NATIONAL BOARD REPORT
By Art Lynch
Being on the National Board of Screen Actors Guild is an exercise in marketing, legal issues, both the macro and the micro scale of the industry, political manipulations and much more.
The day-to-day work of a National Board member involves phone calls, email, instant messaging, chat lines, PowerPoint presentations and lots of reading and research.
The workload involves statistics, spreadsheets, conferences, debates and relationships with other nationally elected officers and national staff, patience, action when needed, strong listening skills, and persuasive skills. The work requires knowledge of a wide range of areas within the industry, of the differences in geography, and of differences in contract use for the regions and Branches. Board members must focus on anticipating change and keeping local, regional and national members in mind, as well as performers who will become a part of the union and an asset to SAG in the future.
Board meetings are long, sometimes exciting, often tedious and always essential. While the heavy and hateful politics of recent years are behind us, there remain disagreements and differences in priorities in use of contract, amount of work under contract, geography, skill level and membership representation priorities.
The board duties and activities are not just a question of attending meetings. They include keeping the Branch president and councils informed and allowing them the opportunity to represent Nevada on national committees and at national meetings, as those opportunities arise.
The work starts locally and expands to national, with committees, work groups, research, sidebar conversations, email chains, Skype and Go to Meeting sessions, and much more.
The most vital issue of the past few years, and in the year ahead, is movement toward one union. I am active on several work groups to make sure Nevada and small Branches are a key part of what will be the highest profile and most powerful entertainment union in the world.
If the members approve it “and the creek don’t rise,” we will be one union a year from now, with board consideration in January 2012.
“The message from SAG and AFTRA members across the country has been clear — they want this done as soon as possible. If our boards approve the merger plan in January, our members will make the final decision through a referendum vote less than a year from now. I’m proud that we’ve taken a major step today, and I’m extremely grateful for the unanimous support of the SAG National Board. I also want to thank AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, whose remarkable leadership has been essential in bringing us to this point.” — SAG President Ken Howard
On April 30, The Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors unanimously approved the creation of a Merger Task Force to work with their AFTRA counterparts in developing a formal plan to unite SAG and AFTRA members in one union.
You may be asked to vote on the creation of a new union early next year.
There will be sacrifices to profit from the benefits of a single union. Dues for single-card holders (most of our Nevada membership) may go to finance organizing that will result in greater work opportunities.
Competition between AFTRA and SAG is growing in the television and new media areas, both of which are growing in size and dollars as film (theatrical) remains stable and the future of commercials remains technologically uncertain. With one union, you have a unified effort instead of two competing unions fighting for income and survival.
The growth is in the lower-budget areas of television and film production, areas where a unified performers’ union will be in a position to organize, increasing work for our membership.
“The entertainment industry is undergoing a transformation, and the only way for middle-class performers to remain strong is to have one union fighting for them with a unified strategy. I’m excited to be a part of making that happen.” — SAG 1st Vice President Ned Vaughn.
Your help and comments are needed
The presidents of both national unions have been on a “listening tour” across the country. They are now requesting feedback and ideas through your elected National Board representatives.
I am interested in your feedback and ideas, questions and observations.
We are seeking your direct feedback to several questions:
1. How are you working differently than five years ago? How has the work changed?
2. What do you want to see in a merged union?
3. How have non-union qualified performers impacted your work opportunities? What can be done to create more union work and minimize use of non-union talent?
4. How have your employers changed from five years ago?
5. What could a merged union do for you? What are your ideas on how to accomplish this?
Please submit your comments to me, trough the SAG office, at Steven.Clinton@sag.org.
This is a time for union pride
The National Legislative Committee’s focus is on battling anti-union movements and legislation in many areas, including right-to-work expansion and attempts to erode union security; working to expand and counter repeals of location-based film incentives; strengthening the protection of our young performers; and protecting members rights wherever and whenever required. Celebrity and rank-and-file members have made a difference in Wisconsin, Michigan and many other states, including advancement of film incentive legislation in the Nevada Legislature.
