Houston 2010:08

The Official E-Newsletter of the Houston Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Houston Branch
August 2010

SAG AND AFTRA CHART
COURSE FOR SEPT. 27

Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will begin joint negotiations of the TV/Theatrical and Exhibit A Contracts on September 27.  These talks with management will represent the culmination of a multi-step process involving crucial feedback from members who work these contracts. Here’s where we stand, and where we go from here:

1. We have just completed the initial Wages and Working Conditions process, also known as the W&W. From coast to coast, Guild and AFTRA members and staff jointly held committee meetings and caucuses with the purpose of putting together proposals to be negotiated with the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

2. All the proposals gathered from around the country will be taken and presented to the Joint SAG/AFTRA W&W Plenary Committee. This is a national committee populated by 26 members (13 members from SAG and 13 members from AFTRA). This committee is charged with the daunting task of reviewing and discussing each and every proposal received during the W&W process. With staff’s recommendations, it will create a tentative package of proposals that it can recommend to the Joint National Boards of SAG and AFTRA for approval.

3. The national boards of SAG and AFTRA will meet in joint session to debate and ultimately vote on the recommended proposal package sent to them by the Joint W&W Plenary Committee. Motions that give guidance to the chief negotiators and the Negotiating Committee will be approved at this time as well. After a proposal package is approved, it will then be exchanged with the AMPTP for their proposal package.

4. The negotiations themselves will occur in late September, as mentioned. If the negotiations result in a tentative agreement, then we will come to our final step.

5. The tentative agreement will be sent to the memberships of both unions in a referendum on whether to accept or decline the tentative agreement. This usually occurs within 30 days of the end of negotiations, during which time membership meetings are held in cities across America to answer the memberships’ questions and to explain the deal points.

“These negotiations won’t be easy; there are serious bread and butter issues at stake,” said Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard in a letter to members in the upcoming summer issue of Screen Actor. “We are still recovering from a historic economic downturn and our industry continues to grapple with changes that have put pressure on all of us. But these challenges are all the more reason we must work together – and stand together – to protect actors and strengthen our future."

BOARD RECEIVES REPORT

ON PRESIDENTS' FORUM

At Screen Actors Guild’s one-day plenary in Los Angeles and New York on July 24, President Ken Howard reported to the National Board of Directors regarding the formation of The Presidents’ Forum for One Union – a joint platform with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to facilitate development of a process that can lead SAG and AFTRA to form one autonomous union.
 
Screen Actors Guild’s contingent to The Presidents’ Forum will consist of six SAG members including President Howard as chair, Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino, and four additional members selected from the Guild’s SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force. The forum will include a similar group designated by AFTRA, including AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and AFTRA National Treasurer Matt Kimbrough.
 
President Howard said, “This is a positive step toward uniting SAG and AFTRA and good news for our members. The creation of a single performers’ union is overdue, and I’m pleased to be working with Roberta Reardon, who’s been such a champion of that goal.”

 

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RBD OFFICERS BACK MERGER

The Screen Actors Guild Regional Branch Division Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse the creation of one union to cover all performers at the Regional Branch Division Conference on May 22 in Washington, D.C.

Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard, who was in attendance with Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino, said, “The Regional Branch Division of Screen Actors Guild is the vital and important voice of our membership in the Branches. I’m pleased that they so strongly endorsed the idea of one union for all performers.”

The RBD includes 20 Branches spanning from Boston to Hawaii. Nearly 28,000 Screen Actors Guild members who work in film and television live in the Regional Branches.

TRUMKA ADDRESSES
SAG LEADERS

Also at the Regional Branch Division Conference, the nation’s top union leader, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, addressed Branch leaders.

“SAG does such a great job of representing performing artists and is also doing more than ever as part of our entire union movement,” Trumka told the audience. “SAG’s active support of all workers’ rights has been crucial in helping us keep labor issues in the spotlight.”

Trumka’s address touched on important issues to SAG members including digital theft, so-called “right to work” states, and the power of political and legislative activism to enact laws to protect SAG members and win tax incentives to increase production work.

SAG President Ken Howard remarked, “When it comes to the entertainment industry, we have no better friend in labor. President Trumka gets our issues.”

WELCOME NEW AND 

TRANSFER MEMBERS

New: Adam Barnett, Stephanie Hunt, Kelly K Jackson, Deborah Leal, Matt Schulte
 
Transfers-in: Kimberly Ardison, Wayne Arrants, Britt Barrett, Allison Ford, Laura Galt, Jennifer Leonhardt, Mykle McCoslin, Yvette Marie, Elie Massarra, Brittany Olson, Joey Principe, Susan Thornburgh

CURRENT TEXAS
PRODUCTION ACTIVITY

The Guild has been contacted by the following productions (log in to view) about becoming signatory to one of our collective bargaining agreements. These producers may not have completed the signatory process at this time. It's the responsibility of each member to confirm each producer has signed the applicable contract before making an agreement to render services. Failure to confirm the signatory status before rendering services may lead to disciplinary charges being filed. If you have any questions, please contact the office at (800) SAG-0767, option 7, or (214) 379-1171.

