MERGER ... IT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING!
by Sheila Ivy Traister, SAG-AFTRA Denver Local Board member
Merger is a gift we've given ourselves. It takes wisdom to recognize when the ways of the past will no longer serve the present, and great strength and courage to embrace the change necessary to ensure our futures.
I am honored to be among those whose vision, diligence and hard work served to bring us to this place of readiness. The act of merger is just the beginning. If we ever needed the membership to rise up and be heard, it's now!
It is imperative that we use the power of this momentum to organize and educate ourselves as to how we can use the lessons of our past, our current strength in numbers and our present resources to ensure that we have a bright future in this industry. In the past couple of decades, there have been many forces, political and social, both within and outside of the industry, that have served to undermine the importance of our unions and guilds.
Now more than ever we need to maximize our opportunities for employment. Although our existing contracts will stand until the next negotiation, we need to seriously examine the terms and conditions of our contracts and policies. We must be willing to make the necessary changes needed to make them as attractive as possible to the producers we wish to hire us, all the while, maintaining a fair wage structure and the protections and working conditions necessary to a professional work force.
This means we must take into consideration the changing times brought about by new media and technology, a rapidly growing non-union talent pool, a competitive global market and a depressed economy. With your commitment, passion and ideas, I have no doubt that we can reestablish ourselves as the most desirable work force on the planet.
We need you ... YOU are the UNION! Your union is a function of what you need it to be, want it to be, design it to be! I urge you to get involved, to take your future into your own hands! You could join a local or national committee, attend SAG-AFTRA-sponsored events, visit the website and/or run for office. Call your local SAG-AFTRA office or go to the national website and learn about all the ways that you can make a difference.
And, most importantly, make sure that your contacts in the industry — other actors, agents, producers, casting directors, crew members, teachers etc. — all know and appreciate how important it is to you to have a viable union. If they are not already involved, invite them to the discussion. Together we can build a new environment of cooperation and support where we all stand to gain and prosper.
This is a call to ACTION! We did it ... merger is here and now! Now let's take it all the way and create the most beneficial and productive union this country has ever seen!
A LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
I wholeheartedly agree the passing of the film incentives bill is certainly a cause for celebration. SAG-AFTRA was at the forefront of the crusade and it’s gratifying to see that our legislators realize its economic value.
That said, we can’t rely solely on the incentives to improve the production landscape in our market. It’s going to take more than a new law to change the way the industry relates to the local entertainment unions. We should use the incentives (and the merger) as a springboard to create the change we all want. Let’s participate and educate.
The union needs to demonstrate to the stakeholders in this market that we mean business; that we’re willing to foster cooperation and that it’s worth taking those few extra steps and filling out a few more forms to hire quality union talent. As David White, the national executive director of SAG-AFTRA stated so succinctly, we need to be “easy to work with, hard to fight.”
The staff and leadership of the SAG-AFTRA Denver Local are willing to lead the charge, but we’ll need your support. It’s not enough to just show up at auditions. If you haven’t done so lately, I encourage you to get involved in the community: Support SAG-AFTRA seminars and conservatories, participate in industry functions and rallies, attend local film festivals, etc. Make your presence known! The non-union talent does.
None of us should accept the notion this isn’t a “union town.” It was and it can be again. As a member of SAG-AFTRA, it is important that you become familiar with the contracts that have been negotiated to benefit you. There are agreements to cover just about every category of work, and most often the rates are competitive with non-union quotes. Let’s not let the industry define us — let’s work together to define the industry.
On another note, I’m seeing more and more online services targeting performers, and I’m sure you’re wondering, “Shouldn’t I cover my bases and sign on to these just in case?” Some of these sites are legitimate and some are not. I would recommend you do your research before submitting for any project online. If anyone asks you for money —beware. If a company wants to post your picture, get more information, get references and verify the credibility of the company or individuals involved. Please don’t just assume that information conveyed by any online service is correct.
When in doubt, always check with the union and make sure a project is being covered under a SAG or AFTRA contract before accepting a job. I’m only a phone call or an email away: (720) 932-8193/8228 or email@example.com.
Have a great summer and watch for information on industry events, educational forums and updates brought to you by your new SAG-AFTRA!
Julie Crane, Denver Local Executive Director
Visit the new SAG-AFTRA website at sagaftra.com.
Follow on Twitter @SAGAFTRA
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The Extra Mile
Today, it’s simply not enough to just show up. Don’t get me wrong. Showing up is a huge part of the game, but you’ve got to show up and be extraordinary. You’ve got to come prepared. One of the important principles of success is the willingness to go the extra mile. Within days of the merger, SAG-AFTRA Denver went that extra mile.
On April 9, SAG-AFTRA in conjunction with the Film & Video Association (CFVA), sponsored Straight Talk: Working with SAG-AFTRA … It’s easier than you think! This event consisted of an informative and lively discussion, followed by a Q&A, featuring a panel of entertainment industry professionals. They gave the straight talk on what it’s like to work with union contracts, how it impacts the budget and the value in using professional performers.
This evening was presented at the Denver FilmCenter/Colfax, with a post-event mixer in Henderson’s Lounge. It was gratis for members of SAG-AFTRA and CFVA and provided an excellent opportunity to mix, mingle and network with producers, filmmakers and other entertainment industry professionals.
The panel included Donald Zuckerman, Sheila Traister (co-vice president, SAG-AFTRA Denver Local), Scott Takeda (producer – Takeda Entertainment), Greg Babcock (location manager/scout – Babcock Film and Location Services) and William L. Brown (director – Stained Glass Windows). The house filled up and the good news/bad news is that some audience members actually had to be turned away because the venue was at capacity.
