In January we will begin a major change within the union and in the way we, as members, need to step up to the plate.
We will have a new national executive director who is ready to score for us on every playing field. You will be asked to approve a proposed dues and initiation fee structure, to step up to the plate and not simply rely on staff “to know all or do all,” and to fully do your part to help Screen Actors Guild remain and shine as the “premier performers' union in the world” and a “crown jewel in the American Labor Movement.” The quotes come from one of the top men in the entire labor movement--AFL-CIO International Secretary Treasurer Richard L. Trumka. The rest from an understanding that the next two years will be the most important in the history of our branch and our union.
We face a rapidly changing world, with employers who are not quick to want to give us our fair share of the revenue on new “promotional” media (from their point of view) and for the increasing ease of using our images and talents freely across media platforms and even into synthetic reproduction, virtual reality and still-developing technologies.
This is the time to commit to your union.
Nevada branch members take staff for granted.
No, I am not saying you do not appreciate what our executives do. I am instead referring to a history of having strong staff support, with and without an office, where staff looked out for Nevada first and did much of the work or advised us what to do.
Those times are past.
If you want work, for the Nevada branch to continue and grow (once again) strong, for the potential of a return to a “brick and mortar” locally staffed office, then it is time to step up and do your part for Nevada. Make your voice heard and let your eyes and ears work for your union.
Our staff works hard, but consider that our executive has two branches he oversees and is housed at the Los Angeles office. Also consider that our budgets, including the travel budget, are tight and constantly under the watchful eye of a, through necessity, fiscally conservative union (both staff and nationally elected officers).
Elected officials and staff members who are not from Nevada, who have caused me some concern, say things at the office level. There is nothing specific I can report, but I am here to ask you to become more active in defending and building our branch.
It is up to us to push for change. It is up to all of us to be the eyes and ears of the union at the casting offices, with our agents, on the sets and on the streets. We cannot talk officially for the union, but we can counter a strong “do not join” anti-union rhetoric when we hear it, and we can report back to staff when we smell a rat. We could question if Rule One violations are being made. We can report potential union security violations (non-union hired instead of union workers). We can, and must, keep staff abreast of non-union casting or productions. It is up to all of us to keep our union strong and show Hollywood why all of our branches are needed, strong and vital to the future of the Screen Actors Guild.
Attend and support the Conservatory.
But there are other jobs to be done. From simply reporting questionable activities, to working aggressively on communications, wages and working conditions, agency or member relations or in a large number of other member-driven areas.
Jerry Maguire Meets Braveheart
Doug Allen, #59 linebacker for the Buffalo Bills in the early 1970s and 31-year unionist, has been hired as our new national executive director. Doug will take office in January, but has agreed to do many functions for the Guild in advance of officially occupying his office.
Why a football player? Hard tackles, effective passing, the ability to run rings around management and other puns come to mind. The truth is that Doug comes to us after 24 years as a key employee of the NFL Players Association, professional football’s union. He is an accomplished union negotiator and leader, having worked across the table from the same corporations and owners who we face with our contracts. In college he led the All Star Team walk out in support of striking NFL players. For the past decade he has been the number two man in the players union, chief negotiator and president of a union-owned company that protects and contracts for players images, names and rights in such areas as film, television, video games, trading cards and other marketing promotional areas.
Scottish in descent, Allen identified himself as a hard negotiator who cares for those he represents but is willing to do battle. In his own words, “think Jerry Maguire meets Braveheart.” He promises to bring to our union the principles of integrity, accountability, transparency, collaboration, communication and focus. He also brings his passionate commitment to the membership, to the union mission, to our principles, to the protection of our images and talents and to both financial and job strength moving well into the 21st century.
He brings a football leader's dedication to winning the game!
Interim NED Peter Frank will remain on as Chief Financial Officer, the position he held before agreeing to be our temporary NED, and will also serve as the Guild's Chief Administrative Officer.
