Houston 2008:07

Houston 2008:07

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GUILDA!

While she may not look a day over 39, the Guild – we’ll call her Guilda – will be 75 on June 30 (though we celebrated her birthday on the 21st.). Her scars, if she has any, have been well concealed, either by the surgeon’s knife, or by a short memory. But the stories she could tell.

While Guilda was not exactly conceived in the Wizard’s house, she does have a link to witchcraft and wizardry. Ralph Morgan, as instrumental as any in her conception, was the brother of the most famous wizard of all, Frank Morgan, a.k.a. The Great Oz. Guilda first became a glint in somebody’s eye in March of 1933 at the home of actor Kenneth Thomson in the Hollywood Hills. Apparently it was quite a party, comprised of “The Original Six,” an intrepid band of Actors' Equity actors. While her lineage may have been a bit obscure, it is clear that Guilda had a bit of stage blood in her yet unformed body.

After a brief gestation period, Guilda greeted the world on June 30, 1933. Ralph Morgan was her first daddy/president. It was tough in the early years. No one paid her much attention – certainly not the producers. Fortunately, Daddy Morgan had friends in high places, including Eddie Cantor, who was very close to the newly elected U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. It took a few years, but after the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, the producers finally agreed to work with baby Guilda in 1937.

Between 1938 and 1940, during his last two-year term as Guilda’s guardian, Ralph worked out a deal with her nanny nursemaids, the agents, enacting the first agency regulations. He also courageously fought off an attempt to kidnap Guilda by Hollywood goons taking orders from Chicago mob boss Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti.

Then there was WWII, which cost Guilda no small amount of blood. But she survived, and by 1947, she was feeling pretty robust, with good contracts and performers scrambling to be associated with her. Then the clouds began to gather. A committee called the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was formed, investigating communist influence in the labor unions, and many of Guilda’s members were heavily scrutinized.

Guilda’s then-daddy/president, Ronald Reagan, testified before HUAC but didn’t name names. Fear was everywhere. Guilda’s officers were required to take a "non-communist" pledge under the newly-passed Taft-Hartley Act. The blacklist had begun. Hundreds of people were prevented from working in the film industry. Lives were ruined. Guilda wept.

The dark days didn’t last, however, and Guilda carried on pretty much unmolested until the collapse of the old studio system and the advent of television. For a time, it looked like Guilda’s career might be in jeopardy, as movie attendance began to fall off dramatically. But Guilda, never one to accept defeat, with her sister AFTRA began to organize television. And once again she prospered. Guilda has been all about re-inventing herself ever since. Today, Guilda’s world is changing so rapidly she can barely keep up. She knows she’s going to have to adapt like never before, but Guilda is a survivor, and we look forward to another 75 years of unprecedented prosperity.

We wish Guilda all the best on her 75th, and we thank those who joined us on June 21st for the birthday celebration.

75th ANNIVERSARY ITEMS NOW AVAILABLE

Commemorate the 75th anniversary of Screen Actors Guild all year long with special items from thesagshop.com. Buy a T-shirt or polo and wear it proud.

AUSTIN CONSERVATORY ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL WORKSHOP

The Screen Actors Guild members living in Austin are a growing part of the Houston branch and have decided to extend their reach by announcing the formation of the SAG Austin Conservatory.

With inspiration from member Steve Bilich, SAG Austin Conservatory Committee members Jim Huston, Tommy Kendrick, Pamela Dean Kenny, Christian Mixon, Marco Perella, Chris Sykes and Pamela Weaver are happy to announce the formation of the committee and its mission to educate area actors on the business and show of show business.

The SAG Austin Conservatory is planning their first workshop for Monday, July 21. This iActor workshop will be for SAG members to discover the simplicity of the iActor tool for actors and casting directors. Members will be able to upload their headshots, resumes and media to SAG.org, viewable at any time by casting directors and producers nationwide.

Further details on the workshop will be coming soon. Don’t want to be left out? Make sure we have your current contact info at SAG.org. To RSVP for this event, call Trish Avery at (972) 361-8185 or e-mail tavery@sag.org.

DUES REMINDER

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 vote in the upcoming election or be eligible 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 Membership Coordinator Eileen Neel at (800) SAG-0767, option 3, or via e-mail at eneel@sag.org.

SAG SCHMOOZER

SAG members, continue to network and stay connected to what's happening in the business. Get plugged into the market by joining your fellow members:

When: Thursday, July 31
5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Where: The Luling Lounge
138 West Gray in Midtown

Enjoy simple hors d'oeuvers, cash bar and free parking. See you there!