In preparation for the evening, Donald Zuckerman stated, “… I cannot emphasize enough how foolish it is for someone to make a non-SAG film, unless the intent is to never have it seen outside a festival setting.” The other panelists shared an array of enlightening and fortuitous information. The Q&A portion from the audience brought conscious and quality thought-provoking debate.
The journey requires some blood, sweat and tears. Join us in exercising your personal initiative. Keep training, networking and showing up for the events. We are planning to collaborate this fall with Actors’ Equity Association to present a “stage and screen” project. Also, Denver SAG-AFTRA will be working with several of the film schools to help facilitate the use of Student Film and Short Film Agreements. A special Low Budget Contracts 101 event is planned for September at the Colorado Film School, and in addition to students, entertainment industry professionals also will be invited.
When one gets to where they thought the rainbow ended, they find it is still far in the distance. “There’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”
Chaz Grundy, Co-President, SAG-AFTRA Denver Local
Merger. It Happened! Now What?
We talked about it for years…even attempted it a couple of times. But this time was different. More than 80 percent of both unions voted to support merger. We are now SAG-AFTRA!What do we do with our elected boards and councils now that they have doubled in size? What about the office? What about my pension? What about my dues? What about my union?
In terms of the day-to-day running of the newly created Denver Local, not much will be different than it was before. Since the Colorado SAG Branch and the Denver AFTRA Local met for years as one body, any changes in operations will be minimal. The office and staff will remain the same. Until the next elections, the local SAG president and local AFTRA president are now co-presidents. But we have always functioned that way in Colorado. One month the Colorado SAG president ran the board meeting, the next month the AFTRA Board president would run the meeting. That won't change. We were one of the few Branches/Locals that operated jointly. Currently, all of the new Locals are working to write their own Local constitutions. This won't be too difficult for Denver either. We'll take the best from the previous AFTRA Constitution & By-Laws and combine it with the best parts of the previous SAG Rules of Procedure and come up with a document everyone should be able to work with. I have just read these “legacy” documents, and for the most part, they are quite similar. Combining them will be easy.
There are some changes surrounding merger that I hope you will notice: greater organizing potential, additional member benefits, renewed sense of solidarity and a stronger voice in the labor movement.
House Bill 1286, the new film incentive legislation, passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by the governor. This is a first, small step in the right direction and should start the process of putting many actors and others in the film industry back to work. HB 1286 will create new jobs and bring new money to Colorado.
And now that the Colorado film incentive has passed, the City and County of Denver is working on its own version of a film incentive. It seems like it is a bit contagious! Good things are happening here. Thank you to all to those who helped; even those who helped by keeping their fingers crossed and always keeping the faith.
Merger and film incentives in just three short months — what a year so far!
Co-President, SAG-AFTRA Denver Local
The Movies are Coming, the Movies are Coming!
Friday, May 18 was a landmark day. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a card-carrying member of the Denver Local of SAG-AFTRA, signed House Bill 1286. The courtyard at High Noon Entertainment was packed for the signing ceremony. The crowd included numerous members of SAG-AFTRA. After signing the bill, Hickenlooper posed for photos with the members present. In his remarks before signing the bill, Hickenlooper proudly proclaimed his union membership.
Also speaking before the signing was Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman. Zuckerman was key in crafting and guiding the legislation through the process. He acknowledged the help members from SAG-AFTRA had given in getting the bill passed.
The bill will go into effect in July and its impact could be felt shortly thereafter. There are reportedly a couple of projects already in the works that have been waiting for the incentive legislation to go into effect.
The incentive package is geared for independent productions in the $5-million to $10-million range, though the incentives can be used for lower-cost productions, episodic television and commercials (details of the new program follow this article).
The film and television community in Colorado has waited a long time for this and now it is finally here and the production drought may at last be over.
As Ron Henderson always says in opening the Denver Film Festival, “Let the movies begin!”
Denis Berkfeldt, National Board Member
Organizing and Outreach
Many of you may be unaware that the market already has a regional commercials contract: The Colorado Limited Letter of Adherence for Television & Radio Commercials (CLL).
This contract, sometimes referred to as a “made-in/played-in” offers lower rates; allows for short-term buys, one-year and 21-month prepaid use; and provides employers with the opportunity to work with a diverse group of trained and professional union actors on a single production-only basis, if that’s what they need. With almost 600 active SAG-AFTRA members in our Local to choose from, why wouldn’t producers want to work with the best?
The CLL is great for organizing local commercials of any size. We will be scheduling a special refresher meeting on the contract in the coming months. Any performer interested in learning more about how they can utilize this contract to turn a non-union job into a union job, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 932-8193/8228.
The SAG-AFTRA Denver Local Organizing Committee is working on instituting a CADET (Cultivating Actors with Direction, Experience and Training) program. Developed by the former SAG Branch in Detroit, the program offers middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in select workshops and other events that will set them apart from their fellow acting and filmmaking classmates. The relationship instills in the CADETs a sense of pride and identity and, for many, their first connection to the power of unionism.
The young performers participating receive a SAG-AFTRA CADET card, and while this is merely a symbolic gesture and in no way constitutes actual membership in the union, it is the hope that the pride in their CADET card will lead to the desire to hold an actual SAG-AFTRA card when the opportunity arises. The CADET project has garnered very positive support from the Michigan SAG-AFTRA members, as well as the community at large.