little bit of black magic, and a little bit of actual sorry for the date the somewhat vagary in the answer, but I have to fulfill certain legal obligations, not to discuss things with certain groups,

23:17  

it makes a lot of sense. You know, pivoting a little bit, Paul, you know, could you share some of your experiences working with SAG-AFTRA and how it has influenced your career?

23:28  

Yeah, actually, I was very interesting, because I had worked as an actor, I had negotiated across the table from SAG, and then I was flipped, and I had to negotiate with SAG against the same people I used to negotiate for. So that was a phenomenal experience. For me. I think, in my personal life, what I learned personally was the functioning of the Union, the history of the Union, the insights of the different unions, the relationships they have with each other, which was fascinating. And for me, I always find the human story and the human aspect the most interesting because negotiations and negotiations of contracts last a very long time. And they're really not very fun. But during a lot of the downtime that occurs in those, I had the opportunity to work with and get to know and become friends with many of the performers who were on the psych committee. And it was just tremendous to have a chance to sit and talk with some of them, how they got their start in the industry, why they stayed in the industry, why they were part of the negotiation committee, and they would range from I'm tired of this, this is something we have to fix in the contract. through someone else I worked with very heavily. I loved it when voiceover actors who said, you know, microarray is great. I've got enough money. I'm here because I want to fight for the next generation so that they can have the same coverage and the same health coverage. And it was just amazing to me Learn all these stories, and also sometimes to tell lots of anecdotal stories about silly things we've seen happen on sets. But it was an excellent takeaway, and I met a lot of really, really good people. There were a lot of really good people.

25:14  

Paul, that's fantastic. I mean, I think it's very interesting that you've had these experiences in your career of really ironing out these contracts on both sides of the table between producers and labor. You know, I'm curious, though, just broadly, how do labor organizations like SAG-AFTRA and other, you know, labor unions in the production industry? In your experience kind of shaped the industry? How do they affect it or engage with it,

25:40  

they shape it, and it's lawless, it sounds a little bit backwards, but it's the members that really are driving the union, because it is a labor union, sir, for the members. And it creates a certain amount of chaos, but somehow it all works. And the best way I can explain it is by a simple example, which is when a contract is up for negotiation, what is coming up for negotiation, the union just doesn't go in there and get there on day one and say, we want, we want this, we want that, nor do the management, both sides have a lot of meetings and discussions on the management side, they have their concerns, and they express what they want out of the negotiation, maybe they're looking for relief on some issue here or there have had a problem with this or that with the union. The members will come together. And in the case of a group like SAG, they have meetings with a membership. And they say, what is it you want to see addressed in this contract? Do you want a longer watch? Do you need better overtime, whatever the topic may be. And a lot of the members will speak up and maybe via emails me through face to face meetings. And these are all I'm not going to do this a lot of gestures, because it's a very long process. But they're all hashed through. And then it's decided. This is the list of things that we should be asking for. And everybody looks at it. And we agreed upon that this is what we'll ask for certain things you're always going to ask for, you're going to ask for, for raises, because inflation in an economy. A lot of times you'll ask for an increase to the pension and health fund, but you might have an area that has been a sore spot for a lot of the performers. And that will be where you'll try to put a lot of your bargaining clout where you're going to try to achieve something for them. And so when you're doing that, it's very hand to mouth. You're thinking right now I had a problem with this issue. I want to address this. But sometimes people are aware, sometimes they're not, you are actually still driving a very long term cycle. So a very good example. And I think I can say this without getting into any legal trouble. One of the questions I get frequently was when I was there when a lot of the new media deals were done. Why do we call it new media? It's a very good question. Well, I always tell people, you're looking at it from the perspective of someone in 2023. What was it when that happened? It was about 2007. We started to really do those deals. Well, what was immediate? It was what can you stream on in 2007? You do? Maybe one or two others. The producers were not actively really producing there was some little weather so the type of things that were being dropped on YouTube to get eyes to go back to TV shows, little webisodes we would call them. And that was it. And what was interesting is that, between that and some of the other things, we created terms and reference points for where we thought the industry was going to be. Because it was new, no one knew where new media was going. And it's fascinating now to look back because some of the things that we made, we thought we're going to be this or that both sides I'm saying union imagine, didn't amount to anything. Other things became commonplace. I don't think it's an industry secret to say streaming has taken off. But to think of some of the terms and conditions inside the agreements that we came up with, are still impacting us and will continue to impact us. A better story to finish this thought on is in the 1940s people traveled, most of the film production was happening in that what we call the 13. Western states. Why the 13 western most of those were places you can get to by train travel. Because only fools or get on airplanes because those were falling out of the sky left to right. If you don't believe me, look up how many famous people died in airplane crashes between 1945 and 1960. So SAG took it upon themselves, very rightly so to include language about travel. And so if you pull up the SAG book, you get an older one while the stage is six, seven years old. You'll see there's language or pre 2012 About first class travel and first class travel on a train and birthing on a boat. If you have to go to a location on a boat Well, at the time, that was all wonderful and pertinent and protected actors, you turn the clock forward to about the 2000s. And well, you see reference to first class in the book. We fear that's got to be at the front of the plane, right? The only thing is first class. No idiot travels on a train. And we actually had to collectively, both sides say, you know, what does this really mean? It's not really first class. But we inadvertently shaped a lot of the tribal divisions. Because at the time, it made sense, but no one understood where the tribe was going to be in another 60 years. And so they inadvertently shaped a lot of versions. And a lot of times, that's just the way things happen.