A Message from the Branch President

 

By Robert Nelson

Here in Texas, we are preparing for another round of state elections for governor and other representatives. It is time to revisit where we stand as a state in our ability to compete with others for film and media production. Although it is apparent our current incentives are working, we need to show the Legislature the importance of increasing those incentives to keep Texans employed.

Across the country, other states have been aggressively competing for film production through the use of production incentives. One complaint by the anti-incentive crowd has always been the lack of return to the state economy for the amount given. Several comprehensive studies have been completed and the results have shown that, YES, the proper film incentives DO provide the economic benefit to justify the incentive. The University of Rhode Island did a multi-year study, and to quote Dr. Edward M. Mazze, "The Motion Picture Tax Credit was, and is, critical to the film and television production industry in Rhode Island, and vital to the state's economy… The economic benefits of the tax credit far outweigh the state's investment in the program."

Other states have discovered similar results in studies in Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts and Georgia.  As a result, these states have increased their incentive programs, even in the face of strong opposition, and are now enjoying the rewards for their efforts.

I think we often get diverted with arguments about building infrastructure, studios and other such things. While we engage in that sort of talk around the coffee house, Louisiana is quietly siphoning off Texas film work with a superior incentive program. If we want to attract business to Texas, we need to provide a financial incentive to come here. That is the bottom line. 

Join our friends at the Texas Motion Picture Alliance (txmpa.org) in our bid to compete with other states through incentives. That is the only way we will bring Texas back to its rightful status as the “Third Coast” of filmmaking.

Casting Director's Advice


By Dolores Jackson
Dolores Jackson Casting

Writing about the audition process is difficult for me. My thoughts on it change quite often, usually after every job. I started out as an actor, so I know how strange and wonderful an audition can be. I like to think that I do everything I can to make it as painless a process as possible, but I know it will always be a difficult experience for you. It would be so very easy for me to go on a tirade about all the things actors do that annoy me. I could fill pages, write a book, vent on my Facebook site, and it may or may not be helpful to you. According to SAG, you are a professional. You are just like a doctor, lawyer, or any other business owner. Webster defines a professional as one with a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation. Could that be said of you? I’ll give you three big steps to start with.

Be yourself. When I ask people why they want to act, one of the most popular responses I get is, “Because I enjoy being someone else.” Too many of you are not comfortable being yourself. If I can’t get you to be real and be yourself, why on earth would I entrust the life of someone else to you? When I ask you to tell me about yourself, speak confidently and knowledgeably about YOU. Tell me your interests outside of the acting profession. Don’t tell me you’re an actor. Don’t recite your credits to me or tell me that acting is your passion. That’s a given or you wouldn’t be here. Tell me what you love about your life, what makes you tick or brings you joy. Tell me who you are right now, not who you wish you were. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you set the room at ease.

Be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto. It means be prepared for life. Live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. I think it applies to every profession, including actors, yet this is the one with the most offenders. I do my best to give you everything you need to do your job - script and/or storyboard, character breakdown, plot line, director’s notes, photographs, etc. Yet, inevitably, you won’t use them to your advantage. If you needed an operation, and the surgeon walked into the room and hadn’t bothered to examine you, hadn’t read your chart and your history, hadn’t taken the time to prepare himself for your procedure, would you want him to grab a knife and start cutting you open? I doubt it. It’s the same with an actor. It’s your job to do the work ahead of time and be prepared to walk into the room ready to give me your absolute best.

Be positive. For some reason, people tend to want to play the negative in their scene or tell me negative things about the audition or the process. I don’t want to hear about what a hard time you had finding the casting facility, how your printer wouldn’t work so you couldn’t print your script, how you didn’t have time to look anything over. All of that negative energy carries over into your audition. It’s interesting how many will take a scene or an improvisational bit and use the negative to start conflict with their scene partners. Playing the obvious reeks of amateur talent. It takes a strong, confident, experienced pro to be comfortable playing it simple, holding a little something back, using their energy wisely and delivering the right moment at the right time.