A Wired World: We need your help
Working actors know that being connected on the Internet is essential to being a performer in this new age of entertainment. Submissions are often by computer, with auditions on Web cameras. Scripts and notices come over email or Facebook. Talent showcases their work on websites and in social media.
The Screen Actors Guild is aware of this, and of the opportunity it provides to save dues money and increase immediacy in all communications. The amount of print materials you receive will continue to decrease, while online increases in importance.
We have a commitment to online rapid communications with members and the community using email broadcasts, Facebook, Twitter and other media and social media.
You can help your fellow actors by encouraging them to have email, to keep their email information up to date with the Guild, to check the SAG website and keep in touch electronically with our SAG office. Nevada Executive Steve Clinton and the Nevada Organizing Committee are ready to help anyone who needs assistance in converting to the Internet age of communication. By offering your help or passing names and emails of members on to the SAG office, you can help ensure that as close as possible to 100 percent of Nevada members are informed and active.
SAG is organizing work in all areas, with a focus on new media, low budget and localized work for Nevada and other markets. I am active on several national committees in this area. Much of the work remains confidential for reasons that I am willing to explain one on one, or our executive can address it as an organizing and contract professional.
The Guild is making the most of our dues by doing more for less, using automation, shifting how services are delivered and renewing focus on essentials needed to allow the Guild to improve member services, including contract enforcement, on an ever-tightening budget.
Residuals and other programs are being automated and computerized whenever possible, speeding the process and minimizing human error.
An online signatory process for producers is becoming a reality, making it easier to access information, fill out paperwork and file it with the Guild. Of particular interest is that all filmmakers, at all budget levels, including students, can now have access to SAG talent. Nevada has already picked up ultra-low budget productions using the online application process.
As co-chair of the national New Media and Web Committees, and an active member of the National Communications Committee, I can report on improvements, upgrades and increased use of SAG on the Web. It is there for you to use and to pass on to anyone interested in our industry. We are working on improvements in navigation of the website, growth of recently launched sites to help young performers, and potential upgrades for iActor.
We have overseen improvements in SAG TV and the resources it offers for talent at all levels of the industry. SAG TV and our relationships with the SAG Foundation provide a wealth of information about the industry, contracts and how to navigate life as a professional performer. There are archives here and here.
I also encourage you to stay on top of the increased benefits for SAG members though Union Plus (AFL-CIO) and SAG-generated cooperative ventures with businesses. For updates, click here.
Join me in wishing the best and a rapid recovery for President Barbara Grant.
We all should thank Vice President Arttours Weeden, the officers and the Nevada Branch Council for their aggressive work on behalf of the membership. We are, thanks to them, a very active Branch in every way, including organizing, legislative, our conservatory, keeping our executive informed and continuing our more than 35 years as an activist SAG-only Branch of the Screen Actors Guild.
And a special thank you to Nevada Executive Steve Clinton for his work on our legislative initiatives, in organizing work, in protecting our wages and working conditions and membership services.
Have a great summer…hopefully with both work and relaxation.
Vice President's Report
By Arttours Weeden
When I woke up on March 27, I was looking forward to our membership meeting later that day. I am a social person by nature and I enjoy those times when I can get together with my fellow thespians and catch up. It was around 9 a.m., though, when my anxiety level rose sharply. Steve Clinton called and told me my good friend and our president, Barbara Grant, was being taken to the emergency room. First in my mind was worry about Barbara, but Steve had also told me I would have to take over as chair of the membership meeting. While I will never be accused of lacking confidence, this would be my first time chairing the membership meeting and, let me tell you, it did give me pause for thought. Thankfully, I knew our executive and the rest of the council had my back, and as those who attended know, we had a good meeting celebrating our Branch’s 35th anniversary and talking about the issues facing our Branch. I will continue to work hard to keep our Branch moving forward until our president is fully recovered.
I have spoken with Barbara recently and she is doing well. She is spending a lot of time in physical and other therapies to recover, but she is working hard and I expect she will be back soon, better than ever. Please keep Barbara in your prayers.