CASTING DIRECTOR SPEAKS OUT ON iACTOR

We work in such a fast-paced electronic world. There are already some great sites, such as iActor and Actors Access, but so many of the Web-based actor sites that I have seen are not legit and are just about taking money from hopeful actors and extras. But I know that when I go to iActor, I won’t be wasting my time. I will be using a legitimate service with real SAG actors.

Jo Edna Boldin
505 Studio Works

iACTOR AUTOMATES THE STATION 12 CAST CLEARANCE PROCESS

Available to all casting directors nationwide, iActor now provides an added service for the casting director – the automated Station 12 cast clearance process. This gives the casting director the ability to search through members’ headshots, resumes, media and clear talent for work – 24 hours, seven days a week.
iActor is simple, functional, convenient and free. As a member on iActor, you can update your headshots and resumes any time of day or night, e-mail directly to casting directors or producers and view your information at any time.

Are you up on iActor? Don’t miss out. It’s only your career!

SAG OR SAG ELIGIBLE – WHAT DOES YOUR RESUME SAY?

By Tommy Kendrick
SAG member

[Editor's Note: The article below is reprinted with permission from Kendrick's http://www.txactor.com blog. The Guild is not responsible for nor makes any representations as to its content.]

Recently, I wrote a piece in my blog asking for input from actors about the issues of being a SAG member vs. being "SAG eligible."
So far, I haven’t heard from any actors who want to offer their input. To be fair, many actors who might reply probably have no idea my website exists. But, since I first posted my "call for opinions," the site has been viewed several thousand times, and maybe some actors will chime in eventually.

I first got interested in this issue because I kept seeing "SAG eligible" on actors' resumes when at auditions. I remember being a little annoyed when I first saw this label at the top of a resume. It struck me as saying, "I want the credit. I just don’t want to pay the price." Maybe that’s too harsh.

But, either you’re in SAG, or you’re not.

In or out doesn’t necessarily mean squat about an actor’s talent and, in our market, it means almost nothing about an actor’s professional experience. But membership does come at a price. Pretend membership does not.

Let me say up front that I have good friends who are SAG eligible and have chosen not to join SAG–yet. I have no animosity toward those friends or any other actors in that situation. However, I make no apology for being adamantly in favor of SAG membership. I’ve been a SAG member for many years, and that, no doubt, colors my thinking on the matter.

I thought it would help to have some way to relate the number of SAG member actors in Central Texas to the number of represented actors who advertise themselves as "SAG eligible." That has proved a little more difficult than I had hoped.

According to an official at SAG, there are approximately 450 SAG members residing in Austin and San Antonio. Frankly, that number seems a bit high to me, but that’s the number I’ve been given, so I’ll use it. I tried to poll area agents to get an idea of how many SAG and SAG eligible actors they represent. That effort wasn’t very successful, I’m afraid.

Therefore, I’m not sure how many "SAG eligible" actors reside in the Austin/San Antonio area. I do know that a quick survey of just one Austin agent’s website shows that particular agent represents almost 150 actors who identify themselves as being "SAG eligible." That’s one third of the reported Central Texas SAG membership, and that’s only one agent’s talent roster.

The decision to join SAG in a right-to-work state, particularly a state where one is never forced to join the Guild regardless of the amount of work performed, is certainly not an easy one. So I guess it’s not surprising to see actors who ostensibly qualify for SAG membership tout themselves as being "SAG eligible."
It’s a way to "rub up against" SAG membership without making the commitment– financial or otherwise.

It’s not that difficult to understand the mindset of actors who can legally work both union and non-union productions. Some of the rationale often heard includes:

There isn’t enough SAG and AFTRA work in this market to make a decent living.

For most regional actors, this is unfortunately true. For most actors in any market, making a middle class income is very difficult. But, I suspect there will always be a lack of SAG and AFTRA work in our market as long as there is a ready supply of talented, experienced, SAG eligible actors who remain non-union so they won’t lose out on any possible work. Which comes first, more SAG actors or more SAG work?

Why cut out a significant portion of the possible work, even low-paying work, by joining SAG and taking myself out of the non-union work pool?

This line of thought makes sense for the beginning actor who wants a professional career or for a hobbyist who has no professional aspirations.

It takes time to develop into a professional caliber actor. It takes experience and practice.

Joining SAG too soon can be a mistake for the young or new actor of any age. That’s a great benefit to working in a right-to-work state. The actor is not forced to join the Guild before they are really ready to compete as a professional actor.

That said, declining to join when your resume is replete with professional credits is another matter.

