Georgia 2011:07

The Official E-Newsletter of the Georgia Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Georgia Branch
July 2011

THE EIGHTH ANNUAL LEND ME AN EAR

Once again, the Tri-Union Radio Players of Atlanta return to those thrilling days of yesteryear with the Eighth Annual Lend Me an Ear, this time at an additional location! Besides the traditional venue of the New American Shakespeare Tavern in downtown Atlanta, the evening of old-time radio recreations will also be performed at the Wieuca Baptist Church in Buckhead. Both nights will be fundraisers for the Atlanta Community Food Bank with more than 30 SAG, AFTRA, and Equity members donating their talents to this very worthy cause.

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, October 25, 2011 at the Tavern, and on Tuesday, October 26 at the church. The theme this year includes imaginative sci-fi and intriguing mystery, in keeping with the spirit of Halloween. Programs include Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the space anthology show X Minus One, The Witch's Tale and the spine-tingling short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

Details about October auditions and rehearsals will follow in a later posting.

Until then, "Happy Listening" everybody!

Barry Stoltze

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

Mike Pniewski
Former Branch President

Have you ever been asked to compromise your values? Been offered a chance to score big-time money or a huge promotion if you’d only bend the rules just a little bit? People who declare themselves to be your friends toss excuses at you like “No one will ever know” or “People do it all the time.” You begin to think that they may be right and you’ll never see an opportunity as great as this again. If you just do it this one time, you can enjoy your newfound success and pledge to never do it again. You’re a good person and even though this may be unethical, it’s only one time and you’ll still be a good person.

It’s tempting. We see compromise and a lack of ethics all around us to the point that it seems to justify the idea that any means necessary are acceptable to achieve, as long as you get the payoff. And, boy, the payoffs are amazing! These hyper-driven types that take no prisoners are driving some nice cars and living in some mighty palatial digs. The last thing you want to be is the guy who’s on the outside looking in. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and you don’t want to be the Milk-Bone!

So your intense desire to reach the top, combined with a lackluster feeling about your current situation, leads you to have that inner dialogue that says it’s OK to break some rules or hurt some people if it means that you get ahead.

Here’s the truth as I see it: If you compromise your principles, you can never go back. From here on out, you’ll know that what you did belied who you are and that will torture and inhibit you forever. Going against your core values in order to achieve material gain will forever change the way you view yourself and how others view you. Yes, sooner or later, people find out. Word will get around about your visit to the dark side and you’ll have a lot of fun running away from that.

I’m a union guy, have been for my entire career. The performers’ unions have been very good to me and my family, and I have an impassioned belief in the value of organization. With membership comes a commitment to only work union. But, I see too many examples of members who have cheated on their commitment to our unions by doing non-union work. In that case, our collective power is weakened as they selfishly pursue more money at all costs.

Have I ever been offered these sorts of opportunities? You bet — even at times in my career when I needed the money! I can honestly say to you I have always and will always say no. And not even so much for the sake of the union, but primarily because it’s not who I am. I made a pledge and I plan to keep it. No amount of money for one job is worth giving up on a long-term commitment. At the end of the day, I have to look my family in the eye and know that I am who I say I am. I can’t do that knowing that I gave up a part of me so I could score a big job.

For years I’ve always told my students, “Don’t give yourself away.” This business will ask a lot of you as you work toward your dream of being a successful, working actor, but you can’t compromise who you are in the process. You’ll be pushed to the line morally and ethically, but you have to hold firm on what matters to you. In the end, your truth is all you’ve got. In any business, you are your greatest asset. Who you are, what your gifts are, what you stand for and your work ethic are the most vivid definitions of how you benefit the world around you. Giving up even a part of that weakens the power of your whole being. One union member working “off the card” hurts every member. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Stand up for what you believe in and pledge to never compromise yourself in order to get ahead. You don’t need it! Trust in your gifts and your commitment. Legitimate hard work and talent do win out, even when you see those around you taking the low road and seemingly winning. No matter what that little voice may be saying to you in your moments of doubt — principle wins.

   Wilbur Fitzgerald

Message from the Branch President

Wilbur Fitzgerald
Georgia Branch President

As a kid, I always loved summer because it not only meant a nice, long break from school, but every day brought some new adventure outdoors. In a word, summer to me was all about freedom. During those years growing up in Atlanta, I remember thinking that it was quite coincidental that right in the middle my own freedom summers, America’s freedom was being officially celebrated on July 4th, Independence Day.

All of this has got me thinking about the freedom we have as actors here in Georgia to pick and choose the kind of work we seek. An old friend of mine and remarkably successful actress who has lived in California for many years once told me a story about turning down a nice role on a television pilot. I forget now exactly what her gripe was with the casting director or one of the producers, but she directed her agent to give them a firm unequivocal "no" to the offer without any explanation whatsoever. I can't imagine ever doing such a thing, but my friend made the comment to me that the only power an actor has in this business sometimes is to say no (and mean it). My friend had her own very personal reasons for saying no to that job offer and was not using it as a tool for negotiation.   She just decided to exert the greatest power she had to make some point.

