NEW YORK SPRING
When: Monday, May 24, 2010
5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Meeting
Where: Directors Guild of America
110 West 57th Street (Between 6th and & 7th Avenues)
1. Introductory Remarks
2. President’s Report
3. New York Executive Director’s Report
4. Joseph C. Riley Awards
5. New Business
The membership meeting is only open to paid-up SAG members in good standing. Unfortunately, no guests allowed. Parents/guardians of younger performers under 18 years old are welcome. PLEASE BRING YOUR SAG MEMBERSHIP CARD FOR ADMITTANCE (paid thru April 30, 2010). No RSVP necessary.
FRIDAY SEMINAR SERIES
When: 10 a.m. to Noon, Friday, May 21, 2010
Where: 14th Floor SAG N.Y. Board Room, 360 Madison Avenue (Entrance at 45th Street)
Terri Apple is one of the top voiceover actresses in the country. Got Milk, Tasters Choice, Gatorade, BMW, Lunchables and Taco Bell are just a few of the thousands of commercials Terri has recorded over the last 30 years. Author of Making Money in Voiceovers, she is an expert in marketing, demos, nailing the read and everything there is to know about breaking into voiceovers! A speaker, writer and actress, Apple goes back and forth between Los Angeles and New York City.
SIGN-UP HAS STARTED! Reservations are required. Click here for more information and reservation instructions.
PERFECTING AND PROTECTING
YOUNG PERFORMERS’ WORK
When: Saturday, May 22, 2010
9:30-10 a.m. Registration
10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Program
Where: Screen Actors Guild, 360 Madison Avenue (14th floor), New York, N.Y.
Click here for details about the program elements such as on-camera training and the new young performers’ website.
RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. To RSVP, call (212) 827-1435.
FREE NYCAP WORKSHOPS
WITH CASTING DIRECTORS
The SAG Foundation’s New York Casting Access Project offers union members the opportunity to participate in workshops focusing on improving audition and cold reading skills, conducted by well-known casting directors. The next orientation starts online at the SAG Foundation’s website on May 24. If you’d like to receive more information about becoming eligible for these free sessions, please log on to sagfoundation.org and register your contact information.
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
May 26, 27
The SAG Foundation will be presenting its third showcase, featuring two evenings of shorts produced under a union contract. The May 26 event will highlight the work of female directors. If you’d like to submit your project for consideration, send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to receive an invitation to the showcase, register your contact info at sagfoundation.org.
FOR MEMORIAL DAY
In observance of Memorial Day, Screen Actors Guild will be closed starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 28. We will reopen on Tuesday, June 1.
THROUGH UNION PLUS
Union Plus, a program created by the AFL-CIO for union members, offers a broad range of discounted services. Visit unionplus.org and explore the benefits of being a union member.
Union member-only deals range from discounts on car service and rentals to entertainment and theme park savings. Check out the website above for more information.
NEW VIDEO CAPTURES
MISSION OF ACTORS FUND
Apples and Oranges Productions, a bi-coastal production company serving New York and Orange County, Calif., recently recorded moving stories about people in performing arts and entertainment helped by The Actors Fund. Click here to watch and learn more about The Actors Fund’s programs and services, available for all Screen Actors Guild members through the SAG-Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund.
INTERVIEW WITH NEAL HEMPHILL
SAG Member and Participant in The Actors Fund Work Program
Neal Hemphill has been a SAG member since the mid-1990s. He started acting in high school in his hometown of Pittsburgh before majoring in theater at Penn State. After working both in New York and regional theater, he began doing film and TV work, including principal roles on Law and Order. Recently, and of course under a SAG contract, Neal shot a national Internet film commercial for a major department store.
The Actors Fund Work Program supports its participants in identifying and finding meaningful work to complement their industry careers or to explore new careers.
Kathy Schrier, the director of The Actors Fund Work Program, conducted this interview with Neal.
Kathy Schrier: What do you find rewarding about working under a SAG contract?
Neal Hemphill: I only want to work under a union contract. It means I am working with other serious actors and will have challenges in terms of both script and character development. Residual payments are also critical, and I know SAG polices these payments. Non-union actors tell me that they often do not get breaks or meals. We are entitled to them under a SAG contract, and if we don’t get them, there is a penalty to pay.
KS: What are some of the challenges of having a career as a screen actor?
NH: Although I love screen work, it is not dependable. I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of very good years, where I earned a very good living, and then there are other years… I now have more difficulty with the instability—I married 2½ years ago—confirming my need for more stability.
KS: Before coming to AWP, did you work outside of the industry? If so, what did you do?
