Detroit 2010:10

days since last accident 182
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
October 2010


Negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers began September 27 at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

The Joint National Board of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists met September 12 by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York and approved a package of proposals for these joint AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical negotiations.
SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon are co-chairing the negotiations. AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and SAG National Executive Director David White will serve as the unions’ co-lead negotiators.

Check during the coming weeks for the latest updates and information. 

ken orsatti

Screen Actors Guild mourns the loss of former SAG National Executive Director Ken Orsatti, who passed away August 31 of pulmonary disease at West Hills Hospital in West Hills, Calif. He was 78. Orsatti served as national executive director from 1981 through the beginning of 2001. During his tenure as NED, Orsatti also served as the Guild’s chief negotiator, a period that saw dramatic expansion of the union’s contracts and record setting earnings for its members. He was a SAG employee since 1961.

Orsatti served as a trustee of the SAG-Producers Pension & Health Plans for more than 35 years, and proudly served as a vice president of the International Federation of Actors (FIA). He successfully led a campaign to organize the advertising industry in the Guild’s Branches and helped negotiate numerous local and regional contracts that created work opportunities for thousands of members.

He helped found the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and served on its board while he worked at SAG and after his retirement. He served on the Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund (IACF) and as an officer of the California AFL-CIO.

“Ken served this union with loyalty and devotion for nearly 40 years and touched many people in the entertainment industry labor scene,” said SAG President Ken Howard. “He will long be remembered for wholeheartedly working to protect the rights of our members.”

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A broad entertainment industry coalition urged the U.S. Supreme Court on September 17 to uphold a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found unconstitutional the 2005 California law restricting the sale and rental to minors of computer and video games deemed to be overly violent.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Directors Guild of America, Inc. (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Writers Guild of America West, Inc. (WGAW), Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) and Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) joined together to file an amicus brief in the case Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which is scheduled for oral arguments on November 2.

“The history of the motion picture industry serves as a vivid illustration of the threat to First Amendment rights from the impulse to control and censor new forms of media—a threat reflected in the statute at issue before the Court.  From the advent of motion pictures, a variety of state and local governments sought to restrict their content for the asserted purpose of protecting moviegoers from being exposed to harmful material,” the organizations explained in their brief.

“While parents have an undoubted interest in making informed judgments concerning the suitability of exposing their children to potentially objectionable content, [California has] failed to show that the government’s assistance is necessary to serve that interest,” the organizations’ brief continues. “And the fundamental lesson of the motion picture industry is that self-regulation can sufficiently enable parents to exercise their right to make informed judgments concerning movie content. The movie rating system has widely been praised for its effectiveness, and society’s long experience with the movie rating system demonstrates that a properly designed voluntary rating system can serve the relevant parental interest without the need for content-based government regulation.”

The entertainment industry coalition concluded that if the Supreme Court were to uphold California’s statute, it would have a “dramatic chilling effect on the motion picture industry.”

Click here to download the release.

Get Involved

By Peter Tocco
Detroit Branch President

It is one heck of a production year so far in Michigan. I believe at one time the state had 12 productions going on at once. Who would have thought so much in such a short time would be possible for actors in our great state? Production companies are discovering that there is some very good talent in this state. More and more of our members are working, and our Detroit SAG Branch is growing.

Indeed the eyes of the SAG membership are on us. With so much going on, it is important that our voice be heard on a national level. This past year, one third of the national committees or task forces were populated by Detroit members.

This coming year, I would like you all to consider being on a national committee or task force. You can be a part of shaping polices within the Guild. Please, with the level of production that is happening in our backyard, we need members from Michigan to get involved. None of the committees or task forces takes up that much time. Committee service can require various levels of commitment. Some committees meet monthly, while some only meet a few times a year (via teleconference).

Think about it. If there is something in the Guild you particularly like or don't like, now is the time to weigh in. Remember—our union survives on membership involvement. If no one gets involved, then our great SAG union will simply fade away.

