Seattle 2009:05

The Seaport Report - May 22, 2009

VOTE YES FOR YOUR FUTURE

Your Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors
Recommends a YES Vote on the TV/Theatrical Agreements.

May 22, 2009

JOINT LETTER FROM YOUR NATIONAL
BOARD MEMBERS

By Abby Dylan
Seattle National Board Member
and Mary McDonald-Lewis
Portland National Board Member

President Rosenberg begins his latest letter in Screen Actor magazine by saying, “A lot of water has gone under the SAG bridge since my last message in Screen Actor.” However he may see the way this current of water flows, we in the Northwest know that a good wet rain shower cleans the air and brings on the spring. In that sense, water under the bridge is a very, very good thing.

And we do have good news. With great determination, Interim National Executive Director David White and Chief Negotiator John McGuire successfully have negotiated, then gained a 93.84 percent yes vote from members to ratify, the Commercials Contract, as well as gained National Board approval on the tentative TV/Theatrical Contract.

Now it’s up to you, the members. The Screen Actors Guild National Board, including your Seattle National Board Member Abby Dylan and Portland National Board Member Mary McDonald-Lewis, along with both council presidents, all recommend you vote YES to ratify the TV/Theatrical Contract. Your YES gets SAG performers back to work in the Pacific Northwest with more jobs, increased pay and better benefits.

Here are some of the specific highlights of the Commercials and TV/Theatrical Contracts.

The Commercials Contract, which was negotiated jointly with AFTRA, was approved unanimously by the SAG and AFTRA National Boards. This contract makes across-the-board raises totaling 5.5 percent over the life of the contract. It includes the first-ever payment structure in commercials on the Internet and other new media, and it gives substantial increases in our pension and health plans. Though bargaining with management is never easy, the joint negotiating committee navigated the way to a contract that we were proud to bring you for a YES vote.

The TV/Theatrical Contract ventured through much rougher waters for almost a year, but the tentative agreement we have reached is one we can recommend confidently. It includes improvements in almost every area, and most importantly, expires on June 30, 2011, which keeps us in synch to renegotiate jointly with AFTRA, and alongside the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America. This contract includes across-the-board raises of 6.5 percent—an immediate 3 percent raise, plus another 3.5 percent in the second year, for a total of $77.8 million of real money in actors’ pockets. That’s for all working actors everywhere: the Branches, New York and Hollywood. It also provides relief for the middle-class actor with a bump for TV guest star work, higher wages and more work for background performers, and the establishment of SAG jurisdiction in new media, with terms to be renegotiated in two years.

With the summer months—our biggest work season—upon us, paired with the bump up to 30 percent in Washington State film incentives we have just received and our popular Oregon incentives, it’s crucial we vote YES and get back to work. So open your TV/Theatrical ballot when it arrives. Wade through the explanations you’ll find inside. Contact us with any questions you have. Then, vote YES!

Here in Oregon and Washington, the rain has come and sent plenty of water under the SAG bridge—and us Pacific Northwesters know that means we’re ready to shoot under blue sky, armed with a powerful union contract. Let’s get to work!

For more information about contract referenda, go to SAG.org.

SEATTLE PRESIDENT’S LETTER

By Rik Deskin
Seattle Branch President

I fully endorse the TV/Theatrical Contract. Why? Because it’s the best we are going to be able to get in the current economy. Trust me on this. We need everyone to vote yes to end the labor unease in our industry and get us all back to work.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on the National Interactive Media Agreement Negotiating Committee and got to watch firsthand our professional staff members and volunteer committee members in the negotiation process. We are in good hands with our current negotiators and I was impressed, to say the least.

Speaking of work, more of it is coming our way thanks to the hard work by the good folks at Washington Film Works. They’ve managed to raise our state incentive from 20 percent to 30 percent. This makes Washington State very appealing and affordable for producers and the Washington FilmWorks office has been inundated with applications, which will result in an increase in work opportunities for all of us! Make sure you are ready.

A great way to be ready is to make sure your iActor profile is updated and active! If you need help figuring it out, you can contact our executive director, Dena Beatty, or me. This is a very important tool for us to tout our local professional talent and I’m talking to everyone, not just Seattle, but throughout our region—Washington, Montana and Alaska.

My friends, I have been thrilled to meet some of you while working on sets, auditioning, at our 75th anniversary celebration or at my theater. I want to hear from you all so I can do my utmost to represent your interests in this union.

Reach Rik Deskin at seattlepresident@sag.org.

OREGON FILM INCENTIVE UPDATE

By Dena Beatty
SAG Seattle/Portland Executive Director

SB 621 Oregon Production Investment Fund: Industry members in the state of Oregon continue to push their legislators to pass SB 621, which increases the yearly incentive fund by $2.5 million, from $5 million to $7.5 million. The goal of this legislation is to create an incentive fund large enough to attract enough medium- to large-budget projects to sustain filming year round. Currently, this bill is stalled in the Finance and Revenue Committee. To gain momentum, Oregon voters will need to contact their legislators and show their support; please tell your legislator your story. Tell him or her how important this legislation is to you and how it impacts your career and life.

SB 863 Independent Oregon Production Investment Fund: Industry members of the state of Oregon also are working to create a new incentive fund that focuses solely on film work created by local filmmakers. This legislation provides incentive money for films whose expenses range from $75,000 to $750,000 (larger-budget films fall under OPIF) and 80 percent of payroll expenses must be spent on employees who are residents of Oregon. This bill is currently with the Sustainability and Economic Development Committee. Voters are encouraged to contact their legislators to support this bill.

