Detroit 2011:12

days since last accident 165
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
December 2011

Ralph Lister


Ralph Lister
Detroit Councilor

Standing in as an alternate for anyone is always something of a challenge, i.e., living up to expectations and such. However, our SAG National Board members and Branch presidents, who met in L.A. October 20-23 to discuss all matters of the Guild, probably had no difficulties remembering their own first plenary and they are, hopefully, a reasonably forgiving lot.

So, still jetlagged, my first afternoon meeting saw me stumbling into something as serious-sounding as the Branch Presidents’ Caucus, while our very own Peter Tocco was re-elected as the North Region representative on the Regional Branch Division Executive Committee, or the RBD Exec Comm. Acronyms are all part of being in the SAG groove, and sure as heck, you need to get the hang of it quick. Anyone not using such is plain O.F. (old fashioned), and being a rep for the oldest regional Branch means you need to truly get into the spirit right away. 

Seeing everything as a newbie is an eye-opener. You learn very quickly a lot about our Guild’s operation, which regular members just don’t imagine happens. There are a lot of rules of operation (as demanded by our Constitution/Rules of Procedures), a lot of motions (proposed and seconded), a lot of voting, a fair amount of jostling (hey, ambition is human), a tremendous amount of talent representing the membership and a fair number of old-timers (there probably because younger blood simply isn’t motivated to provide service on their own time), but, all in all, the Guild gets stuff talked through and done. It has to. There’s simply too much — especially with the proposed merger with AFTRA — not to. 

The main topic about which the Guild as a body was buzzing was, of course, the proposed merger with AFTRA and the activity of the G1 task force, along with its many and various subcommittees, tasked with getting us the best merger we can. This member will be voting in favor of merger because merger will create a combined union, and thus a far stronger bargaining unit.

Throughout the plenary, I felt free to head to the microphone stand and ask questions or state my opinions. Nothing is held back in debates. I urged the Guild to reconsider its current position on the Ultra Low Contract and how it — at present — does not qualify an actor to join the union. If we’re to increase membership here in Michigan, then we need to recognize that an actor who may work  alongside a known Guild actor on an Ultra Low set is (a) more than likely to be committed to his craft, i.e., not a fly-by-night, (b) has recognizable acting chops, and (c) should therefore be eligible to join our union. With so few SAG members on the western side of our state (where I am based), getting non-union actors into the fold via their involvement in Ultra Low movies is a no-brainer, folks. 

A final few words: I was grateful to experience great hotel accommodations, great food and L.A. nightlife — but the red eye home — it murdered this actor. But then, I am such a delicate flower.

Bradley Whitford and Ed Kelly
Bradley Whitford (recently played Mitch Albom in Michigan-made film Have a Little Faith) with Ed Kelly


Ed Kelly
National Board Representative

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Times have changed for actors in the state of Michigan. And yet, change is often just the thing to get us out of our creative comfort zone. Sometimes it sends us back to school or motivates us to take seminars and courses to brush up on our skill sets or acquire new ones. 

It may also bring people together in a way that doesn’t happen when times are good.

Michigan lost more people than it gained last year. More than 60,000 by some reports. It is easy to throw in the towel in hard times, but it isn’t always the best solution. Madison Avenue spends billions of dollars each year telling us all the things we must have, when one visit to a homeless shelter will tell you what we really need. It may be these hard times that finally bring about the one union for which the membership has been clamoring for decades.


Appetizers will be served. No host bar.

When: Sunday, January 29, 2012
Where: Rosie O’Grady’s (award-winning sports bar)
279 West Nine Mile Road
Ferndale, MI 48220
Located one block west of Woodward on the south side of the street, with ample free parking in the back.
Time: 7:30–10 p.m.

Lots of fun, with mock voting, prizes, and camaraderie. And don’t forget to watch for an upcoming e-blast on which movie theaters have invited SAG members to watch nominated films for free!

Peter Tocco

Message from the Branch President

Hello My Union Friends,

Let me begin by saying thank you to all the members who have volunteered their time to be on national committees and task forces. Committees and task forces help shape the Guild’s direction and make important recommendations to the National Board. The work that you will be doing is crucial to Screen Actors Guild. You are bright and talented people and, for the size of our Branch, you are a large number of Michiganders who are populating these committees and representing the Guild. With pride, I look forward to watching for the accomplishments from your service.

The following is a list of Detroit members who will be serving on national committees and task forces:

Agency Relations: Peter Tocco
Background Actors: Sonya Avakian
Casting Online Task Force: Peter Tocco
Communications: Sonya Avakian
Conservatory: Nicole Hakim Yohn, Richard Jewell
Dancers: Richard Carnegie
Disciplinary Review: Ed Kelly
Ethnic Employment Opportunities: Diane Jones, Armon Williams
Global Rule One Task Force: Dan Lemieux
Legislative: Kimberly Stump
New Technologies: Diane Jones, Kimberly Stump, Jon Bradford
Performance Capture: Dan Lemieux
Performers with Disabilities: Richard Jewell
Probable Cause: Ed Kelly
Puppeteers: Ed Kelly
SAGindie: Nicole Hakim Yohn
Senior Performers: Richard Jewell
Singers: Nicole Hakim Yohn
Stunt & Safety: Dan Lemieux
Women’s: Andree Riley (Sample)
Young Performers: Diane Jones, Austin Bickel

Our union is only as strong as its members. As president of the Detroit Branch, it is my honor to serve with you all of you.