Other National Business
You will be receiving information after the holidays about a much-needed dues and initiation increase. This will probably be a major agenda item of our next branch meeting or of a special information session to be scheduled. The Guild needs to grow and rebuild in a way that will assure a strong national presence for both traditional areas of production, including theatrical background work and zones, and for the now rapidly evolving new means of production and distribution through everything from personal computers to cell phones, DVD to microchips, high definition multi-digital banding, satellite, cable and personal portable players.
The background eligibility remains at three vouchers until such a time as a now newly reconstituted National Background Committee can meet, and its new chairs can bring their views and experience onto the playing field. Alternatives that had been presented to the National Board are now on the back burner following a major change in the structure and political nature of the boardroom.
Screen Actors Guild will be 75 years old in 2008, at the same time as most of our most important contracts are up for negotiation and ratification. A special task force will include all of the living former national presidents of the Guild and will include many special events and surprises.
I strongly advise you to read the email sent to you by the Nevada branch and national union staff or officers, and to do your own homework and research into the issues that face your work, your union and the much-needed labor movement in America.
National Board Director
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR REPORT By Hrair Messerlian
Nevada SAG members have been busy this year. Since our September membership meeting, you’ve had the opportunity to work on Ocean’s 13, CSI, Jolene, Bones, Scrubs, Into the Wild and several commercials.
Speaking of the September 17 membership meeting at the Tropicana, we had a packed day beginning with a “Background 101 Workshop” presented by SAG Production Services Senior Manager, Terri Becherer. Over 100 performers took advantage of this educational opportunity and came away with insights and answers to everyday and not-so-common questions.
The meeting kicked off with a surprise guest appearance and presentation by Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt. She expressed her commitment to making Las Vegas a mature production center with her efforts to bring in investors to build the infrastructure and her support for film incentive legislation. We thank the Lieutenant Governor for her work. Please read her interview below.
Also, included in this e-Newsletter are articles on the SAG Conservatory, an upcoming dues referendum and Nevada SAG members in the news.
There are a number of productions preparing to start in Las Vegas and Nevada, so be prepared!
One last bit of exciting news is that the Guild's IT Department is on the verge of launching the first phase of SAG’s Online Casting Service, available for no charge to SAG members only. This service will allow signatory producers and their casting directors to view member headshots, clips, bios, special talents and skills. Stay tuned and keep up the good work.
Q&A WITH LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR LORRAINE HUNT By SAG Member Dennis Conti
For the last seven years The Nevada Film Office (NFO) reports that production revenues within the state have "consistently broken the $100 million mark." The NFO credits Director Charles Geocaris and Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt for "breaking all records for production ever set in Nevada." The following Q&A interview with Lieutenant Governor Hunt, with questions posed by several industry insiders and answered with aplomb by the Lieutenant Governor, may help keep Nevada on a roll. Lieutenant Governor Hunt is concluding her tenure this year.
1. Tell us about your efforts to establish a studio in Las Vegas.
Growing up in Las Vegas, I became aware that Las Vegas was a special place, filled with creative people from the entertainment industry, and attracting visitors that included powerful and influential people from around the world. My early career in the world of entertainment was an introduction to a variety of people in film and television and the entertainment industry as a whole.
As a businesswoman in the 1970s, I recognized the opportunities we had in Las Vegas to develop the industry in our own backyard, using our proximity to Hollywood and our pool of talented people to grow the industry here. In 1983 I was appointed to serve on the newly created Nevada Film Office. In 1994, when I was elected to the Clark County Commission, I continued to work with various entities to attract film and motion picture productions to Nevada.
As Lieutenant Governor, one of my primary responsibilities is to serve as chair of the Nevada Commission for Economic Development, which oversees the Nevada Film Office. I have met with dozens of people over the years regarding studio locations in both southern and northern Nevada, and I will continue to do so in whatever public or private sector role I may be in at any given time. All interested parties receive a list and contacts for the various abatement and incentive programs offered to any type of business through the Commission on Economic Development. They also receive a full Nevada Film Office package, which includes a list of past productions that shows a steady stream of activity in the area. However, we find that many developers underestimate the true cost of an extensive production facility.
2. Tell us of your efforts to get film incentive legislation passed in Nevada and the prospect to try again in this legislative session.
