SAG AND AFTRA CHART
COURSE FOR SEPT. 27
Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will begin joint negotiations of the TV/Theatrical and Exhibit A Contracts on September 27. These talks with management will represent the culmination of a multi-step process involving crucial feedback from members who work these contracts. Here’s where we stand, and where we go from here:
1. We have just completed the initial Wages and Working Conditions process, also known as the W&W. From coast to coast, Guild and AFTRA members and staff jointly held committee meetings and caucuses with the purpose of putting together proposals to be negotiated with the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
2. All the proposals gathered from around the country will be taken and presented to the Joint SAG/AFTRA W&W Plenary Committee. This is a national committee populated by 26 members (13 members from SAG and 13 members from AFTRA). This committee is charged with the daunting task of reviewing and discussing each and every proposal received during the W&W process. With staff’s recommendations, it will create a tentative package of proposals that it can recommend to the Joint National Boards of SAG and AFTRA for approval.
3. The national boards of SAG and AFTRA will meet in joint session to debate and ultimately vote on the recommended proposal package sent to them by the Joint W&W Plenary Committee. Motions that give guidance to the chief negotiators and the Negotiating Committee will be approved at this time as well. After a proposal package is approved, it will then be exchanged with the AMPTP for their proposal package.
4. The negotiations themselves will occur in late September, as mentioned. If the negotiations result in a tentative agreement, then we will come to our final step.
5. The tentative agreement will be sent to the memberships of both unions in a referendum on whether to accept or decline the tentative agreement. This usually occurs within 30 days of the end of negotiations, during which time membership meetings are held in cities across America to answer the memberships’ questions and to explain the deal points.
“These negotiations won’t be easy; there are serious bread and butter issues at stake,” said Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard in a letter to members in the upcoming summer issue of Screen Actor. “We are still recovering from a historic economic downturn and our industry continues to grapple with changes that have put pressure on all of us. But these challenges are all the more reason we must work together – and stand together – to protect actors and strengthen our future."
By Justin Kreinbrink
Alternate Council Member
Being a Screen Actors Guild member in the state of Arizona can be difficult. Between flawed state tax incentives, a lack of major studio projects, and numerous reality shows, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find work, let alone sustain a living as a working actor here. If you’re not satisfied with the work you are being called to do, you have three options: move, quit or find a way to get involved in the current trend in Arizona filmmaking — micro-budget films.
Unfortunately, many producers creating these micro-budget films are afraid of doing a little paperwork. The result is that many of these films are non-union, making SAG members ineligible to work on them. However, the use of SAG low budget agreements can easily turn a small film into a SAG project. These agreements are not terribly complicated. In fact, in some ways they’re easier and more flexible than the standard SAG contracts. For more information or to read these contracts, visit sagindie.org.
Once you are familiar with these contracts, you can talk with producers who may be on the fence about turning their productions into SAG films. So, what’s the best approach? Actors like using the argument that using SAG actors brings a sense of professionalism and reliability to the project. However, in my experience, this approach tends to have a negative effect. Many low budget producers get turned off at the terms “professionalism” and “union,” either because they feel intimidated or wish to retain a sense of independence they feel they will lose if they use union actors.
Talk to them from a business perspective. Remind the producer that without a SAG contract, it is nearly impossible to get the completed film placed with a reputable distributor. This is due to the legal protection distributors feel a union provides. With non-union productions, there’s no double check to make sure the proper releases and paperwork for each actor are in place. However, if the project was done under a SAG contract, SAG verifies that all paperwork was properly submitted. As a result, distributors feel it is safer for them to take on the responsibilities of distributing the film.
With some delicate negotiation and a little easy paperwork, it is possible to turn most micro-budget films into SAG productions. The result is not only a larger pool of talent for locally made productions, but also the potential for Arizona actors to successfully make their living in their home state.
HOW DID YOU
BECOME A MEMBER?
