Detroit 2010:12

days since last accident 181
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
December 2010


On December 4 the Joint National Board of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on November 7 – a deal which it is now recommending to the respective union memberships.

Eligible SAG and AFTRA members will vote on the proposed successor agreement to the Producer-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement for feature motion pictures, scripted network primetime television and pay television programs; Exhibit A of the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, covering scripted network primetime and pay television programs; and The CW Supplement, which applies to both unions.

The board passed the motion to approve and send to the memberships a recommendation of a “yes” vote by 89.29 percent to 10.71 percent.

Ratification ballots mailed to all eligible AFTRA and SAG members on Friday, December 10, with a return deadline of 5 p.m. (PST),  January 14, 2011. Due to the holidays, the time period for reviewing and returning ballots will be extended to five weeks (rather than the traditional three-week time period) in order to afford every member the opportunity to carefully review the terms of the proposed agreements before voting. Tabulation will occur immediately upon the conclusion of balloting.

Additionally, informational meetings for members will be scheduled in select cities across the country including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D.C.-Baltimore, San Francisco and Atlanta.

Also on December 4, the National Board of Screen Actors Guild overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement reached with the AMPTP on November 10 regarding the new Basic Cable Live Action, Basic Cable Animation and Television Animation agreements.

The National Board voted to send the Basic Cable Live Action tentative agreement to the membership for ratification by mailed ballot with the Board's positive recommendation. Those ballots will be mailed to eligible SAG members in late January, with an expected return date in early February. Tabulation will occur immediately upon the conclusion of balloting.

The board ratified the smaller Basic Cable Animation and Television Animation contracts directly, effective upon the ratification of the Television and Motion Picture contracts.

Both sets of contracts expire on June 30, 2011, and all of the agreements are for three years. Highlights of these tentative agreements include:

• A 6% wage increase over the term of the agreement, with 2% in each of the three years, effective July 1, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

• A 10% increase in the current rate of employer contributions paid to the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plans (and AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds under the jointly negotiated contract), bringing the total contribution rate to 16.5% effective July 1, 2011. This represents the largest dollar value increase to the plans, under these contracts, since the plans were founded and is the largest percentage increase to the plans in more than two decades.

For more details on these tentatively approved deals, including deal highlights, visit


The Detroit Branch of Screen Actors Guild would like to cordially invite you, your family and friends to the
Screen Actors Guild Awards Viewing Party!

This year’s SAG Life Achievement Award honoree will be Ernest Borgnine, a favorite actor of the west side of Michigan (five films to date).

When: Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011
7:30 – 10 p.m.

Where: McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon
58 Ionia Ave. SW
Grand Rapids, MI  49503
(616) 454-9105

Appetizers will be provided from 7:30 - 8:30 p.m. No host bar. You will also have the opportunity to purchase dinner. No cover charge. Large televisions. Door prizes (including Ernest Borgnine paraphernalia). Mock voting.

RSVP is appreciated (but not necessary) to Marcia Fishman at Don’t miss the fun! It’s a must-see event!


With project-based employment, finding affordable health insurance can sometimes be challenging for actors. The SAG Foundation empowered hundreds of SAG actors across the country with a “Health Insurance Options for Actors” LifeRaft Live Stream on November 4.  Experts from SAG P&H and AFTRA H&R discussed plan benefits and how to qualify through union-contracted employment. And, for those actors working toward qualifying for union coverage, representatives from the Motion Picture Television Fund, The Actors Fund, and UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research provided robust information on a myriad of affordable alternatives. Alternative options discussed included individual coverage that has certain coordination features with union insurance, subsidized plans for children and details on the new federal health care reform law.

Many members were able to get answers on their specific situation, and you can too.  The event is archived and available for members by clicking here.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be important updates to the SAG-Producers Pension and Health Plans effective in January; be sure to visit their website at for details.

Michigan Film Incentives –
In or Out?

By Peter Tocco
Detroit Branch President

As I write this I am reflecting on the past year here in Michigan. Work in 2010 was better than 2009. I hope this upswing continues in the coming year.

With the coming change in leadership in Lansing, many of you have asked me about the film incentives. Will they stay or will they go or will they be reduced? We want answers to these questions. In truth, I don’t know how the film incentive will change (if at all) in the end. Many of you are concerned that with a new governor and legislature now in power, it will be the end of all the production that has poured into our state. I too am concerned, but I’m also very optimistic.

The film incentive bill has had broad support throughout the House and Senate, as well as with the people of the state of Michigan. Permanent infrastructures are beginning to take hold as seen with Raleigh Studios, and the pool of Michigan workers with film-industry training is continuing to grow. Also, countless businesses have benefited from all the movies and TV shows being shot throughout the state. Great progress has been made and I believe that such progress will help prove how valuable and needed the film incentives are to the future of Michigan.

When I hear people say that we can’t afford these film incentives, I respond that we can’t afford not to have these incentives in place. They are working to create jobs, to keep our young people here in Michigan and to create a new image of Michigan that is seen across the country.

Let’s not turn this into a Democrat or Republican battle. Once our new leadership sits down and begins to look at all the facts and information, I am certain that the film incentives will remain strong and in place.
Let’s all stay positive and hope that our new leadership will make the right choices.

Here’s to a great 2011.

arab film festival

SAG members who assisted with workshops at the Arab Film Festival were, from left, Richard Jewell, Nicole Hakim Yohn, Mike Eshaq and Ralph Lister.

Organizing – What's Up?