NH: I did the typical—bartending and catering. Catering especially was very demanding—mostly because I was afraid to turn down work, even when I knew I had too much on my plate.
KS: When did you first come to The Actors Fund and why did you come?
NH: I had heard about the fund through Actors’ Equity, but didn’t really think it was for me. The light bulb went off when I realized that bartending was not the solution during those years when I had little industry income.
KS: How has The Actors Fund Work Program helped you?
NH: As soon as I walked into AWP, I knew I was with folks who got me, and cared. AWP is a community. I interact with other industry colleagues without competing. The job development services have been awesome. I was able to springboard my tour-guiding career—first getting free classes to help me get my license, and then getting my first job on a big bus, which led to work with a tour boat company, which I prefer.
Probably the most important group at the fund in terms of my being OK with a parallel career was “On the Fence.” This group is for those in the business—like I was at that time—not sure whether they want to leave or stay. Ironically, I got a great theatre opportunity just as I was starting my tour-guiding career. With the help of the group, I decided to turn down the theater gig because I wanted stability. The group got me to get the balancing thing—that I could be an accomplished actor but also do non-industry work that was rewarding, utilized my skills, and bluntly was lucrative.
KS: After 21 years, you are still utilizing AWP services. Why?
NH: Like show biz, a parallel career goes through changes. For example, the current recession has affected tour guiding, and I have needed additional counseling and job search support. I am now involved in a film production initiative (of course, only under a SAG contract). AWP has helped me to keep that balance, with this additional industry route.
I first utilized AWP solely because I needed to. It helped me in those times when acting work would not pay the bills. I have changed; I have developed new interests. I discovered that doing civilian work is rewarding and challenging and it has made me a better actor. Since I have financial stability, I can concentrate on my acting without anxiety. I now do auditions because I want the part, not because without the work I won’t know the source of next month’s rent.
The Actors Fund is a national human service organization that helps all professionals in performing arts and entertainment. It is a safety net, providing programs and services for those who are in need, crisis or transition. For more information go to actorsfund.org or call (212) 221-7300.
A Message from the N.Y. Division President
By Mike Hodge
Over the past year I have been struck by the number of vacant store fronts there are here in the city. I can’t quite tell whether the number has grown over the last 18 months or not, a measure of just how bad the economy still is. But I have read that TV advertising is up, lead by the auto industry, which is one of our enduring employers. They are finally getting back on their feet, and that always excites me.
On the scripted side, things are still a bit stingy for SAG since all of the pilots went to AFTRA this year. It doesn’t make any of us too happy, but be assured, we are not simply resting and waiting. Work is being done to change that. We just don’t believe that every foray has to be a fight. There’s a lot to be said for diplomacy and working together.
But if you are having a year like mine, none of that really means much to you. I’ve got both SAG and AFTRA cards, and where I used to do all of my scripted work under SAG—with one or two exceptions—this year I have done two AFTRA jobs and no SAG.
The difficulty is that I have always earned my pension and health with SAG. I often qualified in AFTRA as well, but not always. This year my work is split in such a way that I am not sure I will make either. It’s still early, so things could still work out. However, that possibility alone makes it so clear to me how important it is that we finally let go of whatever energies have been holding us back from making that one significant step.
I can only imagine what it’s like for background performers who have just a SAG card when the only work coming their way is AFTRA. I know I’d be concerned. Because the question becomes, “Can I make enough as an extra to merit paying the $1,600 initiation fee to AFTRA?” And if I don’t, can I make enough to survive in SAG?
Of course your elected team here in New York is doing everything we can to encourage the SAG work to come here, but we also believe that now is as good a time as any to collaborate as one. Our goal is to work together on the upcoming TV/Theatrical negotiations, and once those are successfully completed, we hope to begin working on the plans to create one union. (Please see the open letter in the current Screen Actor magazine from our SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force, which is a response to the open letter from the AFTRA leadership.)
I can’t imagine that there has ever been a worse time to have to pay so much money to two different organizations to do the same work. And I think there will probably never be a better time to explore becoming one.
Finally, I encourage everyone to attend the upcoming New York Spring Membership Meeting on May 24. We will have reports and updates on the important issues facing the Guild and the New York members. Hope to see you there!