I would also like to thank our executive, Steve Clinton, and our legislative chairs Scott Mirne and Mary Ann Hebinck for their work to make Nevada competitive with the rest of the country. Steve, who has been up in Carson City talking to our legislators and working with the AFL-CIO, tells me that we have a meaningful chance at getting AB 506 to the governor’s desk. Please keep contacting the Nevada Legislature and the governor and tell them we need these jobs in Nevada.
Branch Executive Director's Report
By Steve Clinton
Yesterday was a good day. Got some priority emails written, helped arrange for the next conservatory and then walked onto the set of Lay the Favorite, where I saw many smiling Branch member faces doing their craft. While there are many aspects to SAG representation of its members, the most fulfilling for me is to have a production in town and a lot of Branch members working the shoot. To walk down the Fremont Experience between the cameras and the booms and greet one Branch member after another was the best springtime gift I could receive.
As we all know, with the economy slowly recovering and no Nevada incentives, it has been a slow start to the year. A few commercials and that is it, but with optimistic news from Carson City and now a film, April is hopefully a turning point for our year.
And speaking of Carson City, I should probably stop calling it an incentive bill and use its true descriptive title: jobs bill AB 506 passed from the Nevada Committee on Taxation to the Committee on Ways and Means a couple of weeks ago without objection. SAG has already recommended that you keep contacting your representatives about this bill and I continue to urge you to do so. As I write, AB 506 is sitting in committee, but the good news is it is exempt. Being exempt means we do not have to worry about any committee deadline, and I am hoping that as you receive this newsletter, the bill is being handled by the Committee on Ways and Means. With no opposition from either party, it is my sincere dream and desire that AB 506 goes to the floor for passage and that the Nevada governor then signs the bill into law.
While we all have to continue to work to get AB 506 passed, we are very close to having a jobs bill for our industry. Many thanks to Teamsters 631, IATSE 720 and the Nevada AFL-CIO for all that they have done to help us get this far. Anyone that thinks that working collectively is a thing of the past doesn’t realize how much all of us do together to make progress happen.
More good news: President Grant is doing well and is in rehab recovering nicely. I’ve spent some time with her recently keeping her abreast of Branch business and am so happy with how well she has come through her travails. Vice President Arttours Weeden has done a terrific job stepping in to ensure the smooth flow of Branch business and should be congratulated by all of us. I definitely give Arttours and the rest of the council kudos for not letting this trying time get in the way of moving forward.
Notes From the Set
By Scott Mirne
Though I often have the opportunity to spend time with my fellow SAG members at meetings, social events and rallies, one of the most enjoyable experiences we share is spending a day or two on the set of a film, television program or commercial together. Whether we perform as principals, background performers or stand-ins, working together provides us with a unique shared experience and camaraderie. When we are on set, we are truly in our element.
While we would all like to see increased local production opportunities, our members have auditioned and performed in several recent Las Vegas and Reno-area projects. A handful of Nevada Branch members have traveled for work in California, Hawaii and New Mexico, as well as other locations. With many shows now supporting electronic submission processes, Nevada members have been able to easily audition for principal roles in other locales. I encourage my fellow members to develop your iActor profile, and ask your agent to submit you for appropriate breakdowns in any geographical area you are willing to work.
Whether working locally or out of state, we as SAG members should always be well prepared and professional. Show up early — allow time for parking and getting to the set. Always bring an extra pen and proper identification. Bring the requested wardrobe and always be ready on set as needed.
Together we can help productions run smoothly, provide crews with a positive experience and a favorable view of Nevada talent and make SAG and the Nevada Branch look good. Being in a right-to-work state, our professionalism and solidarity may help encourage more productions to go union. I hope to see Nevada Branch members with increasing opportunities to meet each other and work together on set, in the near future and as often as possible.
