THE BILL THAT GOT AWAY
DFW Branch Executive Director
The legislative session has concluded in Texas and, although we have good news to report on the film incentive front (see elsewhere in this e-newsletter), we have disturbing news to report related to talent agency regulations. Unbeknownst to what seems like much of the local industry, a bill was introduced months ago that, among other things, set out to abolish the longstanding Talent Agency Regulation Act in Texas.
Because the key industry stakeholders were not informed of this pending legislation, our voices remained silent while hearings were held, the Senate and House responded favorably to the bill, and Gov. Perry signed the legislation, HB 3167, with an effective date of September 1, 2011.
Our wheels have churned since learning too late about such harmful legislation for our industry. First, we examined how this process made it along its track without our knowledge. The answer became clearer as we learned more — this bill, inclusive of measures related to other industries like interior designers — was intended to deregulate industries and reduce costs associated with the administration of regulations. Second, we communicated with many talent agents in Texas who will be impacted by this legislation. They, too, were caught off guard and were just as dismayed by what transpired as we were. Now we are looking ahead to the next steps in terms of insuring that vital industry protections are in place in the future.
The Texas Talent Agency Act was more than 20 years old and provided a safety net of protections over an industry prone to scam artists and persons preying on talent with promises of stardom. The Act set minimum standards, such as required licensure with annual renewals and restrictions against certain fees and ways of doing business. The Act authorized the state to step in with enforcement mechanisms against unscrupulous parties and the state did that numerous times over the years, sometimes with hefty fines, putting businesses out of business. Mostly, though, I believe the Act allowed the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to be the source of information for aspiring actors and/or their parents, citing what to watch out for in the business. With the abolishment of the Texas Talent Agency Act, the SAG franchise has become essential as the standard for legitimate business.
SAG has also actively protected performers over the years. Through our franchise with talent agents, we are able to protect members’ interests and provide agencies with a framework from which they can do legitimate business, while representing our pool of professional talent. We often engage in legislative efforts to protect the interests of performers in their relationships with their representatives. And, your local staff team receives calls nearly every day by those seeking counsel to achieve a career in the industry. In some areas, our role has been and will remain very similar to that of the TDLR. To the industry, we are here to see that the highest standards are met and that Texas maintains its stature as a place to do business with professionals. Our focus is on keeping the professional bar high. We now must be even more diligent in our efforts to keep out those who want to bring us down.
The creation of the next version of agency regulations begins anew. In the coming months, we will be discussing options of re-introducing legislative protections and insuring that the state upholds its duty to enforce the law where violations are extreme. We will reach out to agents that we know hold themselves to high standards and work with them to promote those standards. And, we ask you, as members of SAG, to keep us apprised of questionable activity and let us know if you would like to be more involved. Let’s work together to keep Texas a production center where professionals are rewarded with professional treatment. As the SAG standard, you deserve nothing less.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Trish Avery, DFW Branch Assistant Executive Director
Summer begins and we start to focus on family activities, but our industry never seems to take a vacation. Productions from commercials to video games, from television to Web series, to film and back — all continue to move forward at an ever-growing pace.
Keeping up with who’s who is hard enough, but what’s what just got easier. SAG launched its online Production Center live in May and it is already enjoying great praise. The SAG Production Center not only provides valuable contract information to producers and performers, but offers an online signatory process for new media, student, short, ultra low budget and corporate/educational/non-broadcast projects.
The Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA) announced the results of a difficult legislative session with the passage of a state budget that includes $30 million in funding for the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program. An additional $2 million for film and music administration and marketing is included in the Governor’s Trusteed Programs budget.
A recent study by the Bureau of Business Research at University of Texas at Austin found that the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is a valuable investment in Texas’ economy. For every dollar the program paid to the industry, the private sector received a return of $18.72. To date, $58.1 million has been spent on the Moving Image Incentive Program, which produced $1.1 billion in total economic impact in Texas.
Houston will host the upcoming TXMPA annual membership meeting on July 23, 2011. All industry segments will attend and members are encouraged to participate. For more information on the study and the annual meeting, visit www.txmpa.org.