Everyone has a story about becoming a member of the largest and most influential actors’ union in the world. We’d like to print the stories of our members’ first achievement of membership. What made you long to join? How did you feel when you finally became a member? What was your first job? How has SAG helped your career? We’d like to hear your ‘how I joined SAG’ story. Here’s the first edition:
By Jeff Eagle
I was 19, stationed in the Mojave Desert, doing numerous plays at the local college when the acting bug bit and made glorious rashes all over my creative psyche, hijacking my passion from baseball to acting. Four years later, I moved to New York to dedicate myself to acting. But in order to get to first base in the acting profession, I knew I had to join Screen Actors Guild. Not just anyone could join SAG; you had to either have a union contract or be a member of another acting union in good standing. I had neither. The prevalent Catch-22 question was how can you get a union job if you’re not a member of the union, and how can you be a member of the union if you don’t have a union job? How was I going to get to second base if I couldn’t even get out of the batter’s box? My passion overruled any rational common sense. I would do whatever it took to become a professional actor.
In 1971, I rounded first and slid into second. I was playing Richard in The Lion in Winter at the Trinity Playhouse in Burlington, Vt. A production company that was signatory to the Guild was in Burlington making a documentary and needed actors. That’s when I got lucky, or as the saying goes, “Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I finally had my union contract. Now all I needed to do was to come up with the $165 initiation fee to join SAG. That was all the money in the world. I begged, borrowed and stole third base. When I got back to the city, I sprinted up to the SAG office and joined Screen Actors Guild. I had rounded third and crossed home plate. I now had my coveted SAG card and nothing could have made me prouder.
A HIGH-MILEAGE CAREER
By Jennifer Pfalzgraff
I loved living in Los Angeles — the competition was tough, which kept me on my game, studying and training. Energy and opportunity were constantly buzzing everywhere. When my husband and I decided to move to a better town to raise our family, I knew I wanted to keep my feet in the L.A. market and still make a splash in a smaller market, so eight years ago my husband and I moved to Phoenix.
That’s when I began to commute to Los Angeles for auditions and classes.
For my intermediate level classes at the Groundlings Improv School, I opted for their Monday/Wednesday six-week course instead of a longer one. I drove over for Monday’s class and returned after Wednesday’s. Sometimes I stayed over Thursday for Gordon Hunt’s Master Class. Frequent roundtrips to participate in rehearsals for industry showcases in L.A. helped me to make some great casting connections, and to sign with an agent there.
I always let prospective agents and managers know up front that I live in Phoenix — but I can be in L.A. at the drop of a hat. I assure them that I’m worth the risk and have the training, reel and experience to back it up.
Whenever casting directors and other industry professionals are holding workshops here in Phoenix, I attend and let them know that I work in both markets. I’ve even made the journey a few times to New Mexico for ABC/NBC SAG diversity casting auditions.
This commitment to working both markets has paid off more than once, that’s for sure. I learned quickly that if you want to play this game then, when you say you’re going to be there, you need to be there no matter what. You have to prove not only that you’re talented and committed, you must also back it up with dedication and proof that you are serious about being an out-of-state actor.
The support and understanding of my husband and in-laws have made it easier on me to go after my dream. I know that all this hard work and dedication will pay off someday, and for now, my children get to spend valuable time with their grandparents!
As for that wonderful advice to “go where the opportunity is,” well, as I’ve pleasantly discovered, I am where the opportunity is. Phoenix is full of opportunity! You just have to have that same drive and desire to seek it out.
Jennifer Pfalzgraff brings her enthusiasm and experience to teaching her classes through VerveStudio.net, and through the IFPPhx.org Middle & High School Education Program.
By Amanda Melby
IFP/PHX Executive Director
Typically when shooting a film, there is a great deal of preparation, auditions, sometimes rehearsals, call sheets, blocking, make-up and hair calls, fittings and, then, of course, the shoot. This is how we’re used to working as SAG actors on features. Did you know there is another way to shoot a film, and one that doesn’t involve any of that?
IFP Phoenix, the filmmakers’ arm of the Phoenix Film Foundation (sibling to the Phoenix Film Festival) hosts an annual 48-hour film competition called Beat the Clock. Since 2008, SAG has offered a contract for SAG actors wishing to participate in the films. It is the basic Short Film Contract with an additional one-page rider specific to the time frame and challenge.