Legislative Committee Report
By Scott Mirne
Legislative Committee Co-Chair
As many of us realize, SAG work in Nevada has been rather limited for some time now. While the slowdown can be partially blamed on the economy in general, we in the Nevada Branch have also lost opportunities to other states and areas that offer economic benefits to locally based productions. Even films which are set in Nevada have been filmed elsewhere. The benefits that these productions receive, mostly by way of state legislative incentives, include tax breaks and rebates.
These benefits help provide states with greater employment, economic diversification and ultimately, increased revenue. For tourism-based economies such as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Reno, local production also provides publicity and leads to increased tourist visits and dollars spent.
Your legislative committee, fellow Branch members and Executive Director Steve Clinton have been working hard on developing film incentive legislation in Nevada. These efforts have been made in conjunction with our sister AFL-CIO unions, local agents and production personnel, political campaigns, and members of the Nevada State Assembly and Senate, as well as other political figures.
We believe that economic diversification, beyond the gaming and mining industries, is essential to healthy economic growth for Nevada. And the entertainment industry is an important part of this diversification.
Through our efforts, there are now two pending state Assembly bills in support of film industry incentives. These are AB 418 and AB 506. We encourage every member to show their support for these bills by contacting their state Assembly and state Senate representatives. A list of these legislators is available here. With the support of our membership, we hope to bring film incentives and increased production to Nevada.
By Stephen Joseph Lizotte
Most of you know by now that Nevada Branch President and Conservatory Chair Barbara Grant has undergone a cardiac procedure and is now recovering in hospital rehab. As her co-chair and friend, this has been a huge bump in the road, but I have no doubt she will recover soon. I know I speak for everyone in Las Vegas entertainment when I wish her a speedy recovery. In the meantime, with the help of Steve Clinton, I will do my best to carry on with the conservatory.
The Nevada SAG Conservatory has come out of the gate in 2011 at a fast and furious pace. In January, we once again had the pleasure of learning about ear prompting from Brian Robert Taylor. Ear prompting is especially important to the Las Vegas entertainment community with all of the convention work we have, and Brian is always a welcomed guest by our appreciative membership.
We were especially honored in February, when the renowned actor/director Michael Lembeck took a curtain call at the Nevada SAG Conservatory on February 19. The larger-than-normal room quickly filled and was electrified from the moment that our president and conservatory chair, Barbara Grant, introduced SAG brother Lembeck and he began his presentation. Michael gave a fantastic appearance, and every participant raved about this exciting event. Mr. Lembeck graciously stayed until he was able to answer every question and/or provide his professional opinion. I think I can safely say that we can’t wait to have Michael Lembeck back at our conservatory.
It is also gratifying to see more and more SAG Nevada members taking advantage of this great union benefit. Without SAG members joining and participating, we would not be able to continue to bring such dynamic presenters to our sessions. We cannot emphasize enough how all SAG Branch members should come out and support their conservatory.
I’ve got to take a moment to thank Mark Cooper, who stepped in to help check in when things got backed up, and as always, many thanks to Claudia Hartman and J.R. Thompson for their help. We can always use more help and, if you would like to be more involved, please don’t hesitate to contact Steve Clinton at firstname.lastname@example.org — he will forward the info on to me.
Coming up, we have scheduled Phil Valentine, one of Las Vegas’ premier casting directors. An email will be coming soon with more details.
Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall in Las Vegas
By Steve Clinton
Words do not do justice to the joy I felt as I walked onto the Fremont Experience and smiled and talked with Nevada Branch members working on the first day of Bruce Willis’ new film, Lay the Favorite. From the airport to the strip to the Experience to Caesar’s to the Rio, and many points in between, Nevada Branch members got to work on their first big-budget film of the year. With few problems and a calm set, the production went smoothly and it was good to see the smiles. Let us hope this is the start of a rash of new projects for Nevada.
Lay the Favorite Director of Cinematography Michael McDonough speaks with Nevada Branch SAG members Chris Rogers (Bruce Willis stand-in) and Brenda Olivares (Rebecca Hall stand-in) on the set by Caesar’s pool. Picture by Danette Tull with permission.
