Mark your calendars for the Nevada Membership Meeting
Bonus Event: Background Actors Workshop, “Background 101”
Time: 12 p.m. Sign-in for “Background 101” (Open to the Public and Free)
12:30-2 p.m. “Background 101” workshop (Space is limited)
2-4 p.m. Membership Meeting (All SAG members*)
Date: Sunday, September 17, 2006
Place: Tropicana Hotel and Casino, 3801 Las Vegas Boulevard South, South Pacific Room
(702) 739-2222 (Tropicana phone# for directions)
Please join your fellow SAG Members, Council and Executive Director in welcoming our special guest, Screen Actors Guild Production Services Senior Manager Terri Becherer, for an informative afternoon. Terri is responsible for all SAG Background Actor issues in Television and Theatrical productions. Her presentation is vitally important for all background actors and will cover all of the background issues you may have experienced or ever wondered about. All questions will be answered.
Following the workshop, the Nevada SAG Branch will hold its Membership Meeting. Results from the SAG Nevada Branch elections will be announced.
*All “active” SAG members will be permitted to attend. A parent may accompany a child member. In order to gain entrance to the membership meeting, you must present your SAG membership card.
If you have any questions, please contact our office at: 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 or reach us toll-free at (800) SAG-0767, prompt #7, or email Mr. Messerlian at email@example.com.
If you have any comments or suggestions with regard to Nevada e-News, please contact Nevada Executive Director Hrair Messerlian at (800) SAG-0767 or via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your input.
First off, this is a vital time in Guild history and a time to take care in comments, votes and actions. Many of the national board votes fall close to 52% to 48%, the same as the division of membership between Hollywood and the rest of the country. Composition of the National Board is approximately 52% from Hollywood, with the remainder being from New York and the Regional Branch Divisions. There are ways to ensure that SAG remains a truly national union.
Several years back Guild communications were curtailed for budgetary reasons. The failure of a merger vote with AFTRA, failure of a proposed dues increase, restructuring of the union Constitution and board, and increasing cultural differences between the three divisions of the union (Hollywood, Regional Branches, and New York) have greatly impacted the freedom, nature and frequency of our ability to communicate with each other. Several key board members, including a national Vice President, have seen their work censored, rewritten, delayed or through legal intimidation altered. The infrequency of my reports is based partially on limitations placed on my ability to transmit my observations, feelings or perspective of the issues to you, as a Nevada Branch member. My reports go through many drafts, reviewed by legal, Communications and others within the staff of the Guild. I am going to share as much as I am allowed to share in this electronic newsletter today. Please continue reading.
It is vital you get as many union members to pay their union dues well before the October 31 deadline. Future board allocation of votes will depend on the number of dues-current members in each branch as of that date, with no exception for late payments. This affects not only the strength of our vote on the National Board, but may change the distribution of votes on the board, on every committee and in key decision making positions. It is important that every member be paid up on time for this October dues period. Mail checks in advance before you receive a notice or pay online at www.sag.org.
In branches where members and staff call people and remind them to renew, there has been a consistent growth in paid membership each dues period. Contact those you know and remind them to pay their dues early. We all will benefit from you taking a few minutes to make the calls.
Talk SAG members into transferring to the Nevada Branch. Also evangelize for qualified non-union/pre-union talent to take the step of pride and join our branch. It will affect the future of the union in many vital ways. We are the strength of the depth and width of the talent pool to meet producers' needs. It is not about competition between SAG talent, it is about increasing SAG work by having a good depth and width in our talent pool, in other words who and what the producers need when they need it!
We are labor. We are the actors and talent of Screen Actors Guild, a union that protects our wages and working conditions and as best as is possible in today’s anti-union climate, works on our behalf to organize and create new work opportunities.
We are not a club, casting agency, school or social group.
Producers, directors and casting directors of any kind, and those who work for them in any capacity except as talent, are management. They have vested interests in holding down costs while increasing both their own and management’s profits.
While you may not hear much from your officers and council, be aware that they do work for you and are involved in both national and local committees and in considering issues in the interest of all of us as members of Screen Actors Guild.