Impact of New Technologies
By Justin Barrett
New York Division Board Member and
National New Technologies Committee Member
Over the last few years there has been a wealth of debate over how rapid change in consumer electronics and digital technology is re-shaping global media. And this is a good thing. It's an important discussion for any artist trying to make a living in these times, and it is absolutely compulsory for those of us who serve in talent union leadership positions. But misinformation or conjecture based on unreliable metrics is worse than not valuable, it is actually harmful. At a recent New Technologies Committee meeting, we discussed the need for those of us who are actively researching current market conditions to help spread the facts, so that our membership will be well informed and our staff can be prepared for whatever future action may be required. So, in that spirit, I'd like to describe some of the issues we are facing and have been discussing. I will provide a partial source list for this material at the end of this article.
Production and distribution of narrative and commercial content has certainly evolved of late. Our industry is witnessing:
• The proliferation of webisodic content and new distribution platforms like the iPad.
• Targeted online advertising that employs complex algorithms to let the advertiser know which sites we have been viewing and, thus, where and when to place an ad tailored specifically to our needs of the moment - in fractions of a second.
• The use of web cannons to distribute new content links to huge batches of sites, simultaneously creating unprecedented promotion and exposure.
• Consumer electronics manufacturing that has become increasingly geared toward developing devices that can play many different types of content from many different sources.
• Indications that the worlds of advertising and entertainment may not stay narratively separate in the near future. Spokespeople from major advertising agencies have stated in interviews that it makes the most sense for them to rebrand themselves as full-service entertainment shops. (Given this last assertion and that I am somewhat clumsily predicting the future here with a fairly wide lens, this article will not clearly distinguish commercial issues from TV/theatrical issues. However, it must be noted that we currently have different contracts for these types of content for good reasons, and they are possessed of entirely separate obstacles).
Perhaps the most important trend to note is that audiences and media consumers are now much more agreeable towards consuming content from other sources besides traditional broadcast. Netflix has become a growth machine; it took them four years to get their subscriber base up to 1 million people. However, with initiatives in streaming video and the addition of multiple connected devices, they were able to grab 1 million new subscribers in the last quarter of 2009 alone. Further, the CW recently ran some tests that show very high audience retention during forced commercials online. Some have drawn the conclusion that if other networks and content providers follow suit, the number of ads placed during online content could eventually be about the same as on traditional TV. Subscription-based content services are also being tested online right now, and even if they prove successful, that doesn't necessarily mean they will be ad-free. There is a precedent with the success of cable television that people will pay a modest fee for entertainment that still runs forced commercials.
Globally, more than 200 million new TVs were purchased in 2009, and the overwhelming majority of them were manufactured to be Internet capable. If that market continues to grow as evidence suggests, it is only a matter of time before many more millions of households in this country will be blurring the lines regarding where the media they are consuming is coming from. Further, as we know from experience, if it's a pleasing interface and a good product, they won't care.
Now I'd like to walk through a couple of specific examples of recent developments in online monetization that indicate some areas we'll need to watch very closely. This spring, CBS made $37 million in online ad revenue for March Madness. This is up 20% from the year before. Granted, there were significantly more viewers on television than online (upwards of 7 million online vs. upwards of 130 million for television), but the noteworthy aspect of this example is that the television ad revenue numbers for this event aren't growing, whereas the online numbers are—a lot. In 2006 they grabbed just $4 million in online ad revenue, which constitutes an almost 900 percent increase in four years.
This next example was compiled by another member of the New Technology Committee, and the math looks pretty interesting. A recent Wall Street journal blog covered the ad impressions for ABC's iPad app launch. The article states, "... 650,000 television episodes using the app, generating several million ad impressions according to an ABC spokesman, although the precise number is still being calculated... Like the video player on ABC’s Web site, the app allows viewers to watch most of the network’s shows free, with five 30-second ads per hour." In a somewhat contradictory stance, the article claims that the network doesn't know exactly how many ads were viewed, even though they track the number of shows that were downloaded and they know how many ads were embedded in each show. For argument’s sake, let's say that people only watched one half-hour show or stopped watching an hour-long show because they didn't like it. With only three 30-second ads per viewing, that is close to 2 million impressions IN THE FIRST TEN DAYS. And the iPad is brand new; these numbers were generated on just over 200,000 devices. It appears that ABC had a successful first outing. The truth is they probably know exactly how many impressions they got because you can't skip these ads. Content providers like ABC will be tracking the content and therefore tracking the ads because it provides a far better return on investment than without that data. That is precisely what advertisers want, a better accounting of their advertising and marketing dollars.
If you step back and observe all this activity, you get the impression that there are groups of very smart, well-funded and well-researched companies and individuals that are very quietly moving chess pieces around the board. However, it is important to note that real value is to some extent determined by perceived value in this business. As mainstream acceptance of non-traditional media increases, content providers, content creators and advertisers will all publicly recognize and even promote an increase in value. This recognition will obviously make it easier for us to declare our own proportional value in this equation.