Help shape your union. Represent Michigan actors by serving on a committee or task force.

film commissioners

Michigan Film Office Director Carrie Jones stands with recently retired film commissioner Janet Lockwood.

The Michigan Incentives: Are They at Risk?

Our state is again approaching a major election, and once again, our Michigan film incentive program is fodder for discussion. We need to defend our program, and we need to be intelligent in our defense. Below are talking points written by the communications director of the Michigan Film Office. Carry them in your pocket. Learn them. Encourage discussions about the benefits.

The Michigan film incentive program is:
 Driving significant film, motion picture and television production activity to our state—creating new jobs that pay well and leverage the talents of Michigan’s highly skilled workforce.
• Reversing the brain drain of our young people by retaining and attracting young talent.
• Promoting Michigan in a positive light to residents and potential visitors and businesses.

The film industry is still taking root in Michigan, but permanent infrastructure is taking hold with Grace & Wild Studios, Allen Park, the groundbreaking of Raleigh Studios in July and other projects in development around the state.

This program is helping Michigan reshape its image in a positive direction both at home and across the nation. 

The pool of Michigan workers with film-industry job training is growing, meaning productions can hire more crew locally, and our universities and colleges are getting involved to prepare Michigan students to step into these jobs when they graduate.

By the Numbers:

• $350.6 million invested by productions in Michigan from 2007-2009
- 2009: 46 productions; $223.6 million total in-state production expenditures
- 2008: 35 productions; $125 million total in-state production expenditures
- 2007: 3 productions; $2 million total in-state production expenditures

• More that $300 million in Michigan investments expected in 2010.

• More than 7,000 production jobs created since incentives passed in 2008, with an additional 4,000 jobs as extras and day actors.

• More than 105 film projects shot in Michigan since the incentives passed in 2008.

For more information on success stories and projects currently shooting in Michigan, visit

gagnon interview

Rich Brauer asks a thought-provoking question of Trevor Gagnon.

Conversations with Trevor Gagnon

Young performer Trevor Gagnon (New Adventures of Old Christine, Shorts, Happy Monster Band and Big Fish) was featured in a SAG Foundation Conversations program at the West Branch Children’s Film Festival on July 8, 2010. Situated in a small rural town in northern Michigan, this quaint film festival was lucky to have had this very special guest actor. He was interviewed by Rich Brauer, Traverse City screenwriter and producer (Barn Red, Frozen Stupid, Mr. Art Critic), who enjoyed the lively banter with the bright and clever Gagnon. During their discussion, Gagnon explained how he became involved in the business, how he landed the prime job as Richie on New Adventures of Old Christine, and how he has always balanced his childhood with his work. One question Brauer asked was, “What are your plans since New Adventures has not been renewed?” His response: “Go to high school. I haven’t been in school for eight years.”

Conversations is the SAG Foundation’s national speaker series that invites well-known working actors to share their experiences in the industry with an audience of actors. The program’s live interviews and archive have proved to be invaluable to thousands of actors across the country. 

Dearborn conservatory

Mike Mosallam and Ben Ketai take turns directing a scene.

A Conservatory with Members and Dearborn Students

The Detroit Branch held its most recent conservatory program at Dearborn High School on June 24. Although school had already been let out for the year, film and acting students enthusiastically returned back to the classroom to meet with Hollywood writer and director of the horror genre, Ben Ketai (30 Days of Night: Dark Days). Joined by Detroit SAG members, the workshop started as an interview with Ketai, questioned by Mike Mosallam, experienced stage actor and presently the director of film initiatives for Wayne County. For the benefit of the Dearborn students, the interview emphasized Ketai’s young start as a filmmaker, his educational background as a film student, and his continual focus on the “prize” of being a professional script writer.

The second half of the workshop demonstrated the difference between film and stage acting. Two SAG members performed a short scene, first directed for the stage by Mike Mosallam and then directed for film by Ben Ketai. Not only was this conservatory very interesting and educational, but it was a precursor to the future CADET program, a conservatory that will be established to afford students the opportunity to learn with Screen Actors Guild members and various relevant instructors.