All Nevada Branch officers and council serve as alternates to the National Board of Directors. When they choose to serve, they must do so with a willingness to remain well informed about union and industry affairs, and to avoid any conflict of interests that may interfere with serving the membership. All of our elected leadership serves with the full knowledge that because we are involved in issues involving Federal Labor Law, much of what we discuss and almost everything discussed in the boardroom remains confidential because it involved employees of the Guild, contract negotiation strategies or Guild financial information. All of these contain information that can be used against the union by management. We are labor, the workers, the quality talent that makes for quality productions by saving the producer time and money not through low salaries, but through professionalism on the set and realistic performance. We need to protect union jobs and the union negotiating positions. Loose lips can sink ships.
President Rosenberg is predicting what could be a perfect storm. I have expended on his list to share a vision of the critical issues now and in the near future.
An anti-union bias at many levels of state and federal government. Right–to-work is expanding and growing in strength. National right-to-work remains on the agenda of the current administration in Washington. It protects the employer, management, not the employee. It allows employers to hold down wages and benefits and to weaken all unions, including SAG, at every opportunity. Laws similar to right-to-work are being passed under the radar in many states. The erosion of unions is well underway due to a wide range of political and economic conditions. However unions are needed now more than ever. There are strong actions being taken or planned by a range of unions and organizations.
The basic shift in organized labor indicated by the split from the AFL-CIO of several major unions last summer. While cooperation is high, the underlying reasons behind the split have created a divide in how organized labor pursues organizing and the negotiation of contracts.
The continued consolidation and internationalization of the corporations that control the information and entertainment industry means an ever-increasing strength on the management side of the bargaining table. This impacts content and where it is produced, as well as the scope and nature of the intended audience.
Rapidly developing new technologies are exciting new challenges that may also be undermining the integrity of our images, performances, and the traditional methods by which performers are compensated. Duplication on individual computers and easy manipulation of images captured under contact, along with easy secondary uses previously outside the area of SAG jurisdictions, are becoming common and difficult to police as illegal file- sharing.
Rapidly changing patterns and methods used in the production and distribution of the products where we use our talents change the cash flow and therefore our traditional compensation levels. For example the iTunes/iPod audience for network television programming often exceeds the estimated audience watching the program on their televisions. Mobile phone and portable video players are growing in program content variety and popularity.
A projected decrease in major motion picture production, led by an announcement that Disney will cut their large production slate to only eight films a year. If other studios follow suit, as is expected, then the number of large budget location and special effects films will drop, and the use of star power driven talent in lesser roles will increase.
A decrease in television advertising in favor of the Internet and other ways to reach customers. This may impact our commercial contract revenue, or at least how and where that revenue is calculated. At the same time this new challenge brings with it the potential of even more work for union talent, while at the same time changing the nature and source of how we get compensated for our work.
Major contracts will need to be negotiated over the next few years, with the trades reporting that management may already be making preparations in case of their anticipated strike by the unions (management is talking strike, not union leadership). Any strike may gain ground, but will cost immediate jobs and revenue and cause hardship for union membership. Yet the strike remains our strongest, largest last resort weapon against large corporate manipulation.
In an age of rapid production growth, the amount and nature of work per individual talent appear to be on the decrease. Work is harder to find for a wide range of reasons that must be addressed by the union as well as its individual members. The definition of a “working actor” is therefore evolving.
With the failure of a merger vote, we remain close to our brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). However there are clear jurisdictional and cultural issues that divide us and may cause tensions between us. These issues remain critical to both unions survival and with new technologies are increasingly brought to the forefront for both union boards. Also financial conditions led to a decrease in support or even the separation of once joint offices with our sister union, leaving behind the potential for resentment and the perception of even greater separation.
The aging of the SAG membership while the industry targets younger demographics (in part because that demographic dominates the world population and controls larger percentages of discretionary dollars). Entertainment product is made for the audience, not for those of us who are card-carrying union members already in the profession. Producers hire what they perceive as those who meet their needs for products made to attract young and/or international audiences.
Increases in cost of operation including salaries, travel, Internet technologies, insurance, executive compensation, legal and governance. Running a union in a way to best serve the membership is a costly proposition. We face these expenses as talent, but so do the employees of our union. Cost and expenses will rise, even without an increase in staff or services. That’s economics.
Our stalemate as a union in negotiating with the ATA (Association of Talent Agents). The vast majority of union agencies are not affected by this negotiation, however those that represent the highest earners include ATA member companies. This issue is one that is of vital importance to celebrity talent that is our strongest asset in negotiating with management or in maintaining our status with the consumers, our public.