WELCOME NEW AND TRANSFER MEMBERS TO THE DALLAS/FT. WORTH BRANCH:
Milt Earnhart, Jake Eavey, Laramie Eppler, Dani Evans, Rose Horan, Freddie Poole, Austin Ross, Todd Stone, Billy Tilk, Vernon Young
Timothy Michael Allen, Elizabeth Anne Allen, Parish Allen, Lauren Arnold, Rich Bailey, Matt Bellner, Carol Biedermann, Kim Bingham, Drew Bledsoe, Jennifer Boswell, William Kevin Brown, Michael Cannizzo, Randal Colling, Lindsey Christian, Missy Crider, Jonathan Doll, Lilli Erickson, John Farrel, Heidi Marie Ferren, Jason Fife, Kyle Flood, Lee Fuller, Jesse Garnee, Kristen Glass, Irma P. Hall, Clarke Hanson, Jordan Hanson, Dameka Hayes, Maria Hurdle, Sarah Hurst, Mary Joyce, Robert M. Knight, Jessi Jensen Krantz, Crystal La Prie, Julia Lashae, Ramona Lenny, Leigh Lombardi, Brigitte Mahaney, Ryon Marshall, Marukh, Kristen McCullough, Timothy Grant McLean, Lynne Miller, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mark Neely, King Orba, Julie Osburn, Randal Reeder, Lisa Rhyne, Brandon R. Roye, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Christopher Soldevilla, Lori Leanne Sparling, Jamal Gibran Sterling, Justin David Stone, Cheryl Tyre-Smith, Shelly Valdovino, Jason Van Eman, Mark Voss, Cody M. Woodfin, Walter Wykes, Edward Zoellner
National Board Member
The SAG Merger Task Force and the AFTRA New Union Committee came together on June 17–19 and became one group: the AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild Group for One Union (G1). I participated in the meeting, which took place at the National Labor College near Washington, D.C.
The meetings, our first formal face-to-face talks, were the first step toward creating a framework for the discussions that will continue throughout the rest of the year. We simply “got the ball rolling” this weekend, and no final decisions were made about a merger agreement, a constitution, a dues structure or a name for the new entity.
Facilitated by labor’s Sue Schurman and Pete diCicco, the processes of shared interest-based problem-solving and consensus-building were used to identify key interests and concerns. In these processes, no questions were off limits and all information was shared.
The G1 created six work groups to focus on the areas of greatest concern to members, based on feedback from the joint coast-to-coast Presidents’ Forum Listening Tour: Governance and Structure; Finance and Dues; Collective Bargaining; Pension, Health, and Retirement; Operations and Staff; and Member Education Outreach.
I am a member of two groups: Governance and Structure, and Operations and Staff. Each work group is populated with members who represent all categories and both large and small markets, from locals and branches across the nation. The work groups are flexible, so that specially invited participants with expertise in a given area may join our discussions as needed.
These work groups will meet over the coming months and create a set of recommendations for how the successor union should approach each area, which will become part of a merger agreement, national constitution and dues structure to be presented to each union’s National Board in January.
It’s early in the process, but we are optimistic and believe that the work groups can create a plan for a successor union that wins support and positions our members for a stronger future.
Reis Myers McCormick
In this installment of Back to One, we spotlight DFW actor Charles Baker, who recently shot Terrence Malick’s latest film.
Charles Baker’s resume reads like a Who’s Who from America’s Most Wanted — for now. Perhaps his image will change with the 2012 release of Malick’s new film, as yet untitled. He couldn’t talk about the project at the time of this interview, except to say that Malick, who was not familiar with his work, cast him as “just a guy,” a delightful diversion from his usual fare of punks and potheads. Not that he’s knocking those roles. He’s just not a train-wreck kind of person. “I avoid looking at accidents. I always hope for the best.”
Then how did the long string of fringe characters come about? Beyond typecasting, it’s a matter of immersion. He adapts William H. Macy’s credo (and acting teacher Uta Hagen's) that if you truly believe what you’re saying, there won’t be any false moments. Turns out, Baker’s whole life has been a rehearsal. Most military brats complain that a nomadic existence left them friendless and with over-developed imaginations. Charles went with a more Darwinian choice…adaptation. Every time he moved to a new state, he’d immerse himself in his new surroundings, from hairstyle to accent, customs, fashions and music. In other words, he became a master mimic as a matter of survival. Finally, at 15, he found himself finishing his secondary education at a boarding school in England, where he nurtured his love of Robin Hood, Shakespeare and all things medieval, and honed a spot-on British accent.
Mentors and Moments
Baker appreciates many mentors, but it’s usually not men as much as moments that inspire him. For example, Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.
“There is a moment in that movie where Brad Pitt’s heart breaks. It’s not in his face, but you know it.”
“How did you know?”
“He didn’t pretend…his heart probably really broke.”
Early on in his professional acting career, Baker worked with Hip Pocket Theater in Ft. Worth under the direction of Johnny Simons, a favorite mentor to this day. Life at Hip Pocket Theatre was experimental, physical and improvisational.
Physical characterization is a Baker trademark. Robert Knepper (T Bag in Fox’s Prison Break), who is another very visceral performer, congratulated Baker when their work was done for the day. “The reason T Bag is so scary is because of his body language. A lot of actors forget about their body language,” he said.