Here’s where it starts to feel a little backwards. Teams sign up knowing only that they have to complete a three-minute short film in 48 hours. On the Friday night of the kickoff, they find out the genre, a specific line of dialogue and a prop that must be used. After the kickoff, the writing, casting, shooting and editing starts. And it all has to be completed and turned in within 48 hours!
For the first time this year, IFP/PHX held general auditions the weekend before the challenge as a way to introduce the team leaders to good actors. From the auditions, six SAG actors were cast in various projects, most even receiving multiple offers! Harold Dixon, who worked with producer Jeff Field of Rapid Productions (a SAG member himself) reported, “He (Jeff) wanted me on the team because he knew of me and we knew so many people in common.” Member Ted Raymond also worked with them. “The team that Jeff put together — a mix of SAG actors, tech pros and former high school students of Jeff's — worked extremely well together, and Jeff's craft services were as good as you could possibly get!" Deborah Lee Hall said, “Everyone appeared to have a good time and, so far as I know, the entire cast and crew is still speaking to each other!”
When asked if they would do it again, all three replied enthusiastically YES! Said Raymond: "I would definitely be involved in another challenge project if asked!"
The next round of the IFP Phoenix Beat the Clock challenge is November 12-14, with the winter round following, January 14-16. For more information on how to get involved, go to ifpphx.org. Although you don’t need to be an IFP/PHX member to participate, SAG members get a discount on IFP/PHX membership. Find out more by clicking here.
By Harold Dixon
Our team met with director Jeff Fields of Rapid Productions on Friday night for a brainstorming session. We had four SAG actors on our team, Jeff being an actor as well. Except for him, we SAG members were all "mature" — meaning well over 40! We were released at 9 p.m. Friday so that the director and his associates could write the script.
We were e-mailed the script early Saturday morning, but when we arrived on set, there was an updated script, so we knew we had to keep it loose and go with the flow. We shot all day Saturday and finished well before we thought we would. We were given great leeway to improvise. The D.P., Joe Smyte, was excellent and encouraged us to experiment. It was fun and very creative, as the script was really only an outline and our input was actively solicited. I told them I would give them more than they needed (several versions) so they could edit it as they saw fit.
The process was a little crazy, but I would do it again if I were available. We were cast to be a part of the team that developed the project. Our input was valued at every stage, and the roles we eventually played were tailored to fit our talents. You can't worry too much about how this is all going to turn out — you just have to do it! I have always believed that work expands to fill the available time. In other words, if you have a week, you use it all, and if you have 48 hours, you do it in that timeframe. So the short time focuses everyone and makes you get it done without a lot of procrastination. The given genre, line, and prop make it a bit more like a contest with a gimmick than a film, but it was well worth our time.
I haven't seen the final product yet, but I am looking forward to it.
The Arizona Branch recently concluded its election process. The following candidates will begin three-year terms of office beginning September 25, 2010: Elaine Moe, vice president Northern Arizona; Barbara Glover, vice president Southern Arizona; Kyle Marsh, member-at-large Northern Arizona; Don Frye, council member-at-large Southern Arizona; Sean Kapera and Marla Price, council members-at-large, and Linda Rae Jurgens, Jonathan Simpson and Charles St Clair, alternate members of the council. Also, re-elected was National Board Director Steve Fried.
Those members elected as officers and council members-at-large were also elected as alternate national directors who may be called upon to serve at National Board meetings when the National Board member from the Arizona Branch is unavailable to attend.
The candidates ran unopposed and were elected without the necessity of a ballot vote pursuant to the Branch Rules of Procedure.
We want to thank each one for their commitment to serve their fellow Arizona members and express our special appreciation to Steve deFrance, George Yonan and Steven Nathenson, all of whom are retiring from the council after years of dedicated leadership to our Branch.