30:36  

You know, Paul, that's really interesting. And, you know, I'm really curious, to that point. Right. So like, whether it was travel or new media? You mentioned this earlier, as well as that these contracts, even though they're renegotiated every three years, or thereabouts, there is some continuity that relates between these negotiations over many decades. And every new ratification of a negotiated contract has implications for what will be and what has been. And I'm really curious, like, looking forward. Because you've gone through these before, like, do you see some emerging trends or changes that you've noticed over your career or things that you're kind of seeing and that, like, you think will have implications for where things are going? How are you reading the tea leaves?

31:35  

That's a touchy one, because almost any Colin and make will upset one group or another, but I will venture a few opinions. Or I see the awkwardness as technology evolves. We all know this, you know, it did, I regale young friends of mine back to the point in time, when phones were those things that were on the wall in your kitchen, not the thing you carried in your pocket. But I think he tried to explain to people how quickly that evolved. Now, if you take that same analogy, and you apply it to the film business, I remember getting my first digital camera. And then I remember that they started getting better. And then Digital Motion Picture, cameras that could take moving pictures were coming. And the industry had to start to evolve to address the use of digital cameras in production. Because this meant a whole new world, because, for example, with the camera department, there is and there still isn't the agreement, a loader, which is the job of a person who would you know, and I don't mean to discredit them, but the core of it was you would load the film into the camera, you look, we were the film loader. Well, if you used a digital camera, it's, you know, spoiler alert, no fill, they didn't eliminate the position, because now that person has got a clipboard and a pen. And they have to walk all of that data they're recording because otherwise you have a hard drive full of gobbly goo that the editor is going to have to decipher to see that they're doing a job. But it's not the same job. But that job evolved. And that was fairly painless. But I look at a technology like volume technology, which for those who are not aware, you should look up is a very large LCD screen, essentially, that wraps behind or around the performers, that generates a very photorealistic image. And it eliminates requirements for certain amounts of set decor, depth of set props, the filming location, does not alleviate that you still have to have certain props and locations and things such as that and that I don't see going away. However, it does mean, you're probably going to use maybe a few less lights, but you're still going to have practical lighting. But you're going to have maybe less set dressing. But okay, you know, so now those people are gonna get a little anxious because you're not doing as much with that. But there's an offset to those backgrounds. Just don't get them off of Google, you don't Google give me a desert background and use it, you're still probably going to have a location person in our purse. I don't know what the classification is. Does this actually go out and either photograph real ones that do real locations you can use on that projector, or synthesize them using the Unreal graphics engine? And that's a skill. So that's someone else who's now working. There is a person who's going to sit there with a tablet on the set and make sunrise into a sunset or to midday and change the atmosphere on that screen that someone else is now doing work. All those jobs are new jobs. So while you there's a slight, yeah, you're using a few less of these, but now you're using a few more of these. So I'm not like saying oh no technologies here. Everyone's gonna lose their job. I'm saying is if you people might be doing slightly different jobs and using slightly different technology. But I don't see it eliminating things, I am going to be very carefully watching what will be happening with the use of not an artificial intelligence but synthetic actors and voices. That is a little alarming. I love to guess where it's going. But I can't even guess because it's moving so quickly. But the fact that you can now drop in a synthetic actor with an aesthetic voice that is almost completely unnoticeable to most people. Where will it be in two years? Yeah, that's a good question.