Feel the Beat
Baker’s toe-tapping and head-bobbing have been consternating to acting coaches, but the self-taught pianist, violinist, trumpet player/guitarist/drummer goes for the beat of his character every time, which lends a neurotic edge in most cases. Six years of mime at Hip Pocket didn’t hurt either. “That training forces you to take moments. There I learned one thing I think most actors miss: the moment of stillness. To process things, especially monumental things, we need a moment.” He demonstrates the capture of a butterfly into his cupped hands. “When you open your hands, there’s a still moment of processing the information before you react to its death. I actually heard Pacino talk about this on The Actor’s Studio, which was so cool because I had learned it from Johnny, right here in Ft. Worth.”
The Big Break
“So, is this film your big break?” I ask.
“Who knows? So many times I thought ‘this is it!’ and then…nothing.”
“Maybe a big break is really just a series of small breaks?” I proffer.
“Yeah. I get so tired of people thinking you’re an overnight star. I’ve been doing this for 15 years! And still, you know my annual income is still no better than the year I worked at McDonald’s. Now, my hourly wage is great! My real goal is for my wife to be able to take a break from her career as an oil and gas attorney. I’d love that. Family life is so important. It kills me when I have to be away from my 3-year-old daughter.”
Home Sweet Home
What about Ft. Worth?
“It’s my home. I love being settled here.”
He grins. “I work in L.A. all the time, I’ve just never been there. I’d love to go, but I’m not paying for it. I have an iPhone, a Canon DSLR camera and a laptop. I can get scripts and make submissions all day long and never leave the living room. I actually booked two jobs which shot in L.A.” (Baker never made it to those jobs. Two bigger jobs in Oklahoma and New Mexico conflicted). A piece of advice he learned over the years is to be realistic about one’s expectations: If you can’t get work in your hometown, what makes you think you’ll get work anywhere else? OUCH.
Go Where You’re Needed
Baker is all for self-submission. When it comes to a certain role, your agent may not think of you right away. For example, when the breakdown came through for a flaming gay hairdresser, Baker’s agent did not think of her favorite derelict, Charles Baker. Baker submitted himself and beat out all the real-life hairdressers and drag queens who tried out for the role. “I’ve played handicapped, even gotten parts written for African Americans. You can’t be afraid to go where you’re needed. You have to be realistic! I know I’m not a greasy meth head. I haven’t been in a fight since middle school. I don’t even drink. But I am an offbeat character actor and until I can prove differently, that’s what’s gonna keep me working.” Baker advises actors to check their egos. “Why does everyone want to be the star? I have producer friends who will receive 400 submissions for the lead in their film, but no one wants to play the dowdy maid. So that’s how I can get cast all the time.”
“You’ve played the dowdy maid?”
“Ha, just about. Look, if your stereotype is getting you work, take it! You can expand your repertoire later. Nowadays some of these indie directors just want a name in their film, so they say ‘hey we can get Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad,’ and I then get to play something different than a meth head.” Baker is reminded of another pet peeve. “Say what you will about this or that actor in whatever show, at least they are making a living in this business.”
Careful What You Wish For
“You have to let the universe know what you want. Once upon a time all I wanted was to be a regular on a series. Well, now I have appeared regularly on a hit series but I’m not on contract, so every episode I do is in fact an audition for hopefully another episode. It’s a lot of pressure.” He began his Breaking Bad journey as a day player, the skinny stoner with three or four lines. Two weeks later they needed to replace someone and decided to get the skinny stoner back. Voila.
Then he decided to go for features. Not specific enough. First time, his hands made it on camera but the rest of him didn’t. Then he dreamed bigger, made it on camera, but was dead by the opening title. Then, in a cult classic called Splinter, Baker died in the opening scene but returned (unrecognizable) as the monster in the end. Catch it on Syfy every Valentine’s Day. No kidding.
Who knows? Maybe Terence Malick’s film will provide Baker his big break. Again, Baker quotes Simons, “If it’s a good script, everything I need is somewhere in those pages. All I have to do is fill it with talent.”
Charles Baker in Odds or Evens
The Guild has been contacted by these productions about becoming signatory to one of our collective bargaining agreements. These producers may not have completed the signatory process at this time. It's the responsibility of each member to confirm each producer has signed the applicable contract before making an agreement to render services. Failure to confirm the signatory status before rendering services may lead to disciplinary charges being filed. If you have any questions, please contact the office at (800) 724-0767, option 7, or (214) 379-1171.
The DFW Branch congratulates Sooze Johnson on obtaining her Screen Actors Guild franchise for The Agency Dallas. This full-service talent agency provides representation in broadcast, film, television, print and voiceovers, and has been in business since May 2009. For a complete listing of current Texas SAG-franchised agents, send an email to Sheila Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the innovative and very important additions to SAG.org:
• The incredible Production Center, where producers can save time with online signatory applications for new media, student, short, ultra low and corporate-educational projects.
• Paperless billing so that you can save time, paper and stamps (see below).
• The online home for young performers.
Questions or comments? Contact Linda Dowell at email@example.com.
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