You should know that I want to hire you. I want you to make my job easy. Walk in the room and be the one I would have no qualms about sending to work on a set. Be a professional.

conservatory readers twilight nation

Back row: writers Chris Engen and Philip Daay, cast members Sam Shipp,  Gareth McClain, Paul Smith, Dimitrius Pulido, Whis Grant, Bethlyn Gerard, David Scott Heck;  
Second row: cast members Patrick Kelly, Mindy Raymond, Mykle McCoslin, Grayson Berry, Dean Vanetek. Front row kneeling and sitting: sound producer David Pencil, cast member Frank West, AAC chair-producer-casting assistant Pamela Weaver and her grandson-P.A. helper Alex Obando, director Val Gameiro and script supervisor-stage manager Angela Lee

Script to Screen Reads
Twilight Nation

 

The Austin Script to Screen Team created something new in their on-going series of professional script live reads – a look at a TV series. Twilight Nation, written by Philip Daay and Chris Engen was presented at St. Edwards University on June 6 before an industry-wide audience. Twilight Nation is a unique script set in the Old West with a connection to the afterlife. This read was directed by area producer/director Val Gamiero, with music and effects by David Pencil, script supervising by Angela Lee and performances from professionals of the western genre from as far away as Oklahoma.

This on-going series of Script to Screen reads helps bridge the gap between producers, writers and performers in helping to test the market and create synergy for future work.  For more information on the writers or future Script to Screen reads, contact Trish Avery at trish.avery@sag.org or call (214) 379-1171.

New Dawn, New Day,
New Digs


By Linda Dowell
Regional Branch Division Executive Director

Do you know those times when you feel like you are going in circles?

I had that feeling recently as I sat with a group of energized SAG members talking strategically about the marketplace and about ways in which we can grow the work opportunities for our members.

Every few years, this seems to happen. A group of inspired leaders step up to the plate to say, “Hey, how can I contribute to our growth and make things happen for union actors here in Texas?” Some may say going in circles is pointless, but I see it differently. I look at these moments as new dawns. As not only a time to reflect on where we are, but more importantly, where we want to be and what it will take to get us there. Without these periods where we circle back together to focus our efforts on our mission and our big-picture initiatives, we would remain stagnant in an ever-changing production environment. We would lose what we gain and waste opportunity to use the creative ideas that typically spawn from these discussions. The circle would unravel, and we would find ourselves sliding downward.

Become part of the inner loop. Join us in our leadership discussions and you will find you learn a lot about the Houston marketplace and just how much your fellow members care about the profession and improving the livelihoods of those working here. Perhaps contribute to one of our designated teams or committees and see what’s possible when members come together to make things happen. Play a role in supporting our efforts to improve standards for all performers.

The Texas Moving Image Incentive Program, passed by the legislature in 2007 and funded in 2009, has brought much business to Texas. Television pilots and series, film projects, animation, video games and commercials have all reaped the benefit of this successful program and work opportunities are up as a result. While Texas is again one of the hottest production destinations in the country, we cannot take the incentive for granted. With the approaching 2011 legislative session, it will be essential for the industry to come together to fight for an adequate allocation of dollars to continue to bring business to the state. To find out what you can do to help, go to txmpa.org, or give me a call at (214) 379-1171.

The incentive program has meant big business and some big-budget projects, but Texas still remains a hotbed for low budget film production and new media work. Most of these projects are produced by local filmmakers, and many of them are producing for the first time. As much as we (your staff) try to get out into the production associations and college film departments to share information on our contracts, it remains a responsibility of every member to ensure that when you work, you work under the protection of one of our contracts. One member recently believed a producer who said, “Oh, sure, I’m working with SAG and everything is taken care of.” Yet, the member did not sign a SAG Performer Contract and there was no SAG Production Time Report to sign at the end of each day.

Staff should have heard from this member before ever showing up on set, but unfortunately, we did not, and the member is now being investigated for a Rule One violation. It may sound harsh and unreasonable to enforce Rule One for a low-paying (or even no pay) gig for a friend producing a webisode or short film, but realize that if members willingly perform without a contract, there’s no need for contracts and no need for this union. Our sliding scale approach works for low-budget filmmakers and gives members the opportunity to work with the basic protections you deserve — i.e. standard working conditions and a residual structure should there be additional (and sometimes profitable) distribution. Please take Rule One seriously – it only takes a phone call to staff to know whether the project is cleared and OK for you to work.

Finally, I am thrilled to share with you that we have moved from our executive suite of five years to a more permanent location and are happy to have a space we can truly call home. AFTRA has moved into an adjoining office, which effectively makes our space the roost where unions rule! Trish Avery, the Houston executive, will continue to travel to Houston to support our members one-on-one throughout South Texas. If you have questions about her travel schedule, don’t hesitate to contact her.

New office location:
15110 Dallas Parkway, Suite 440
Dallas, TX  75248
(800) 724-0767, option 7
(877) 334-7276