I Choose to Be Union
By Art Lynch
My work is defined by my pride in unions, a pride instilled by my father, grandfather and great grandfather. I have professional theater and film experience from Chicago to Los Angeles, but made Nevada home, literally in a desert, where I work with, and in great pride with, those who choose to be union in this anti-union environment. I believe in all talent and work for all talent. I have always been honest with my students, my children and myself. I work hard for all talent by working hard for the union.
Las Vegas is a town where non-union work abounds, work that is not worth doing if you consider yourself a professional. The only plus is “tape” of yourself and a little experience few will consider. The negative is a lack of future residual or use-fee income, lack of protection of your image and talents, lack of safety and working conditions on the set and the potential of eliminating yourself from future work in a product category because you are associated with a product you advertised when you were non-union.
By becoming a member of SAG, you are limiting your work to union work, with its protections and the inference of professionalism the membership card carries. Being a member of SAG tells producers that you are serious about your craft and your work.
The greater the number of qualified professionals who join the union, the more union work will be organized and available here in Nevada, raising the overall standard of professionalism and pay for the market.
Only if all professionals join the union can the union organize work in Nevada and thus raise the level for all talent in terms of pay, compensation and safety. Income potential and professionalism are much higher among those who stand up for worker’s rights and unionism in the hostile environment of a right-to-work (for less) state.
It is interesting that those who say that working background is not acting, themselves do background work (when they need the money). I believe that all talent deserves respect and the opportunity to work with the protections provided by their union. I was a proud member of both SEG (Screen Extras Guild) and SAG until SEG folded and jurisdiction was taken over by SAG. Actors in New York have always done union extra work under union contracts. It is simply one other way actors can earn money and, in doing so, contribute to their pensions and health.
I raised a family here and to do so had to take on coaching work, teaching work and other industry-related work to have a regular income. It has all been worth it and I am proud to call myself a trade unionist.
Why did you choose to be union?
I invite all of you to share your thoughts on being union, on why you joined, on what we stand for. The Branch newsletter will print select submissions in future issues. Submissions should go to the SAG office through our executive Steve Clinton at email@example.com. Thank you.
SAG Production Center Makes Signing Faster and Easier
SAG has unveiled a way to ease the signatory process for several kinds of producers. The SAG Production Center, located at SAG.org/ProductionCenter, allows producers of new media, student, short, ultra low budget and industrial-educational projects to do the paperwork to sign SAG online, giving them access to the best acting talent in the industry.
“We are continually looking for ways to improve and facilitate the signing process,” said SAG National Executive Director David White, “The Production Center helps keep producers organized and allows them to get their project cleared faster than ever.”
More than 220 producers have used the application since it rolled out in April, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Allison Allain was the first new media producer to sign via the site for her production of My Mother Never… She found that the online application was surprisingly fast and efficient. Allain has said that she has already recommended signing online to several fellow new media producers.
“All in all, it ended up being a much shorter process than I expected,” she said. “It’s very clear…It was really easy to follow for somebody who’s never done it before.”
David Wolfson, who produced the short film Nuts and Bolts, said signing through the site went smoothly.
“The upload, the download, the ability…to share files, that all has been extremely simple,” Wolfson said. “I think this is going to make producers very happy.”
No matter what kind of project, the Production Center offers something for everyone, whether it’s step-by-step instructions on how to sign SAG, fillable forms, rate sheets, videos with advice from producers, information on casting incentives and a FAQ for each type of agreement. Producers also gain direct access to SAG’s Actors to Locate database and Station 12 cast clearance.
The new SCREEN ACTORS GUILD PRODUCTION CENTER offers:
- Online signatory application for New Media, Student, Short, Ultra Low Budget and Industrial-Educational projects (public beta now available). Live helpdesk assistance during business hours.
• Step-by-step signatory process tutorials.
• Rate sheets, fillable forms, sample performer contracts and FAQs.
• Direct access to SAG’s Actors to Locate database and Station 12 cast clearance.
• Videos by and for producers to assist in the signatory process.
• Postings and RSVP information on free Low Budget Agreement workshops.