I presented a package with facets that included a sales tax rebate and elimination of some fees that might affect film companies. Though the bill was received favorably, it failed to get last-minute action, possibly due to the many other matters that arose as the session was ending. I have since worked with the Commission on Economic Development (which oversees the Film Office) to include similar incentives in its proposals for the next session. It is important that Nevada maintain its film industry, which has brought at least $100 million into the state for the past eight years and has become one of the most popular locations, with over 600 projects filmed in the state annually.
3. Tell us of your efforts to get Nevada SAG talent more roles in productions shooting in Nevada.
All efforts to increase production help Nevada SAG because these projects mean more roles. Regarding increasing production, the state’s efforts include marketing through its production directory, ads, trade shows and prompt response to all inquiries. The state has a digital location library with thousands of photos that can be sent to a producer in minutes; many scouts, followed by projects, have been generated this way. The producers, however, are the ones who determine how many Nevada services they use, and they appreciate the flexibility of having a choice. Many prefer to save per diem expenses by hiring as many locals as possible. As Nevada progresses in its efforts to develop incentives, some will include requirements regarding local preference incentives that will encourage production companies to hire Nevada talent.
Kelley Thomas, Talent Director for eNVy Model & Talent in Las Vegas asks:
1. As the owner of a restaurant and a Nevada businesswoman, how do you think the increase of films and productions coming into Nevada can help the non-industry related business owners?
If you look at the Nevada Production Directory, you’ll see it includes such categories as cyber cafes, florists, photo processing, retail shopping, wedding chapels and yes, even honey wagons. The production industry affects a whole spectrum of businesses that surprises those who have never worked on a film. Restaurants certainly benefit too, sometimes through catering, and often when a celebrity decides to come in. We hear stories all the time about how Sean Penn just ate here, and Whoopi Goldberg was there, and so on. As a Las Vegas restaurant owner, I have personally benefited from the publicity and patronage of celebrities and production industry professionals visiting my restaurant. It’s always a boost for the business to see a column item in the newspaper that says so-and-so was dining or singing with the band at the Bootlegger Bistro.
2. What has been one of your fondest memories of a celebrity encounter here in Las Vegas?
Having grown up in Las Vegas I have many fond memories of celebrity encounters. Some of my fondest would be:
- At the age of fifteen meeting a young singer who was working in Las Vegas for the first time at the Last Frontier Hotel. I was fortunate to spend just a little time with him, and I recall both of us talking about our mothers.
- Listening to Frank Sinatra at dinner and cocktail parties as he talked about music and his approach to the songs that are now generally referred to as “The Great American Songbook.”
- Spending time with Liberace as we shared music stories and our favorite recipes during the period when we were both venturing into the Las Vegas restaurant scene. It was in 1973, and I was opening the Bootlegger Bistro at Tropicana and Eastern, and Liberace was opening his own namesake restaurant on Tropicana.
3. What can agencies do to help promote our actors and talent to production companies and casting directors?
Producers want the process to be as easy as possible. Get them what they need as fast as possible for a fair price and they’ll likely come back. It’s also important to let the industry know about you as businesses and Nevada as a location whenever possible. There are often trade shows you can participate in; if your budget allows, you can consider advertising in the state’s directory or appropriate trade journals. And remember, it is important to be listed in the official Nevada Production Directory, because when a producer looks at a region, he or she often counts the number of resources available--more being better.
Producer Laurie Anton, Esq., owner of Anton Communications in South Florida asks:
1. What tax advantages is Nevada considering for burgeoning or seasoned filmmakers who may want to come to NV and shoot their independent film?
The most likely type of incentive to pass through this next session will involve a sales tax exemption or rebate on materials purchased for production. Also, it’s important for filmmakers to remember that Nevada has no state personal income tax, no state corporate income tax, no inventory tax, no franchising tax, and very film-friendly municipal, county, and state governments.
2. What services does the State Film Commission provide to assist producers or actors in connecting with other resources who could assist in making their film (i.e. location scouts, permitting, post production, etc.)?
