Of late, I have been involved in several essential meetings where members of the film community, along with other interested parties, have made the crucial decision to speak as one voice with regards to the Michigan film incentives. We have agreed that one strategic plan should be presented to our legislators so that we are not perceived as a fragmented group. Our mantra is, “Amend! Don’t End!”
When writing to your legislators, your personal stories are important, but please know that the anecdotes may not be enough to change decisions when it comes to our budget. Therefore, our letters should also include suggestions toward a plan. We have discussed some compromises, and I can give those to you if you write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grassroots efforts can be very effective. Get out your paper and begin!
Detroit Branch Executive Director
LOCAL HIRE CLARIFICATIONS
Below is an article that was written for the Dallas SAG Newsletter by Linda Dowell,
Regional Branch Division executive director. Although it discusses circumstances in Dallas, the information is the same for Michigan.
Occasionally a contract issue will surface, become the hot topic of the day, and quickly become mired with confusion and mixed messages. Let me try to clear up what I may in regard to the issue of local hire.
“Local hire” is one of those terms that is used, and often abused, in our neck of the woods. You, as a performer, want to work and it can be very tempting to want to negotiate your services in order to secure a job. Your agent, likewise, wants to seal a deal in a competitive environment where many other agents are submitting talent for the same roles. Producers — your employers — are looking for the best performers for the job, but have budget considerations and are typically eyeing the bottom line with every move they make. The crux that is sometimes created by what I’ve described comes when a producer offers less than SAG minimum terms as they pertain to travel provisions and, whether directly expressed or implied, you or your representative accepts that offer.
Local hire is when you work in the market of your current residence. You are able to drive to the work location in the morning, return home in the evening and are not in need of accommodations to rest at the end of the day. Conversely, if you are not local, you are considered on “overnight location.” By nature of your distance from the location, you are treated with travel provision coverage under the terms of SAG’s negotiated agreements, including but not limited to airfare or mileage reimbursement, accommodations and per diem to cover any meals not provided on set. Your workday begins when you depart from the hotel and ends when you return to the hotel. This workday structure is what we refer to as “portal to portal.”
If you are working on an overnight location, there are only two exceptions that would allow for these terms to be reduced or waived. First, if a producer working on location in our region brings in overnight performers within a 500-mile radius, he or she may opt to take advantage of our 500-mile travel waiver. This waiver allows for waived travel pay (your compensation for travel time) for the incoming and outgoing travel days for daily performers working on television or theatrical projects. For example, if a production company from Los Angeles films in Dallas and hires a performer from Houston (or anywhere within 500 miles), the salary for the day of travel when no other work is performed that day may be waived. Aside from this, all other provisions of the contract (transportation, accommodations, portal to portal workday, per diem, etc.) are applicable, and you must be treated as an overnight location performer.
The second circumstance involves a producer working at the producer’s base of operations. Our TV/Theatrical Contract provides that when a producer is working at his or her home studio or base of operations and brings you to that home base, the producer is obligated to pay a $75 travel allowance up until the commencement of employment and must pay for your transportation (airfare or mileage reimbursement). All other terms such as accommodations and per diem must be negotiated. For example, a producer’s base of operations is in Austin and he or she regularly produces in Austin. When a producer hires a performer from Dallas to work in Austin, the performer would receive $75 plus mileage (currently reimbursed at 30 cents). Any other provisions related to travel would have to be negotiated by the performer or the performer’s representative.
Waiving any of the travel provisions weakens the contract terms members fight so hard to gain in negotiations. Falsely claiming local hire and traveling at the end of a long workday is unsafe and could put you at risk. It is your responsibility to report misuse of the terms of the contracts in order to keep strong contracts for your future.
If you haven’t done so already, please pay your dues today. If you are not an active, paid-up member in good standing, you will not be able to serve on the council or committees. You must also be paid to date to register on iActor, the Guild’s online casting program, which is now being used by casting directors nationwide. If you have any questions regarding your dues, please contact the Membership Department at (800) 724-0767, prompt 2 or (212) 944-6243.
Fight for Incentives
My Fellow Actors,
Three years ago when I took office as president of this Branch, the film incentives had just begun to take effect in Michigan. Film work was on the rise. In some cases, local businesses were being saved from going out of business, our members were working and our earning numbers in this market were growing. So now I find myself three years later, writing you and asking you to help save the very incentives we worked so hard to pass not that long ago.
How we got here is not important anymore. I’m sure we all have heard the stories. Is the film incentive perfect for Michigan? Some say no. Can it be adjusted to better please those who would do away with it? Some say yes. Should it be eliminated? Absolutely not. It has created jobs and has kept our young people here in this state. Your union needs your voice now more than ever. You must make your voice heard loud and clear to your local senators and representatives. Stop by their offices on Mondays or Fridays (these are the days they are in the local offices). Tell them you want these film incentives to stay. They need to see your faces and hear your stories.