By Marcia Fishman
Branch Executive Director

With a new year fast approaching us, we have lots of uncertainties. Will our new government officials be supportive of our union’s issues – and unions in general? Will "right to work” be a real threat in Michigan? Will we build and maintain a solid base for our growing film industry? With questions on our horizon, having a substantial number of SAG members might be as important now than it has ever been before. And towards that goal, here are some of our activities:

At the beginning of December we participated in the Arab Film Festival, which was held at the Arab American Museum. With the very large Arab population in the Detroit area, we felt that it was important to see if that population includes those aspiring to be professional actors. On December 4, SAG members led an excellent workshop which covered aspects of professionalism as actors, and also demonstrated the difference between acting on stage and  on screen. On December 5, Carrie Ray Casting, Pound Mooney Casting and Productions Plus/The Talent Shop conducted an open casting for those in the Arab community. Although some participants were experienced actors and some were not, the casting directors and agents were able to add Arabic speakers and potential actors to their rosters. With our local need to increase our lists of performers of diversity, this open casting was a successful start.

Another organizing initiative is about to begin – and that is the program for SAG CADETs (Cultivating Actors with Direction, Education and Training). Any student in the sixth to 12th grade with drama or film acting training or experience is eligible to be a CADET, which will entitle them to be a member of a special Screen Actors Guild Detroit Conservatory. A nominal fee will be applied to cover the cost of programming, and all CADETs will receive a special card recognizing their conservatory membership. And what is our overall goal? It is to have young actors become accustomed and proud to carry a membership card. When they one day become SAG eligible, the choice to join SAG will be a quick and positive decision.

cadet card
And one more effort in the near future is another SAG Awards Viewing Party in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is one of our cities which we have targeted for membership growth. It is also an area of the state that does not have a history of union density. We have seen a growth in SAG membership over the past year and that only helps bring more films to that part of the state, while building union support as well. And besides, it doesn’t hurt to hold a party where both union and non-union people watch a program where actors proudly show off their union cards.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year, and wishing you all an upcoming year of growth in both membership and work opportunities.

Preparing for Taxes

By Eric Wydra
Detroit Councilor

Happy Holidays to all Michigan Branch SAG members and their families. My name is Eric Wydra and I serve as a council member at large on the Detroit Council. In addition to being an actor, I also work as a CPA specializing in tax. So while we are all enjoying the holiday season, my thoughts start turning to the next season – one that I’m sure we all enjoy – tax season! Before we know it, it will be time to prepare your tax return. I’d like to offer several tips that all of us actors can use to hopefully minimize the amount of tax we have to pay on April 15.

As actors, we can write-off many expenses that we incur during the year against our income earned in TV, motion pictures, commercials, industrials and auto show engagements. We all pay our agents a commission on our acting earnings (10 percent on SAG jobs). That commission is generally included in our gross income reported on our W-2 or 1099-MISC for each job – so you are eligible to subtract the commissions paid to your agent from your gross income at the end of each year. Any other “ordinary and necessary” business expense related to acting is eligible to be deducted as well. Some of these items include: the costs to have professional headshots taken (both the photographer’s fee as well as the fee to have your color 8x10s printed), costs to take acting classes to keep your skills honed, initiation fees and annual dues paid to SAG, AFTRA and AEA, personalized stationary with your image printed on it to send thank you notes to producers and casting agents after booking you on a job, expenses associated with recording a voiceover demo that will hopefully help you book future work, and one cost that many performers overlook – mileage. The IRS allows individuals to deduct 50 cents per business mile driven in 2010 – so keep track of all of your trips to agents’ and casting directors’ offices for auditions during the year. Even if you don’t book the job, that cost is still associated with your profession and is eligible to be deducted. Driving to the set for a successful booking would also be eligible for the mileage deduction.

In order to claim these deductions on your personal tax return, fill out Form 2106 (Employee Business Expenses) for any expenses related to jobs in which you will receive a W-2 at the end of the year, and fill out Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business) for any expenses related to jobs for which you are treated as an independent contractor and will receive a 1099-MISC. Expenses on your Form 2106 must exceed 2½ percent of your adjusted gross income during the year and are reported on Schedule A as an itemized deduction.  
Being organized is the key to both keeping track of the deductions during the year and also defending them upon audit if the IRS decides to inspect your tax returns. Having original receipts for all expenditures and keeping a mileage log with the date and number of miles and name of the audition or actual booking listed will be necessary to prove to the IRS that the expenses incurred were “ordinary and necessary” in your acting business. I find that having a spreadsheet saved on my home computer and updating it once a month with any acting-related expenses is the easiest way for me to maximize my deductions. I keep all of my receipts in a manila folder labeled “acting.” This also serves as a good way not to have to spend hours and hours after the year is over trying to find old receipts that may disappear without an organized system.

May 2011 bring all of us good health, much happiness, professional satisfaction and the opportunity to save some money in taxes!

NOTE: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and not as a substitute for the advice of a tax, financial or legal professional who knows your individual circumstances. You should always use good judgment in these matters and should not act or refrain from acting based solely on this information. The Guild makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided.


Members Richard Jewell and Nicole Hakim Yohn with classroom children, Rudolph the dachshund and both Rudolph books.

SAG Members Read to Kids for Holiday

For the third year in a row, SAG members read holiday stories to young elementary school children. Students of Roosevelt Elementary School in Keego Harbor were entertained with three stories – a Rudolph the Reindeer book, a Rudolph the dachshund book, and an original Christmas story by SAG member Richard Jewell. The real Rudolph the dog was also present for the festivities. This holiday story telling has been an excellent volunteer effort that our SAG members continue to fulfill – one that brings happiness to the children and joyous enrichment to those who participate.