The state produces an annual production directory with hundreds of categories that include location scouts, permitting, post production and others. All this information is available online as well at www.nevadafilm.com. The online listings are updated constantly, while a new version of the printed listings comes out every January. You can get into the directory by going to the Web site or calling the office at (702) 486-2711.
3. Cheri Woods is a former Hollywood madam, who wrote a book called Death Row Madam, if she wanted to make her film in Nevada would she be welcome?
When representatives from a legitimate (non-pornographic) project contact the Nevada Film Office, they get the same basic treatment as anyone else. Film Office staff sometimes points out content issues that might cause some private locations to balk, such as showing young children gambling in casinos. Since that’s against the law, some casinos refuse to allow such scenes. Others will, and the Film Office will point the production in those directions. Censorship is not up to the Film Office, but private businesses have the right to say yes or no for whatever reasons they want.
Marilee Lear, casting director and owner of Lear Casting Las Vegas asks:
1. What can we do as casting directors to get tax film incentives in Nevada?
It always helps to have businesses represented in person at the Legislature to testify on behalf of a bill. It’s also useful to express your support to your representative and those who vote on the package in its initial stages.
Screen Actors Guild membership asks:
1. What were the crucial reasons Senate Bill 493 was unsuccessful in getting to the floor, and if the bill is reintroduced, what can the people who work within the Nevada Film and Television community do to guarantee its success?
No one ever stated a specific reason why the bill died, other than saying that things got really busy on the floor at the end of session and many issues got lost in the rush. There was minimal protest from the Nevada Tax Payers Association representative and the Department of Motor Vehicles (regarding fuel tax abatement). The film and TV community can get behind this session’s bill by writing statements in favor of it and getting them to their legislators and those on the money committees that first deal with the bills. That effort should begin as soon as the November election is concluded. All the state senators and assembly members should be contacted and lobbied by the film and television industry leaders and members as to the importance of the bill to both the industry and to Nevada’s economic development efforts.
Acting is a craft, much like the construction trades or any other working skill. It takes many years to perfect the craft of acting. Through schools, lessons, workshops, etc., a person can obtain the basic skills, and then use small acting jobs, community theatre, background acting or local television commercials, to practice those skills and gain expertise and knowledge of the profession. And, of course, the ultimate goal of any serious actor is qualifying for membership in Screen Actors Guild. And while there are those occasional exceptions, the truth is, most “overnight successes” have spent years of dedication and hard work to get the opportunity to become full-time acting professionals.
In the past, the only way to get professional acting instruction, and to build a network of information and personal contacts, was to pay for college classes or through any number of acting coaches, lessons or workshops. Often, private lessons are very helpful, but not necessarily the highest quality of education, as there is little control or national quality assurance of private tutors. They may teach you skills that are outdated, or just plain wrong for the craft. And usually, any form of instruction comes with a high price-tag.
But now, there is an alternative. What better way to gain insight to Screen Actors Guild, than through the union itself?
SAG sponsors the Screen Actors Guild Conservatory, but you may join the Conservatory even if you are not a member of SAG. That’s right, the SAG Conservatory is open to anyone who has a genuine desire to learn the skills of the acting profession. The goal behind the Conservatory is to educate actors in the craft, as well as other related areas, like agents, managers, photographers, etc., with the goal being for the actor to qualify for membership in SAG. In this way, the actor’s union can continue to grow while still maintaining the highest level of professionalism and dedication in its newest members. But the Conservatory also provides existing SAG members the opportunity to hone their craft, learn new techniques, and network with others in the industry.
The Nevada Screen Actors Guild Conservatory hosts monthly workshops, bringing in highly acclaimed professionals from all fields of theatre and film. Workshop topics include commercial and theatrical cold-reading techniques, video scenes, voice-overs, improvisation, auditioning techniques, set comportment, as well as “Meet the Casting Director” seminars. Call the Nevada SAG Conservatory hotline at (702) 226-5620 for information on the upcoming workshops.