By Don Livesay
Arizona Branch Executive Director
I believe a good definition of the word “represent” is found when you dissect it into RE and PRESENT. To re-present means to “present again.” For instance, actors first “present” their professional qualifications to their agent, and the agent “presents again” those qualifications to producers for available jobs. SAG does much the same thing, but it takes place at the negotiating table and when we approach producers to sign our contracts. Without the high quality of performance that our members present, SAG could never re-present and negotiate the quality of contracts that are admired all over the world, nor could we convince producers to sign them.
Observations: An interesting component of this is that the better the professional credentials of the presenter (in this case our members), the better quality re-presenter required. Excellence demands excellence. Members expect value from the organization that represents them because their value is worth more than their non-members counterparts on the street. SAG attracts the best performers into its ranks and in turn hires the best staff available to do the job. (This point is not lost on me.)
Another observation is what happens when members demand the best and are willing to stand together to achieve it. Members present proposals through the W&W process that leads to proposals re-presented in bargaining. Results vary of course, but generally speaking, unity of purpose at the table yields good contracts. Good contracts generate greater rewards, which in turn bring more quality performers into our ranks and more producers wanting to hire them. And the cycle continues, until . . .
Hard times come, like the one we are in now, and members begin to doubt themselves. Suddenly they begin to see fewer opportunities for work, some even blaming their union. But no matter how hard it has been — and it’s been difficult virtually all over the country — our Arizona members are hanging tough. And good news! My phone is ringing. Production is slowly turning the corner. More and more producers are calling wanting information about hiring SAG members. You see, quality still matters and employers know where to find it.
So what does this mean to you? Here’s my advice: Just be ready to present your qualifications for work and we’ll be ready to re-present you for the top professionals you are.
By Steve Fried
Mostly good news, but not guaranteed clear sailing ahead! Reason? Wishing is not enough! It is no secret that Guild President Ken Howard and AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon are seriously talking merger. The mere fact that they are working toward that goal will not be enough to make it happen because it is YOU, the MEMBER, who will decide whether the two unions (and maybe later others) should be merged.
Past attempts have been favorably received by AFTRA; however, reservations by SAG elements have defeated the tries. Although a majority of SAG members voted in favor the last time there was a vote, it was less than the 60 percent needed for adoption.
Two things are irrevocably clear to me: First, merger is essential for the benefit of you, the member. Changing technologies combined with the two unions competing against each other is, putting it mildly, not productive. Second, the merger plan, no matter how good it is, will not immediately solve all the issues that will arise, but when we’re merged, those issues will be more favorably resolved. You need to reach out to your friends and encourage them to support merger!
Regarding Wages and Working Conditions: it is never too late to suggest improvements to any of our Guild contracts. Do not assume someone else has thought of the betterment that you are thinking. Send your recommendation to our Arizona Branch office.
To be continued . . .
Rodd Wolff with Woody Strode
By Rodd Wolff
Stunt & Safety Chair
When we try to pay tribute to heroes who have given us so much delight and escape into magical worlds, we find ourselves at a loss to express the void that is left behind. When Woody Strode passed away, the film-going public lost a big man who left quite an impression on those of us captivated by Western films. Woody, through his character portrayals, made the West come all the more alive for us all. He gave us a huge body of work, made great contributions to the craft and left his fans bereft.
Born in Los Angeles, he was Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in real life, but we will all remember him as “Woody.” In the 1930s, he made his mark as a top athlete at UCLA. A top-notch physique and compelling athleticism propelled him up the ladder of success. Woody was a star end in the Canadian Football League, as well as a professional wrestler.
Woody’s first film appearance was in Sundown (1941). He played numerous black muscleman roles in 1950s films like The Lion Hunters and The City Beneath the Sea. He was in The Ten Commandments (1956) and Tarzan’s Fight for Life (1958), and war films like Pork Chop Hill in 1959. He was very noticeable in his numerous supporting roles, even though dialogue was held to the bare minimum. Strode even received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor as the Ethiopian gladiator Draba, who fought Kirk Douglas to the death in Spartacus in 1960.
In 1960, after a role in The Lost Voyage, everything changed for Woody when the great John Ford entered his life. In Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge, Woody, with fine acting ability, portrayed the role of a black soldier on trial for murder and rape. From that outing forward, he showed the world that he could handle great character portrayals with ease.
