Houston 2011:04

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The Official E-Newsletter of the Houston Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Houston Branch
April 2011


Trish Avery
Houston Branch Executive Director

Each year, the Austin Film Society presents the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards, honoring Texans and non-Texans who have made significant contributions to filmmaking and the Texas entertainment industry. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the ceremonies and network with those in and out of the industry.

This year's acceptance speeches from honorees Rip Torn, Renee Zellweger, members of Spoon and the cast and crew of Friday Night Lights recognized the contributions of those who work tirelessly to increase opportunities for professionals living in Texas. Many gave heartwarming speeches urging state legislators to continue their support of the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program and the growing Texas market.

John Hawkes (Academy and SAG Award nominee for Winter’s Bone) accepted the Rising Star Award and paid special tribute to the local community and the talented Texans who have helped him over the years. John called many of his Austin friends by name in his acceptance speech, including SAG Council member Marco Perella.

Congratulations to the honorees and the many who help to create work worthy of these awards in the collaborative art of film and television.

SXSW All Grown Up at 25

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the SXSW festival, which has embraced all things media, music and interactive. Seen as the place to foster startup development and innovation, SXSW overlapped its film, interactive and music tracks this year, and saw a 20 percent increase in attendance.

We all waited to see what new technology or trend would emerge, since both Twitter and Foursquare were introduced at previous SX fests. It soon became clear. This year’s festival was all about instant access — to everything. “Convergence,” “crowdsourcing” and “transmedia” were the buzzwords, while actors, distributors, marketers and musicians all interacted in a rich environment of creative work.

Anyone who attends SX knows it can be a bit of a zoo, but the trade show floor is the place to connect with members and introduce SAG contracts to potential employers. Once again, your Texas staff joined SAGindie and New Media staff at the SAG trade show booth to answer questions and build relationships. When not on the trade show floor, we spent time networking with the newest industry players in panel discussions and Texas film screenings. Our SAGindie/WGA West reception also helped facilitate conversations between local Austin members and festival attendees, and was well attended.

Surprisingly, of the film, music and interactive media programs, the SX Film track is the smallest of the three. However, it boasted more than 250 screenings, plus panels that covered everything from the 4/3-inch video cameras to directing and casting myths. The Texas SAG film Natural Selection from Robbie Pickering won the 2011 Grand Jury prize in the Narrative Feature competition and the Audience Award. Other SAG winners at SXSW included 96 Minutes, Silver Bullets, Green and Pioneer.

It’s clear that at 25, SXSW has learned the art of creating a worldwide community of artists and growing artistry in an ever-expanding market. It’s crucial that SAG be included in that community.


Casting director Karen Hallford will share her expertise with seasoned actors in the Austin area on Sunday, April 17. Karen’s casting credentials include commercials and film casting, including the recent SXSW winning entry Natural Selection. Space is limited for this intensive workshop.
When: 1–5 p.m., Sunday,
April 17
Where: ACPA
908 E 5th Street, #106
Austin, 78702
Cost: Free for Austin Actors Conservatory Members ($25/year)
$20 for Fans of Austin Actors Conservatory
Forward your headshot and resume to Trish Avery at trish.avery@sag.org to reserve your seat.

The 2011 season for AAC promises another year of events to help you hone your skills, learn the contracts and create work opportunities. SAG and AFTRA members can join the Austin Actors Conservatory for $25 and attend any of the events for free. To see the 2011 AAC schedule of events, click here. Join the Austin Actors Conservatory and watch your network grow.


The SAG Houston Conservatory joins AFTRA and AEA to host an informational seminar on understanding health care reform for all artists and entertainers, presented by the Actors Fund. Save the date.
When: 1–3 p.m., Saturday, May 14
Where: Main Stage Theater
2540 Times Boulevard (in Rice Village), Houston
Parking: Arrive early to allow for parking. Street meter parking has two-hour limits.  
Village Arcade parking garage at Kelvin and Amherst has a $10 fee upon exit, but you can get validation from any Village Arcade Restaurant. Public parking at Kelvin and Bolsover is $1–2 an hour at prepaid meter stations.
Cost: Free


It’s time to update our SAG Stunt Performer Directory for 2011. Are you listed? Click here to determine if you are included or if your information is still current.

To request a change or add your information to the directory, request a Stunt Performer form from Sheila Cooper at sheila.cooper@sag.org or call (800) 724-0767, option 7 or (214) 379-1171. 