While the networking, auditioning and casting opportunities may be priceless, each workshop itself, if paid for separately, would run hundreds of dollars each. But by joining the Conservatory, you may attend all these workshops, from 12 or more per year, as part of your membership. Many workshops will cost a token fee of $10 to $20, to help offset costs of room rentals, etc. And the annual fee to join the Conservatory is just $50 per year for non-SAG members, or $40 for SAG members. If you attend just one seminar during the entire year, your membership will be well worth your investment. And if you have a burning desire to become an acting professional, and attend a dozen of these workshops, you may soon believe, once again, in Santa Claus!
You could pay thousands of dollars for lessons through a “pretend” talent agency, who never got a job for anyone, but fleeced throngs of people out of their money, or you could invest half a saw-buck to join the Nevada SAG Conservatory. In addition to learning many different techniques in the acting art, you’ll also learn the nuts and bolts of the business, and how to spot a rip-off “agent” or “manager,” which will save you money and frustration. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of meeting people in the local community who are involved in the business as casting agents, managers and talent agents. You’ll become an active part of the most wonderful network of acting professionals this side of Hollywood, to give you a head start on upcoming auditions and open casting calls.
If you are serious about acting, and want to become a professional principal player, then you owe it to yourself to become a member of the Nevada SAG Conservatory. Call the hotline number at (702) 226-5620, or go online to www.sag.org, search “branches” to find the Nevada branch, then click on the link for the Nevada SAG Conservatory.
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David G. Brown is the Pulitzer nominated author of the #1 bestselling biography, Gold Buckle Dreams – the Rodeo Life of Chris LeDoux. He also has been a member of Screen Actors Guild for more than a decade. Brown is the owner of the Remington Agency, in Henderson, Nevada.
SAG National President Alan Rosenberg and Secretary-Treasurer Connie Stevens issued the following joint statement, "Our biggest responsibility as caretakers of this great union is making sure it remains healthy and strong. This increase will put us in the best possible position heading into the TV/Theatrical and Commercials contract negotiations of 2008 by financing research and building up reserves, thrusting the Guild into a prosperous new era."
Please vote when you receive your ballots.
Franchised agents (as well as the SAG members they represent) are protected by, and bound to, the terms and conditions of the SAG Agency Regulations. They are both our trusted bargaining partners and an actor's greatest asset/support system. We hope that you will honor their contributions and efforts, and continue to assist us in facilitating this richly rewarding relationship that you already enjoy.
A regular and common complaint heard from franchised agents and casting directors is that SAG members do not keep their information current. At a minimum, PLEASE contact your franchised agent and local casting directors to give them current addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. It is also highly recommended to provide them with an updated headshot and resume. When agents can’t locate you easily, you won’t get hired.
SAG members may obtain discount tickets to the movies, theme parks and more by going online to www.savvyemployee.com or by calling (310) 779-2812. Also, the Fall 2006 Screen Actor magazine lists various other Member Benefits: “Deals & Discounts” on page 50.
This is a must read for all performers. It is packed with common questions that come up on set regarding bookings, cancellations start dates, contracts, guarantees and many Frequently Asked questions. It also discusses the two-year extension to the Guild’s Commercials Contract and let’s you know what else is going on at the Guild. Also, look out for the winter issue in your mailbox in December.
Nevada SAG National Board Representative Art Lynch recently ran for Assembly District 20. Although running on a shoestring budget against a well established and financed incumbent, Art garnered 32% of the vote. Art has been an outspoken supporter of Screen Actors Guild issues for years, especially in the sphere of protecting the Nevada Branch. We thank Art for all his work and continue to wish him well in his future endeavors.
Nevada boxing referee and SAG member Robert Byrd was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame on October 14, 2006 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. He joins, among others, Roberto Duran, Mathew Saad Muhammad, Barry Thompkins and Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. SAG congratulates Mr. Byrd on his induction.
SAG has contacted Sessions Payroll and CAPS on your behalf for California taxes withheld during location shooting in Nevada of Knocked Up and The Grand. We have been assured that those Nevada members who had California taxes withheld would be issued a refund check. If you do not receive a refund by tax time, please file for a refund with the state of California.