We can save the incentives, but only if we work together and speak with one voice. Please, I’m asking all of you to visit your local reps. Go to MI.gov and find out who they are and where they are located. Send them e-mails and call their offices. Call the governor, too, and let him hear your voice. Remember this is not about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about jobs and education and keeping our creative community here in Michigan. Now is not the time to sit idly by. We have to fight if we want to keep the film incentives alive. Will you join us?
Detroit Branch President
Unions Under Fire
Our brand new governor proposed stopping the film incentive program, and instead put a $25 million grant in appropriations for 2012 and 2013, trying to convince the film community that this capped amount will sustain our work. But for all intents and purposes, it killed the movie industry momentum in Michigan, putting hard-working people out of work.
What else? We now have emergency financial managers — ostensibly put in place to restore fiscal order to our schools and communities — who have the power to strip public sector workers of their right to collective bargaining and cancel contracts that were bargained in good faith. Looking to our neighboring states of Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, the writing is on the wall, and it says, “It’s time to bust the unions.”
On a related note, my fellow performers, if you do not know about the right-to-work issue, it is time to find out. A so-called “right-to-work” law is a state statute that prohibits making membership or payment of union dues a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Because non-union performers will be able to work both union and non-union jobs without penalty, they have little incentive to join SAG, essentially creating a “freeloader” system. The ranks of nonmembers will likely swell in our state. And with a deeper talent pool of nonmembers with SAG experience to hire from, producers will have less motivation to sign our contracts or even meet with us to negotiate fair terms and conditions of employment.
Unfortunately, we have seen “freeloader” systems develop in SAG branches where "right-to-work" statutes currently exist. Nonmembers work under SAG contracts, becoming eligible to join. But instead of joining and paying their way, these nonmembers compete against SAG members for SAG parts, sometimes working one SAG job after the other. And, of course, they continue taking non-union work, jobs that members cannot take.
The Michigan Legislature has introduced HB4054, which proposes creating "right-to-work" zoned areas. Remember that although "right-to-work" sounds like a friendly concept, it is not. Write to your legislators and tell them where you stand on the film incentives, "right-to-work" or any of the other 40-plus anti-union efforts by our government. Fill their voicemail boxes. If the grease goes to the squeaky wheel, then let us be boiling hot bearings on the verge of seizure. Let these egregious actions motivate us to galvanize our resolve, and not take this lying down. Detroit is no stranger to union strife.
National Board Representative
Call Governor Snyder’s office at (517) 373-3400 or (517) 335-7858. Add your legal name and your stage name to the list of those who support the film incentives in Michigan.
Launch of the CADETs
The Screen Actors Guild CADET program is a wonderful opportunity to teach the craft of acting and performing to young aspiring film students. I’ve been a member of SAG for more than 20 years, and I wish that this type of program existed when I started acting.
When I first pitched the concept of a junior SAG program at one of our Detroit Branch meetings last year, I never dreamed it would come to fruition and be so well received. The CADET program — Cultivating Actors with Direction, Education and Training — was created as part of the Detroit Branch Conservatory, and now we’re giving these future SAG members an opportunity to be directly involved and learn from working professionals. The goal of the program is to inspire and teach them valuable lessons that are never covered in the classroom, such as set etiquette, signing contracts and dealing with all the demands we professionals see day in and day out.
This program is a win-win for all involved. First, it gives much-needed insight to the hungry, creative students that need our guidance, and second, it’s a wonderful opportunity for SAG members nationwide to give back and volunteer their time to helping shape the minds of our future members.
Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Mich. has been the testing grounds for our pilot program. With the help of film department head Kurt Doelle and his amazing students, we have been able to experiment with this wonderful program and gain valuable information to help shape it into exactly what the name describes — Cultivating Actors with Direction, Education and Training. Simple, yet very effective.
These students have taken to this program like a fish to water. I honestly wasn’t sure how many, if any, students would show up for our inaugural class, but show up they did. There were nearly 30 high school students that registered for the CADET program and they all had a wonderful time. They listened, learned, asked great questions and were inspired. That’s what this is all about — inspiring the future. Our second class saw a larger turnout and again proved that students want to be involved. They’re eager to learn and, with the help of the Screen Actors Guild’s CADET program, nurture that passion into their profession.
I’m looking forward to spending much more time with the students and growing this program into what could be an instrumental program for SAG’s future nationwide.
Now how wonderful would that be?
Detroit Branch Council Member
Note: CADET membership is a membership to the SAG Detroit Branch Conservatory and does not constitute membership in Screen Actors Guild.
Council member Ele Bardha and Russell Flatt, first student to sign up as a CADET, get ready to cut the celebratory cake.
SAG Award Viewing Party in Grand Rapids
For the second year in a row, the Detroit branch held its SAG Awards Viewing party in Grand Rapids. Since the inception of the Michigan film incentives, the film industry has shown increasing interest in the west side of Michigan, and along with that has come more work opportunities and new members joining SAG. This year the party was held at McFadden’s Restaurant, where participants were able to enjoy the show with a television in each booth. With door prizes, party favors and contests, a good time was had by all.
West Michigan Casting Director Maureen Fahey Dreher shows off her SAG Awards cap, won as a door prize, as she watches the show.