The Time is Now

Robert Nelson
Houston President and National Board Member

As budget problems continue to plague many other states, we in Texas are in a perfect position to capitalize on the potential loss or cutback of incentives in some of the most generous states. I have named just a few competitors and the problems they face:

New Mexico – Facing caps and deferred payments.
Michigan – Currently one of the most generous, the governor wants to put caps on incentives.
New Jersey – Their incentives have been suspended.
Georgia – Recommended elimination of incentive program.

The time is right for Texas to come out of the wilderness and become competitive again, as even California, with all of its budget problems, is offering incentives to keep production there and lure lost production back. Study after study has shown that incentives return more in direct revenue than they cost the taxpayer. Even Michigan, with its high subsidies, sees a return of $5.98 for each dollar spent.

Now is the time to invest in the film industry in Texas. The current incentive program in Texas allows for rebates for wages or expenses from 5 percent to 29.25 percent, depending on total wages. I urge every member to continue to tell your representatives to consider making the film incentives program here more competitive. As was seen in New Jersey with the suspension of their program, the producers will go where the money is.

For information on how to contact your state representative regarding the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program, go to txmpa.org and click on Contact Your Legislator. 

Robert Nelson and Natasha Fissiak

Robert Nelson and HCC Filmmakers Program student Natasha Fissiak

Student Filmmakers

Last year, along with training and support, we gave student filmmakers in the Houston Community College Filmmakers Program the opportunity to use SAG members for their projects with student contracts. I was invited recently to the annual college awards show, where I was able to present an award to the first student to sign a contract with SAG. I was told by the student, Natasha Fissiak, how much better she thought her project was by having the ability to use professional actors who, besides being able to deliver a great performance, gave her considerable instruction in setting up shots and directing actors. Ms. Fissiak, a talented and dedicated filmmaker, was a short-film finalist at the Gulf Coast Film Festival last fall and confided in me she will never shoot a film without SAG talent. Kudos Natasha!

Houston viewing parties

SAG Awards Show Viewing Parties — A Tri-City Success

For the first time in our history, Houston, Austin and Dallas all hosted Screen Actors Guild Awards viewing parties, with net proceeds benefiting the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. The parties were unique in that all three cities were linked via the Internet to share the viewing experience of the live TNT telecast. Our Texas parties welcomed more than 400 people and contributed almost $9,000 to TXMPA. Viewing parties are already planned for 2012, with other Texas cities expressing interest in hosting, as well.

A special thanks to our SAG Awards Viewing Party Chairs Bob Boudreaux in Houston and Mindy Raymond in Austin. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Austin viewing parties

Master Class with Beth Sepko

Casting director Beth Sepko held a members-only Master Class in January for SAG and AFTRA members. A double Emmy nominee for her work on Friday Night Lights and the HBO movie Temple Grandin, she shared her expertise with seasoned professionals in Houston. Austin members will also have the opportunity to meet with Beth one-on-one through the Austin Actors Conservatory August 21 workshop. Save the date.

Beth Sepko
Casting Director Beth Sepko

Current Texas Production Activity

The Guild has been contacted by these productions 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) 724-0767, option 7, or (214) 379-1171.

24/7 Casting Notices at Your Fingertips

Texas Branch members can now get up-to-the-minute information on Texas and regional castings. Go to Twitter.com and ask to join the TxSAGNetwork. This is a members-only site providing casting information and notices to SAG members around the clock. Adjust your own setting to keep your information private, if you choose, and enable your mobile device to send the information directly to you. Sign up, stay tuned and break a leg!

Paying Dues Online and Paperless Billing

SAG announces a new addition to member services with paperless billing and online dues paying features. It’s easy to pay your dues today! Learn more here.

Why bother? Only active members are able to serve on the council or committees, register on iActor and vote for the SAG Awards. If you have any questions regarding your dues, please contact the Membership Department at (800) 724-0767, prompt 2. 

paperless billing

Get Involved

The Houston Branch covers a lot of territory in South Texas, from Houston and Corpus Christi to San Antonio and Austin, not to mention Galveston, Smithville, College Station and points in between. 

The Houston Branch Council provides direction and leadership for the entire Branch and welcomes any and all who wish to participate at the committee level throughout South Texas. If you are interested in getting involved in your area, please contact Trish Avery at trish.avery@sag.org or call (800) 724-0767, option 7 or (214) 379-1171.