35:29  

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, you know, like with Apple releasing a really elegant, like VR AR AR device. With the generative AI explosion. We're just at the start. And already some really incredible things are happening from, you know, like, photorealistic looking avatars that are not real people, but are easily able to act or to do these different things like the ramifications of these technologies related to labor protections and the unions as it relates to media creation, right? Like, it's like the unions are now also engaging in things beyond just the silver screen or television. It's these virtual worlds, these virtual environments. And so I'm really curious to see how some of these things kind of emerge and how collective bargaining engages with this kind of future that's unfolding.

36:31  

You and I both, because I know that is one of the things that it's as discussed in the trade. So it's, I believe, fair game. That, yeah, artificial intelligence and synthetic. The use of actors is something that's being discussed at the bargaining table, I'm quite certain reconcilement because in reality, as of the time, we're recording this, I've seen at least one show that used a Digital Performer that was a fully digitized creation, that they slipped in, I believe, as a test because the person was not on the final cast list wasn't in the Dale credits wasn't on IMDb, I'm 99% sure it was completely synthetic just to see if it could be done. On the other end of that spectrum, it was in the trade just a few years ago that a production entity bought all the image and Vogue voice rights for James Dean from the family of state. And they're using him as a co-star in a period piece. So you're going to be seeing James Dean on the big screen of a software, it's going to be undetectable. But he is completely synthetic. So the next round I see, at least for actors, is going to be more and more protections. Or if I want to take this cluster, this girl, this guy, what is going to be the process for Can I digitize your ID age you what can I use you? How long can I use you? What sorts of how does it impact residuals? Brave New World? I don't have answers any of those

37:56  

fascinating. You know, lastly, Paul, I'm curious, what advice would you give to those looking to navigate labor relations and contract administration in production? Both? I think your answer could be tailored to folks listening who are producers and follow this stuff eagerly, as amateurs and maybe even for those that are thinking like, hey, you know what I'd like to actually get into this line of work. I'm really curious how folks can kind of engage and navigate this industry that you engage with

38:27  

my basic level advice is, if you have a doubt on a union question, lean into your labor team, if you're with a payroll company, lean into them. If you're with a studio, you probably already know that this is what we do for a living. We are where a lot of the pitfalls were here to give advice and to help try to render budgets going. But to answer the letter of the questions, I was fortunate enough to get into the arena. It has been a very challenging career to date, very little of it has been easy. It is not an arena, I would recommend for anybody who is not willing to put in some insanely long hours, it will fry your mind more times than you think possible because of the weirdness and the complexity in the discussions. And that is just part of it. It is a field that is mostly dominated by attorneys, but not entirely. There's a few of us, I am not an attorney. I'm gonna say maybe 20-30% of the labor relations people are non-lawyers that just have a natural knack for it. Most of the rest are attorneys. But what we do is very focused on the contracts. So what you'll see with a lot of labor divisions, they're still attorneys, and that's awesome. But those groups that have that generally still have a separate legal division. Because what labor is doing is its own weird thing. We're just focusing on those contracts. So my general advice would be it's not a field I would recommend and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anybody who isn't very thick skin. I've had a lot of people ask me about getting into it over the years and date there's only been one To I think, would probably be well suited for it. It's a combination of intellect and temperament.

40:05  

That's great, Paul. Lastly, where can our listeners find more information about you and your work? And how can they get in touch if they have any questions or need advice about labor relations for their own productions, best place

40:16  

to reach me is through a Wrapbook. As far as finding out more about me. I actually can't go into why it's not out there. But there's not a lot out there on me. And that's very deliberate. That is actually by design. If anybody does want to reach out to me, I can actually explain to them, but I can't explain otherwise. Otherwise, I have to kill everybody in the audience. And that would be bad. So,

40:36  

uh, yes, of course. Hey, Paul, I really want to thank you for your time. It's

40:39  

a pleasure. Thank you.

40:40  

It is a huge privilege to work with. You always learn a ton being able to dig in and are some of this complexity in the industry. But we're so thankful to have you on On Production.

40:53  

Happy to be here. And I can only honestly say I just love the Wrapbook. I watch a lot of companies. This is probably my favorite so far in my entire career. So very happy to be here and it's been a pleasure talking with you.

41:05  

Awesome. See you next time.

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