Thank you,

Peter Tocco
Detroit Branch President

Ralph Lister teaching CADET workshop.

Updates in Michigan

Hello Members,

The following are updates that are important to you as members. As always, whenever you hear of possible rumors or any other bits of confusing information, please contact me for clarification at or (248) 351-2678.

Film Incentives

At the time of writing this newsletter, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Randy Richardville, S.B. 569, has been passed by the state Senate and has been amended and passed in House Commerce Committee. It is now waiting for a vote in the full House. Once it passes there, it has to go back to the Senate for a vote (since the House committee passed several amendments not in the version the Senate passed). Once the Senate passes the House version, it would go to the governor’s desk for a signature.

After the bill passes, the incentives will be granted via an appropriation from the state budget, rather than through a tax credit, as was the previous practice. You can follow the status of the bill through the Michigan Film Office and click the “Incentive” link.

On another film office note, I am chair of a task force of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council, and this task force will soon meet with staff of the Michigan Film Office and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The members of the task force, all people who are directly involved in the film industry, will discuss different types of projects and how they might make a financial impact on the state. For example, how many jobs/income might be generated in video games or small-budgeted films or studio films, etc.

“Right to Work”

I also serve on the Right-to-Work (RTW) task force of the Michigan AFL-CIO. We learn about activities that propose RTW in Michigan and we strategize ways to fight such activities. For example, we are developing a list of business, large and small, that will offer formal statements against RTW in Michigan.

An exciting letter was just released from the Economic Alliance for Michigan. This is a statewide business-labor coalition made up of such businesses and unions as General Motors Corporation, UAW, Ford Motor Company, Michigan State AFL-CIO, etc. The letter is titled “No Benefit in Pursuing Right to Work in Michigan,” and makes statements such as, “We do not believe that a debate on right-to-work is a productive use of time and energy…”

And by the way, you can all assist with this. I have forms that any business, no matter what size, can sign as a statement that RTW is wrong for Michigan. If you or a family member owns a business, or if you have a good relationship with another, ask that these forms are completed.

Organizing Waivers

Please know that there is a Michigan waiver to the Corporate/Educational Non-Broadcast (previously called Industrial/Educational) Contract. It deals with multiple programs per day and coverage of “man on the street” testimonials. Producers must apply for the use of the waiver and they must report its results, i.e. economic impact. If you know of any producer that does not use our co-ed contract because of economics, our waivers might help with that concern. Please contact me immediately to see if we can flip such non-union projects into SAG projects.


The CADET (Cultivating Actors through Direction, Experience and Training) is in full force this year. The first workshop taught the students how to maximize their monologues for auditions, and the difference of acting such monologues for screen or stage auditions. This workshop was taught by SAG member Ralph Lister and we thank Productions Plus for the use of its audition room. The next upcoming workshop will be held at Scientifically Proven Entertainment, a company that designs and produces video games. It will be taught by the company’s owner, Than McClure, who will discuss voice acting for video games, and SAG member Dan Lemieux, who will demonstrate performance capture for video games.

Happy holidays to you all,

Marcia Fishman
Detroit Branch Executive Director

Dales Scholarship Apps Available

The Screen Actors Guild Foundation is once again happy to announce availability of applications for the John L. Dales Scholarship.

Just one of the nonprofit foundation’s many free programs offered to assist, educate and inspire Guild members in their careers, lives and communities, the John L. Dales Scholarship Fund has helped qualified Guild members and their children reach their educational potential by providing more than $6 million in scholarships for study at accredited institutions of higher learning.

Two types of scholarships are available. Standard scholarships benefit eligible members and children of eligible members for college education. Transitional scholarships are designed to assist SAG members seeking further education to change careers.

Dales Scholarships are awarded specifically toward education at accredited and licensed universities, colleges, junior colleges, adult specialty schools or trade/vocational schools. Printable applications, as well as further details including eligibility guidelines, are currently available by clicking here. Submissions must be postmarked no later than March 15, 2012, to qualify.

Union Plus Scholarship

The 2012 Union Plus Scholarship application is now entirely online, allowing students to complete their application over time and save their responses.

Over the past 19 years, more than $3.2 million have been awarded to students of more than 2,100 working families. Start your application today! Deadline is January 31, 2012.


Contact Marcia Fishman, Detroit Branch executive director at (248) 351-2678, (800) SAG-0767, ext. 7 or