CALL TO ACTION: SUPPORT SB 621

By Tom McFadden
Executive Director, OMPA

Senate Bill 621, which increases the Oregon Production Investment Fund, is currently stalled in committee in the Oregon Senate and requires firm support. Please take a moment to find your senator, and call or e-mail today.

What to say: I live in your district. Please support SB 621. This bill increases Oregon’s ability to attract medium- and large-budget projects to this state with a no-risk job creation program. Would you be willing to support this bill in the Democratic Caucus and make sure it gets to the floor for a vote?

It deserves support because, unlike other Oregon economic incentive programs, this program doesn’t spend a dime of the state’s money until after the company makes its investment in Oregon wages, goods and services. OPIF is a no-risk economic stimulus program that creates jobs immediately, gives the state of Oregon back more money in taxes than it puts into the fund and creates the type of jobs to help Oregon grow in the 21st century economy.

If your senator is supportive and says he or she will champion this effort for us, please talk immediately with Vince Porter at the Governor’s Office of Film and TV, the office that is coordinating the effort to lobby passage of the bill: VincePorter@OregonFilm.org, (503) 229-5832.

Please take action today to show your support of Oregon’s media production industry and creative economy.

Key talking points from the film office:

• The biggest challenge right now is proving the tax credit program is more worthy than other tax credits currently in place. We may have to persuade the legislature to eliminate enough tax credits to make room for this bill.

• We must not use the word “Hollywood” when lobbying on the bill. It immediately sours the bill and the effort. To that point—six of the 18 “OPIF” projects were, in fact, Oregon-based productions. Of the other 12 projects, 10 were financed independently. We do not get the traditionally “Hollywood” projects and we likely never will get those projects. We get the independents, which is in line with the “Oregon way.”

• OPIF is a successful program. So much so there is not enough money left in the fund to attract any significant production for at least a year. In the last three weeks, the office has received three inquiries from projects ready to come and scout Oregon, but without sufficient money in the fund, the projects have gone elsewhere. The projects would have had an Oregon spend of $8–$17 million.

• Oregon’s film and video industry is one sector that is doing well in these tough times. Passage of SB 621 will mean this industry can keep working and bring revenue to Oregon.

• Not one penny of OPIF’s tax credit money leaves the state until the investment has been made. We only rebate expenses once a production has proven the money has been spent. Essentially, tax revenue has been paid PRIOR to the tax credit money leaving the state. According to the ECONorthwest Report estimates on tax revenue from participating OPIF projects, $11,353,217 of tax revenue was raised, which is more than the $10,000,000 in tax credits. We are making the state money and there is no risk!

NEW FRANCHISED TALENT AGENCY FOR SEATTLE BRANCH

By Dena Beatty

The Screen Actors Guild is proud to announce its newest franchised agency, Sterling Talent Agency.

In the two years since Sterling Talent Agency opened, it has been able to pair its talent with both local and national jobs, including Halloween 2, The Mentalist, Heroes, Dear Lemon Lima and The Whole Truth, just to name a few. Currently, it represents 180 clients, ranging from children to adults.

Sterling Talent Agency, founded by Mark Heslip (president/agent) and Greg Burton (vice president/agent), recently added Pam Miller to its team in the role of talent agent. Mark grew up in Orlando, Fla., where his father worked as a producer for Universal Studios. Greg, a Washington State native, is a private business owner; he handles much of the financial and contract negotiations on behalf of the agency. Pam, who is the face of the agency, grew up locally in Kent.

The staff at Sterling Talent Agency is pleased to be the newest addition to the SAG team of franchised agencies and looks forward to a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with SAG and all of the member-clients represented by the agency.

GOVERNOR GREGOIRE SIGNS BILL INCREASING INCENTIVE

The Motion Picture Competitiveness Program’s increase to a 30 percent production tax incentive makes Washington State exponentially more competitive as a filming location and promises to bring significant economic development to Washington State in the form of immediate job creation and production spending in the local economy.

On April 15, 2009, in Olympia, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed revenue-neutral SBH 2042, which increases the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program tax incentive from 20 percent to a 30 percent return on productions’ Washington State spend. “The additional incentives provided in this legislation will make Washington State much more competitive in the film industry,” Gregoire said. “For every industry, Washington must do what it can to attract new business and create new jobs. Along with Washington’s beautiful locations, this legislation ensures our state is providing the right business environment that’s appealing to producers and directors.”

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-Seattle). The companion bill in the Senate was sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle). WashingtonFilmWorks, a 501 (c)(6) non-profit organization, manages the state film program, which administers the incentive. Board Chair Becky Bogard states “The 30 percent tax incentive increase comes just in time for Washington FilmWorks staff to spread the news at Locations Trade Show in Santa Monica next week. It is a great story to tell; not only do we have the widest variety of filming locations in the country, but now we have an extremely competitive business plan."

More than 40 states offer anywhere from 5 percent to 42 percent in financial incentives hoping to lure a film production’s lucrative spending to the local economy. Production incentives started appearing around the year 2000 to combat the phenomenon known as “runaway production” (in the 1990s, Canada began aggressively pursuing films by developing strong financial incentives, attracting millions of dollars in production spending each year). Due to our proximity, Washington was one of the states most affected.

Currently, while Vancouver, B.C., is trying to lure $100 million movies, Washington’s incentive is strategically targeting $2 million to $15 million productions. At this budget level, productions will hire Washington’s local cast and crew, as well as rent equipment from local vendors (instead of flying equipment and crew in from California), thereby leaving the production spending in state