Woody found success in Hollywood as well as in Europe, starring in the Italian film Seduto alla sua destra, or Black Jesus, the 1968 film in which Woody portrayed a hero patterned after the Congolese Independence leader Patrice Lumumba. One of my favorite Woody Strode films was Tarzan’s Three Challenges, which included a great fight scene with my old friend, Jock Mahoney, who introduced me to Woody many years ago at his home in Big Bear, Calif. The only time I was lucky enough to work in a film with Woody was in Posse, which was shot in Tucson and directed by Mario Van Peebles.
I found Woody to be as real as the characters he portrayed, soft-spoken, gentle but strong, a real nice human being. In a career that spanned 54 years (his last film, The Quick and the Dead, was released posthumously, in 1995), Woody averaged more than a film for every year between 1941 and his death in 1994. A real working actor, he is acknowledged as one of the most important black actors of his generation.
BookPALS and Reading Tree have distributed 10,000 recycled books to students over the last two years.
By Ellen Dean
Arizona BookPALS Coordinator
Arizona BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools), a program of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, has wrapped up its 12th year in Arizona. “Thank you” to our 200-plus volunteers who help enhance children’s literacy by reading aloud in the schools, at special events, on the telephone and by writing to children as part of the PencilPALS program.
If you don’t have time to read regularly in a classroom, there are other ways to contribute. You can write to a student as a PencilPAL throughout year and then meet your partner at a pizza party at the end of the school year. You can volunteer to read on the Gardner’s telephone story line, where you record stories from your home with books and instructions sent to you by the BookPALS coordinator. You also can volunteer to read for special literacy events.
Thanks to the BookPALS partnership with Reading Tree, a book recycling program, we have been able to give more than 10,000 books to the student bodies at 11 BookPALS schools over the past two years. Please deposit your used books in the blue bins at Fry’s grocery stores to support this project.
We hope that, if you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in the BookPALS program, you will consider joining for the 2010-2011 school year. Sign up online at bookpals.net. Go to the “Arizona Branch” and sign up to be a reader. Training and support are provided. Volunteering is an excellent way to keep your acting skills sharp and to make a difference in your community. Volunteers agree that it’s the most fun they have ever had volunteering.
Have a wonderful summer, and check out storylineonline.net to see and hear some entertaining stories yourself.
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WHAT DOES BEING A
MEMBER MEAN TO YOU?
Every member has specific reasons for joining SAG. What are yours? What benefits have you personally experienced? What would you say to non-member colleagues to help bring them in to the union? The more performers who belong, the stronger we can be in negotiation with employers, and the greater benefits we can all enjoy. We’d like to share your point of view, to inform and inspire our members and bring as many new members into the fold as possible.
Here are a few responses from members to get you started:
"As a member of SAG, I am actively protecting my rights as a performer and artist. Billions of dollars are spent annually on advertising and entertainment. It is only fair that we performers (talent), an integral and necessary part of the creative team, are properly compensated for our work and protected from exploitation."
- Deborah Lee Hall
"Screen Actors Guild means professional. I earn wages, working conditions, benefits and the respect due to a professional. I am proud to be a Screen Actors Guild member."
- Amanda Melby
"To live and work with distinguished artists who not only contribute to the continuing professionalism of our industry, but are sterling artists in their contributions to all the arts within our communities."
- Elaine “E.E.” Moe
"Being a SAG member means I am respected, have a voice that fights for me regarding pension and health, and fair wages and working conditions."
- Marla Price
Write your testimony in one or two sentences and send it to Arizona Branch Executive Director Don Livesay email@example.com and he’ll see to it that the editor of this newsletter, Betsy Beard, receives it.
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Visit thesagshop.com for this and all the latest in must-have, union-made merchandise. Buy gifts and accessories that demonstrate your good taste and your union pride.
ARIZONA CLOSE-UP EDITOR: Betsy Beard
5757 Wilshire Boulevard, 7th Floor
Los Angeles, California