As noted earlier, the intent of this article was to inform, but also to hopefully initiate discussion by disseminating facts as they have been reported by reliable sources. But all this analysis doesn't really mean anything if you cannot create proposals and recommendations that will address the changes we face. So the real question is: how do we take all this data and construct a payment model that is fair and acceptable to us and our employers? How do we make ourselves compensated appropriately for incredible amounts of exposure while still making it easier than ever to hire union talent, i.e., preserve our historic values while still keeping ourselves relevant? Answering this is the task of committees charged with monitoring the changing media landscape, but truthfully it needs to be on our collective radar. I would encourage you to keep open lines of communication with your agents, representatives and union leadership and staff. The more information we share with one another about current practices and trends of new media monetization, the better prepared we will be for the next couple of rounds of negotiation with our employers.
On a personal note, I presented this information accompanied by my own opinions to help inform the collective about the challenges we are facing because I feel like there are some things we simply need to get right in the next round of negotiations. If we don't, we run the risk of establishing precedents we cannot afford. Not only is it apparent that the new distribution systems will eventually replace the old, but more importantly it has the potential to happen fairly quickly. This is a sector that moves at a developmental pace never before seen in any industry. The very nature of this field—smaller, faster, better—dictates an operational tempo that does not wait for large, slow-moving organizations to keep up. With this type of formidable challenge, the rapid adaptation of entrenched compensation structures, we all need to be working together with great efficiency now more than ever.
As a new board member, I have to admit to a certain naiveté about the political conflict that has often gotten the lion's share of attention in the press. What doesn't get said enough is that every single one of the individuals who have been serving this Guild in leadership positions for the last several years, regardless of their political affiliation, do so as volunteers at enormous personal expense and with great conviction. They all deserve our gratitude and respect.
I believe in leveraging your gifts even if they are embedded in the problems you face. While the challenge is great, it also presents us with a super-ordinate goal. It is an opportunity, if you will, to come together with great stability, strength and solidarity. Again, I haven't been on the board for very long, but I have seen nothing in the past year to indicate that cannot happen. Going forward, we must maintain payment structures that adhere in some capacity to compensation that is tied to exposure and value. And we must also maintain our relevance; to adapt to new market conditions. I believe we can and will do both, together.
* * *
Here is a short list of links that provided some of the specific examples mentioned in the above article:
Maura Walker, SAG N.Y. Host Committee, staff liaison; Kathy Connell, SAG executive producer, national programming; Jane Beller, SAG N.Y. Host Committee; Stan Krajewski; Rebecca Damon, SAG N.Y. Host Committee co-chair and SAG national vice president; Dave Bachman, SAG N.Y. Division vice president; Sara Krieger; Elda Luisi; Sharon Washington, SAG N.Y. Host Committee; Lorre Grimsley, SAG manager, business management.
N.Y. Host Committee Holds Earth Day Celebration
The New York Host Committee held its first Earth Day Celebration on April 22. During the event, the members enjoyed eco-friendly demonstrations and sampled green products.
The highlight of the afternoon was a special viewing of a work-in-progress screening of the documentary film The Last Crop (directed by Chuck Schultz and David A. Ranghelli), which highlighted the importance of preserving farmland in the United States and the challenges faced by today’s small family farmers who struggle to stay on their land and provide locally-grown, sustainable, bio-diverse crops in the face of increasingly difficult odds.
The New York Host Committee was happy to see so many SAG members come out for this special event and support SAG’s ongoing green efforts.
Helping Union Members: A Lifeline
In our business, being out of work is nothing new. But everywhere you go, hardworking families are struggling to get by, and too often, they don't know where to turn for help. That's where the Unemployment Lifeline comes in.
Unemployment Lifeline is sponsored by Working America and the AFL-CIO. It is a one-stop guide that links workers to the resources in the areas they live, connecting them with everything from unemployment offices to veterans' services to childcare. It also offers the opportunity to talk to others and share support and lessons learned. On this site you can find local resources, discussion boards, cost saving tips and advice.
The site is still new, and new resources are constantly being added. Make sure you pass this resource on to your friends and family members who could use some help.
Tribeca Film Festival
SAG member Tristan Wilds (center) was the host of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Cast Party. Also attending were, from left, Michael Sladek of SAGIndie, National Board Member Rebecca Damon, New York Division President Mike Hodge, and New York Board Member Dave Bachman. Photo Credit: Lori Baily