Philadelphia 2011:11

days since last accident 182
The Official E-Newsletter of the Philadelphia Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Philadelphia Branch
November 2011

Betsy Wollensack


By Betsy Wollensack

I have a way of stumbling into things. All my professional life this has been so. I prepared to be an elementary school teacher and, in fact, taught for awhile. When that no longer brought joy, I sought a change. Needing quick employment I stumbled into working as an admissions clerk at an area teaching hospital, which eventually led to combining my liberal arts education and newly acquired hospital knowledge to become a medical social worker in the outpatient department of the hospital. There, I met someone who introduced me to "play," or "child life," therapy, used in pediatric hospitals to help children adjust to being in the hospital, often away from family, and to the care and treatments they might receive while there. 

As you might imagine, after 13 years in this emotionally draining field, it was again time for a change. This time I needed to go back to school and I studied interior design. Now, this was a huge step in another direction! As is often the case in this profession, I found myself stepping from one architectural firm to another, helping to design many of the major corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. That is, until the bottom fell out of the construction industry at the end of 2008 and I found myself unemployed, along with many of my colleagues.

Wondering in what direction I might go next, I stumbled on an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about a new film about to be made by M. Night Shyamalan called The Last Airbender. They were interested in artistic people to be Northern Water Tribe villagers, who also had a background in martial arts. Having studied Tai Chi and practiced interior design for many years, I decided to give it a try and attend the open casting call. I had nothing to lose and an interest in seeing how movies are made. I was fortunate enough to be selected, and returned many times, earning enough waivers to join SAG if I wanted. I was hooked! The whole experience was so positive and educational that I tried out and was selected for more background work in three movies and a TV commercial.

I initially thought that I might have more opportunities by remaining non-union and, in fact, was able to participate in a couple of independent, small-budget films and become more intimately involved in the process of filmmaking. While that experience has been very worthwhile, I wondered what I might be missing by not being a member of SAG, so I joined in April 2011.

Since then, I have been presented opportunities for more TV commercials and print ads. It seems that there is enough work in the Philadelphia area that the opportunities will continue to present themselves. I am glad that I went the non-union route to see various aspects of filmmaking, but welcome the possibilities of what else might be in the offing as a professional member of the film industry. I may have stumbled into something wonderful.


D'Arcy Fellona
James Kawano
Randall Lawrence
Ryan McDonald
Josh Perez
John Sannuti
Kenneth L Solomon


Ricki Brooks
Kellianne Cole
Bob Ferst
Natalie Jason
Tom Kennerly
Robert Laconi
Jessyca Marie Lam
Teri Lamm
Lou Marino
Al Nighter
Keith Oney
Christina Primiano
Drew Seltzer
Michelle Septak
Angela Shelton
Daniel G Thomas
Dwayne A Thomas
Slai Washko
Patrick Welsh
Meghan Wilkinson

In This Issue

  • What were Olivia Newton-John, Martin Sheen and Ernie Hudson doing in Philly?
  • Why did Peter Bogdanovich shoot The Last Picture Show in black and white?
  • Who mixed it up with Sinatra and James Garner, and now wants a crack at the boys on Boardwalk Empire?
  • What does Bobby Rydell share with James Earl Jones and Walter Cronkite?
  • Find out all these answers and more in this issue of your Philadelphia Spotlight!


A Message from Branch President John Wooten

My Fellow Members,

We continue to work on efforts to support the concerns and needs of your Branch, including opportunities for work and resources for active members. We have successfully established the Conservatory program and the coordinated Tri-Union workshops, which bring programs for our members. Most recently, the SAG Foundation brought back its New York Casting Access Project (NYCAP) to Philadelphia, in conjunction with Temple University and its students. I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities and resources provided by your local Branch. To quote Branch Vice President Sylvia Kauders, "If you're not working, you should be studying."

SAG Foundation
The SAG Foundation's New York Casting Access Project

On September 21, 2011 Screen Actors Guild announced the election results for Philadelphia Branch Elections (serving all of Pennsylvania, Delaware and South Jersey). Sara Jane Blazo was re-elected as council member at large for a two-year term. Newly elected members include:

Mark Kochanowicz, Council member at large, two-year term
Christopher Mann, Council member at large, two-year term
J. Emerson McGowan, Council member at large, two-year term
Chris McMullin, Council member at large, two-year term
Brian Anthony Wilson, Council member at large, two-year term

Wooten and new Council members
Back, from left, Mark Kochanowicz, Brian Anthony Wilson, J. Emerson McGowan. Front, from left, Christopher Mann, John Wooten, Chris McMullin

The elected join me, Vice President Sylvia Kauders, Secretary Harvey Jaffe, Treasurer Gail Elaine Lewis, National Board Director Helen McNutt and Council members at large Donna Dundon, Lisa Ann Goldsmith and Michael Kraycik in thanking outgoing council members Patricia Cray and Adrienne Wehr for their years of dedication and service to the Branch.

Those members elected as Council members at large were also elected as alternate national directors who may be called upon to serve at National Board meetings when the National Board member from the Philadelphia Branch is unavailable to attend.

Helen McNutt

A Message from National Board Member Helen McNutt

Welcome New Branch Members,

Each month our Branch membership continues to grow. You have joined Screen Actors Guild at a very exciting point in our long history.

Now that you are new members, follow SAG and AFTRA as these unions continue to work on forming one union. To follow the news, click here.

As a new SAG member, here are a couple of reminders:

Global Rule One for all SAG members states that "No member shall work as a performer or make an agreement to work as a performer for any producer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Guild which is in full force and effect."

Also know that right now, producers can sign an agreement and complete the signatory process online for five Screen Actors Guild contracts. They are:

• New Media Agreement
• Student Film Agreement
• Short Film Agreement
• Industrial/Educational Agreement
• Ultra Low Budget Film Agreement

Many Branch producers are signing these agreements and bringing new union work to the Branch. Nationally, more than 2,600 producers have signed online.

Here is the link to the online process if you want to direct a producer to the site, or if you are creating your own project.
These two videos are short and very helpful explaining the online signing process. Click here and here.

Also, please read Zino Macaluso’s article, Ask the Expert, in this issue about finding the best SAG agent to help you take your career to the next level.

Finally, take to heart the message of education in John Wooten’s article. We have worked very hard to develop a new SAG Conservatory. We have also worked with AFTRA and Actors’ Equity to put together free Tri-Union workshops to give you the skills to land that next job.

Good luck and welcome!