Houston 2007:09

Houston 2007:09

PEELING THE UNION

As Guild members, in recent years we have watched a drastic and unhappy shift in the political and economic climate for union actors in our region. A lot of us began thinking about what could be done to recapture some of the work increasingly going to non-union actors. But then at a recent brainstorming session, a whole different question presented itself: In addition to fulfilling its traditional role of improving the wages, benefits and working conditions for its members, what can the Guild do in a proactive way to turn things around? Instead of passively waiting for producers to come to their senses and hire us, what can we as union members do on our own to stimulate the work?

We began exploring a lot of novel ideas, even some as radical as setting up our own production company. (While we set that one aside temporarily, we didn’t kick it out of the box.) One of the ideas that really grabbed us was establishing what we now call the Script to Screen program. The thought was to do a sort of “backers audition” or reading of scripts by professional screenwriters in the area. We asked some established screenwriters if they had favorite scripts lying around that for whatever reason never made it to the screen. Not surprisingly they did, and also not surprisingly, they were very enthusiastic about the idea. As a result, we’ll be conducting our first public reading on Monday, September 24, at 6:30 p.m . in the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau auditorium in City Hall.

The first program will feature a script by Casey Kelly called Greener Pastures. This is a work originally commissioned by George Roy Hill as a follow-up for Paul Newman and Robert Redford after their big successes with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Greener is a terrific and funny story about a couple of Texas workers who, while trying to siphon gas from a cross-country line, accidentally blow up the entire refinery. As good as the script is, for various reasons, it never made it to the big screen. We hope to change that by inviting potential investors to the reading.

Our second Script to Screen event will be on October 29 at Rice Media Center at 7 p.m. We’ll be reading a script called Exurbia , by Kim Henkel of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame. Again, we’ll encourage as many potential investors as possible to attend. Depending on how things go, we’d like to aim for a reading a month. If you’re interested in participating in future readings, by all means send your electronic headshot and resume to Trish Avery at tavery@sag.org .

We’re thinking that it’s time to redefine what it means to be a union. Setting a standard in the workplace is important. But in today’s market we think that should just be the beginning. We’re working on a whole bunch of ideas, not just to prime the pump, but maybe even to create some pumps. If you feel like we do, that it’s time to carpe the dang diem, you’re more than welcome to sit in on our next meeting. Just shoot me an email at HoustonPresident@sag.org. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jim Huston
Houston SAG President

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD – BEYOND BETA

Pictured, from left, Guild members David Sobolov, David Anthony Pizzuto and Leif Anders at the Austin Game Developers Convention.

Screen Actors Guild actors, some of whom voice characters for the most popular video games in the nation, joined the 1,500 game developers, directors and sound designers who gathered in Austin September 5-7 at the Austin Game Developers Conference.

Texas is a strong market for gaming companies and gaming voice work. Experienced voiceover artists from Los Angeles and Austin joined local and national staff to expand our industry relationships.

“Our mission was to let the gamers know they can greatly increase the value of their product by using the professional talents of SAG voice performers,” said Trish Avery, assistant executive director of the DFW and Houston Branches. “Many of them were simply unaware of the possibility to use high-end talent under our Interactive Agreement.”

When given a choice between increasing their computer generated imagery budget or increasing their audio budget, many studio heads put their dollars on the voiceover artist to get more bang for their buck. Finding quality performers who can deliver creative performances in record time is essential to delivering a more pleasing gaming experience and better sales numbers. Union performers will be leading the way in this industry.

NATIONAL BOARD REPORT

Well, I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer as it comes to a close and we get ready for fall and winter -- what little we get in the “Great State of Texas.”

Hooray for the film incentives as a result of TXMPA’s efforts. I think passage of the incentive package has managed to keep Prison Break and Friday Night Lights around for another season. If you are not a member of TXMPA, please go to the website and sign up at www.txmpa.org.

If you happen to be the lucky one that gets an audition for one of these series, “Break a Leg.”

Henry G. Kana
National Board Member – Houston

EMMY AWARDS

Local SAG members are standing a little taller these days. Texas member August Schellenberg was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his performance as Sitting Bull in the HBO film Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Performances by Texas members in the NBC series Friday Night Lights also helped garner an "Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series" Emmy for location casting director Beth Sepko. The Guild members who were cast are Libby Villari, Brad Leland, Toby Metcalf, Matthew Greer, Kirk Griffith, Turk Pipkin, JP Schwan, Tim Crowley, Michael Waxman, Joseph Self, Jason Hunt, Steven Prince, Charles Mooneyhan, L Christina Mixon, Katherine Willis and Michael Costello.

Congratulations to all!

NO MEETIN’, JUST GREETIN’!

SAG is heading back to Stag’s Head for another round of networking Thursday, October 11, 5-7 p.m.. Get to know your fellow actors and talk biz over a glass of wine, beer or lemonade at the Stag’s Head Pub (Inner Loop), 2128 Portsmouth Street (at Richmond & Shepherd), Houston, TX 77098. Light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be available. If you fail to schmooze, you lose.

PRE-PRODUCTION IN TEXAS

How does work become union? Many times one only need ask. From commercials to features to industrials, Texas union members are learning the art of the dance and becoming their own best business partner. At an audition or a networking opportunity at the local Starbucks, a non-union producer may ask a union member, “How can I get you on my project?”