I live in a right-to-work state. The law allows me to work on SAG productions and get SAG wages and working conditions without joining SAG. I can get SAG pension and health benefits without joining SAG, too. If it’s legal to do that, why would I pay money for initiation fees and dues to a union? That sounds dumb to me.

Personal and professional ethics do exist–even in the movie biz. Sometimes doing the "right thing" means taking action that some people will say is "dumb." Is it right to take benefits secured by SAG actors’ collective bargaining agreements, fueled by their initiation fees and dues payments and never give anything back to the organization of fellow actors that secured those benefits for you?

Even if I join SAG, I can still work non-union because of right-to-work laws.

That’s not correct. If you join SAG, you are agreeing to adhere to Rule One, which states that SAG members will not work for non-signatory producers.

I want to join SAG someday. But right now, it’s too expensive. I’ll join before I go to L.A.

Wow. Thanks for your support for the local acting community. Particularly the SAG actors who live and work here. I’ve heard this line a hundred times. I guess it’s okay to take all you can get while you’re here, but when it comes time to move to ‘the big time’ then you’ll suck it up and pay the freight.

How do you decide when you are a professional, or when you’re professional enough to take the SAG plunge?

Here are some questions to ponder:

Do you spend a significant amount of your time working to become a better actor?

You’re on the right track.

Does your agent regularly call you for auditions or is an audition a "once in a great long while, out of the blue, surprise" kind of thing?
If your agent hasn’t called you in weeks or months, and you haven’t called the agent either, then you’re probably not too serious about an acting career. You probably don’t belong in SAG.

Have you canceled travel plans, celebrations or surgery rather than miss an audition?

Okay. You are serious about this acting thing. SAG should be in your future.

Have you ever answered “new headshots” when asked what you want for your birthday?

If you haven’t, please take the words ‘SAG eligible’ off your resume.

Do you consider a copy of the final project to be adequate payment for your contribution to a film or video project?

Nothing wrong with this. Especially if you’re trying to gain experience and looking for tape or film for a demo reel. Just understand that most projects that advertise this as your payment never get finished and you never get the promised footage. If these are the type of projects you’re pursuing, you’re probably not ready for SAG membership.

Are all or most of your credits in amateur productions, university or commercial film school productions, where no one is paid?

You’re doing what you should be doing to gain experience. Keep working and look forward to the day you become a professional, SAG actor.

How many credits for paid work does it take before an actor should consider himself or herself a professional?

I don’t know the answer.

How many credits go on the resume before the term "SAG eligible’"appears under the actor’s name?

I suspect that happens after the very first job in a SAG signatory production.

Whatever the number of credits, mindsets or other criteria an actor employs, there comes a time when an actor who is regularly competing for paying jobs will surely identify himself or herself as a professional. That's when casting directors, agents and other industry professionals will do likewise. Maybe that’s the time to consider changing that label at the top of the resume from "SAG eligible" to "SAG member."

WELCOME TO OUR NEWEST BRANCH MEMBERS

NEW MEMBERS: Markus Langhans, Meredith Miniat and Julian Riano.

TRANSFERS: Darra Robertson, Paul L Ehrmann, Walter Flanagan, Charles Wiedman, Kristie Hendrickson, Teddy Joe Ryan, Melissa Meghann Brent, Ikenna Nwankwo, Amy Lynn Kramberger, Angela Bettis, Gregg Hedtke, Cabrina Finn, Jay Kopita, Ben Stafford Rodgers, Doran Ingrham, Cruce Saunders, Will C. Hazlett, Carlos Compean, Cheryl Marie Wheeler, Heather Hollingsworth, Don Barnes, Gene Soucy, Kathleen Denney, Jerry Sesco, Will Anderson, Amy Atchley, Jeff Van Blaricom, Park Jarrett, Timothy Leigh Williams, Zoe Rodriguez, Lindsey Nix and Rod Porter.

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 SAG office to make sure the project is fully signed before working.)

Friday Night Nights – TV series
NBC Studios Inc.
Location: Austin, TX
Start: July 2008
Casting: Beth Sepko

Prayer Hour – Internet series
Prayer Hour Ministries, Inc.
Location: Houston, TX
Start: January 1, 2008-2009
Casting: Don Worley

Americana
Rachel Gibson Shepherd
Location: Arlington, TX
Start: June 15, 2008
Casting: Rachel Gibson Shepherd

Kick The Can –Theatrical
Kick the Can LLC
Location: Austin, TX
Start: June 16, 2008
Casting: Liz Destro

The Abductors – Ultra Low Budget
The Abductors LLC
Location: Dallas, TX
Start: June 20, 2008

STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOU

We hope you’re enjoying your 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.