Many years ago, I decided to make a point to say yes to becoming a member of both Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. I knew full well what I was doing in this "right to work” state, where I live, but I believed that union membership was the right thing for me to do as a professional actor. I also knew that would mean saying no to non-union work, but I had my good reasons, and to this day I believe it is the proven strength of our unions that will continue to build a better business and work environment for all actors, regardless of how they exercise their freedoms in the state of Georgia.

In the days ahead, I am hopeful that a merger of SAG and AFTRA will offer even greater opportunities to build a better future for the members by creating a new environment for negotiating the contracts under which we work here in Georgia. I also feel confident that the kind of unity which can arise out of a successful merger will create a new, more attractive union, which will be seen by members and nonmembers alike as a professional organization that can meet actors' needs in this rapidly changing industry. Yes, I believe a successful merger can also be an effective organizing tool to attract nonmembers into the fold.

Many dedicated members of our film and television industry have been diligent in lobbying the members of the Georgia General Assembly and the new governor to maintain Georgia's 30-percent entertainment tax credit program. Georgia has maintained its status as one of the top five production states in the United States, falling in just behind California and Louisiana. Currently we have a number of SAG movies which are being shot in Georgia. Among those are Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car, the Farrelly brothers' The Three Stooges, and the recently wrapped Tyler Perry-directed movie Good Deeds. American Reunion, the fourth installment of the American Pie series, has also been shooting around the metro Atlanta area. There are a number of SAG feature films that are now scouting and planned for production this summer, including What to Expect When You're Expecting, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez. There are also quite a number of AFTRA television shows that are currently in production around the state.

With the combination of our robust television and feature film production climate in Georgia and the possibility of a merger between SAG and AFTRA, I believe we can continue to build our reputation as having one of the most professional talent pools in the country. That pool gets deeper and better with every production that hires our experienced union actors. Every day, actors who live in Georgia are realizing they no longer have to move to California or New York in order to have a rewarding career in film and television. Now that's just the kind of "freedom" I like. Happy summer!

In Solidarity,
Wilbur T. Fitzgerald

Debra Nelson

National Board Report 

Debra Nelson
National Board Director

As the first half of 2011 “wraps,” there’s exciting and promising news regarding the joining of SAG and AFTRA to create one union representing all artists. The first of what will surely be many formal face-to-face meetings of the SAG and AFTRA Group for One Union (G1) took place last month in Silver Spring, Md. 

As you may recall, SAG and AFTRA leaders traveled the country speaking to members in the branches (including Georgia) to get input on this important step in our history. The information gathered from members of both unions formed the basis for these talks. The meeting resulted in the formulation of six work groups to cover the six key areas identified by the majority of members. Those areas include governance and structure; finance and dues; collective bargaining; pension, health and retirement; operations and staff; and member education and outreach. The work groups will make recommendations to the full G1, which will then formulate the merger agreement to present to the national boards of each union by January 2012.

On the local side of things, a question I’m sure comes to everyone’s mind is “What can be done to make more work available for Georgia members?” One area of the contract that has been identified as needing serious attention is the Corporate/Educational and Non-Broadcast Contract. Work for members under this contract has all but disappeared and gone non-union. However, I wanted you to know that as your representative on the National Board, I continue to work on getting a regional waiver to this contract passed. The goal is to make a waiver available that makes it easy and cost effective to employ union members under the contract. I will keep you informed of progress on this important issue.

Go Paperless!

Paperless billing is yet another way SAG is more efficiently serving our members: cutting costs (not to mention clutter in your home), making your billing instantaneous and, as part of our ongoing green initiative, doing our part to save the environment.

• Save paper and stamps. You won’t just save yourself money, you’ll save the Guild money, too. With more than 125,000 members and dues bills being sent out twice a year, the Guild has a hefty business expense that can be significantly lightened by paperless billing.

• You can download to your computer or mobile device an exact virtual copy of the bill you would normally receive in the mail. That will reduce clutter and, if you live at the frantic pace that most actors do, it will also reduce the chance that you’ll misplace this important information.

Here’s a link to help get you started with paperless billing, as well as answers to any additional questions you may have. Don’t worry; should you change your mind, you can always revert back to a paper bill with a simple click if you determine it’s not right for you.

SAG Joins Coalition to Fight Content Theft

Screen Actors Guild is teaming up with AFTRA, DGA, IATSE and major studios and networks to launch the Creative America initiative to discourage content theft and educate the public about its harmful effects.

Creative America will provide a gathering place for members of the creative community to learn more about the impact of content theft on their jobs, their benefits and their ability to continue making a living in the entertainment industry.
 
Among its initial activities, Creative America will enable members of the entertainment community to demonstrate their support for the passage of important congressional legislation that will significantly impact the fight against content theft, including the PROTECT IP Act, designed to combat foreign trafficking in stolen movies, TV shows and other forms of intellectual property.

Find out more at the SAG website or visit Creative America to add your voice to those fighting to protect content and eliminate theft.

Georgia 35th Anniversary