The answer? Simply call the SAG office. Local staff is dedicated to helping those who may not know our contracts navigate the not-so scary waters of becoming covered work. Our job is to help members get work, and SAG has contracts to cover almost every budget and medium in Texas. SAG members are learning they can be their own best advocates when it comes to creating work.

MYTH OR FACT?

MYTH:
SAG members are not allowed to audition for non-union work.

FACT:
SAG members can audition for any work. However, they must only accept work that is covered by a SAG contract.

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

Your safety! Never provide your Social Security number at auditions. Instead, use your membership identification number to ensure timely overtime payment. That keeps your personal data safe.

SCRIPT TO SCREEN PRESENTS

Houston professional performers, you are invited to watch your fellows present Casey Kelly’s Greener Pastures. There is no fee to attend. Seating is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Monday, September 24
6:30 p.m.
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau Auditorium
City Hall, Houston

WWC - MORE THAN A WICKED WATER CLOSET

Each season before negotiations begin on industry contracts, members are asked to participate in the WWC process – that’s the Wages and Working Conditions Committee process. This committee gathers valuable information from the members on how existing contracts are working and identifies important aspects that may need consideration. This information is then given to the national WWC Committees for consideration by the negotiating teams.

Without the local perspective, negotiators would have a skewed view of SAG work and the industry as a whole.

National negotiations for our widely used contracts -- Television/Theatrical and Commercials/Industrial -- will take place next year. Branches are gathering their information now in anticipation of these negotiations.

Don’t let your knowledge go down the drain. Participate in the Houston WWC process and provide your input on any of the SAG contracts. Send an email to tavery@sag.org by October 31 and say you want to be included in these discussions.

HELP SAG ORGANIZE SPANISH-LANGUAGE COMMERCIALS

The SAG Spanish Language Non-Union Commercials Reporting Hotline is now active! The toll-free telephone number is (888) 297- 4SAG (4724).

Do your part to help turn non-union jobs into SAG-covered jobs.

If you know about non-union Spanish language commercials that are being produced, call the hotline and leave as much information as possible about the non-union casting or non-union commercial production you are reporting. This includes the name of the advertiser, the advertising agency or production company, the audition dates, the pay rate, the location and the name of the casting director.

It is not required for you to leave your name or contact number. However, all information left on the hotline will be treated confidentially. The SAG Commercials Department will investigate the information and follow up.

Thank you for your solidarity and for helping create more SAG jobs.

WELCOME TO OUR NEWEST BRANCH MEMBERS

NEW MEMBERS: Robert Newell, Samuel Wyatt, Glen Powell, Sarah Guzick, Liam Evans, Juan Hagger, Chandler Canterbury.

TRANSFER MEMBERS: David Yarbrough, Jemma Evans, Dremaceo Giles, Rick Felkins, Paul Soileau, Giselle Marie Munoz, Korya Carvin, Michael Zagst, Pat Hazell, Mark J. Pilllow, Joseph Love, Davis Rushing.

CURRENT TEXAS PRODUCTION ACTIVITY

(This update is provided as a members-only service. Information is subject to change. Although these producers may have initiated signatory paperwork, always check with the office to make sure the project is fully signed before working.)

Texas Comedy – Ultra Low Budget
Don Worley
Location: Houston, TX
Start: September 15, 2007

40 Love – Low Budget Affirmative Action
Kiss Kiss Productions, LLC
Location: Austin, TX
Start: September 17, 2007
Casting: Lauren Bass

Doesn’t Texas Ever End – Low Budget Modified
Inner Vision Productions, LLC
Location: Austin, TX and Barstow, CA
Start: September 16, 2007

Resurrection County – Ultra Low Budget
Resurrection County, LLC
Location: Fort Smith, AR
Start: September 21, 2007

Bunnies – Low Budget
Cinema Lapiniere, DBA
Location: Austin, TX
Start: October 1, 2007
Casting: Peyton Heyslip

Street Cred – Ultra Low Budget
Digital Media Ranch, DBA
Location: Austin, Houston, San Antonio, TX
Start: October 1, 2007
Casting: Lew Carr

The Day the Music Died – Low Budget
Johnette Duff, DBA Potion Pictures
Location: Houston and Beaumont, TX
Start: October 15, 2007

Sorrenta – Theatrical
Sorrenta’s Lace, LLC
Location: El Paso, TX and Mexico
Start: October 15, 2007

Palo Pinto Gold – Ultra Low Budget
Cottonwood Entertainment, LLC
Location: Boerne, TX
Start: September 19, 2007

Little Beach Bums – Low Budget Modified
Angelblue Productions, LLC
Location: Houston
Start: November 1, 2007

Anything for Now – Ultra Low Budget
ATEN Film, LLC
Location: Austin, TX
Start: November 1, 2007

The Upper Room – Ultra Low Budget
Single Eye Pictures
Location: Austin, TX
Start: December 3, 2007

All Fall Down – Ultra Low Budget
Garrett Hargrove
Location: Austin, TX
Start: January 1, 2008

STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOU

We hope you’re enjoying your SAG e-newsletter. It’s designed to be a pipeline connecting Screen Actors Guild members from Houston to the Rio Grande. Send your comments, questions and suggestions for topics to Branch President Jim Huston at HoustonPresident@sag.org .