The apparent lack of compromise and understanding that exist within the political leadership of Screen Actors Guild (there are signs of change, but not too obvious or observable at the July plenary). There are many efforts underway to improve relations and heal wounds, but these will take time and a willingness by both sides of the divide to compromise and to understand the other's viewpoint and needs.
A divide between the interests of Hollywood-based talent to keep casting, production and the infrastructure of the industry in Los Angeles, membership small and individual earnings high, and the interests of New York and the branches in increasing work in their geographic areas for their membership.
Battling and defeating an allegedly corrupt talent management and casting system, particularly in Hollywood where there are claims of purchased vouchers and kickbacks to casting directors (who work for and are management to union talents labor).
As you can see, the plate of your union is quite full, and this is only a partial list of the issues facing our elected national board as well as your Nevada officers and council. These are fast-moving, quickly evolving, and critical times for all American workers, including the membership of Screen Actors Guild.
National Board members, national and local officers, staff and committee members are discussing numerous issues to be placed high in priority for the membership. From my view the list begins with the following points.
Increase SAG’s bricks-and-mortar presence.
Increase field reps and organizers
Unify the political divide currently within the union
Improve communication with staff
Increase the amount, quality and pay for union work.
Simplify the signatory process
Implement contracts online
Deal with RTW and Ficore issues head on (look for a difference in how the Guild approaches and publicizes these issues, including an increased web presence).
Address the quality and loyalty of employers, agents and others who deal in the business of professional performing.
Reach out to non-union qualified performers to increase the union base and bargaining strength, continue relations with the unions of other nations to increase residual collections, improve the protection of talent who work abroad and provide a unified front in the fact of international corporate ownership of major information and entertainment companies.
Build a truly national and in many ways international union that will service and protect its members regardless of where they live or work, under which contracts or their ethnic or national backgrounds. In many ways SAG is already achieving this goal, particularly with Global Rule One and ever- improving relationship with other unions, but the process is continuous and ongoing.
The search for a new National Executive Director is underway, after the last candidate withdrew from consideration. The title “CEO” will be no longer be used for the position.
In my view it is vital we push for Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties in Nevada plus Washington County, Utah and Mojave County, Arizona as our television and theatrical background talent zone. Remember it is a negotiation and we need to go in strong and understand compromise. The interest of the Nevada Branch is weighed against the interests of all branches and members of the Guild, and the wants, needs or demands of management. If you are interested in participating in local Wages and Working Conditions discussion, please contact our branch president Steve Dressler through our branch executive.
Increases in both dues and initiation fees are needed for the union to survive. Both are being worked on with consideration for many variables, and with a structure that will work for the branches in mind. There will, however, be no waivers. The going methodology is based on the theory that “strategic” considerations are more important than financial, however it believes the reality of maintaining a viable union budget must also be taken into consideration. I will keep you appraised as we approach the critical decision as to whether to support our union or help those who would weaken all unions.
Those willing to be elected and serve the membership of the Guild must, on an increasingly important level, take on responsibilities for committees, communication, and assisting the growth, development, involvement and service to the membership. A draft of the responsibilities of the branch president was reviewed at the July Regional Branch Division Board meeting and will be presented and amended at the president’s meeting and RBD in October. All elected officers and council are responsible to be educated, ready and willing to serve as alternates to the National Board or for any of the other elected positions of the branch. They are the branch leadership during a time when leadership and inspiration are needed by our union.
I encourage you to vote in the Nevada election this September. Every vote counts.
And I am looking forward to seeing you at the September 17 membership meeting.
Nomination submissions for the 13th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are now being accepted. The deadline is 5 p.m. PST on Nov. 7.
With the actor's permission, producers, studios, networks, agents, managers or press agents can submit performances to be considered for nominations. Submissions can be made online at www.sagawards.org. Submission forms can also be obtained by calling the SAG Awards office at (323) 549-6707.
The 13th annual SAG Awards ceremony will be held Jan. 28 at the Shrine Auditorium. The event will also be simulcast on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m.
Nominations will be chosen by two separate film and television panels, each including 2,100 SAG members from across the country. Nomination voting closes Jan. 2., and nominations will be announced Jan. 4 at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood. Final SAG Award ballots will be mailed Jan. 5.
Interested members can sign up for SAGIndie's email newsletter. Go to www.sagindie.org and find the box on the home page which reads "Get all the latest news from SAGIndie."www.sag.org.