Portland 2008:08

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Portland 2008:08

August 28, 2008


By Maggie Stenson

Did you know that union members may audition for non-union work without being in violation of union rules? It’s true. In fact, one of the greatest organizing assets Screen Actors Guild has is our talent base, or more specifically, YOUR talent. Whether casting for an independent project covered by one of SAG’s low budget agreements or a project for new media, savvy producers know the value of professional talent. That’s why the Guild has signed countless low budget films and more than 500 new media projects. Organizing depends on the project, and it depends on you – your knowledge of SAG contracts, your talent and your professionalism. The more your talents are seen by writers, directors and producers, the greater the likelihood that those planning to shoot non-union may want to rethink those plans.

I submitted myself for a compelling project a month or so ago. It was advertised as a non-union new media project, and I was up front about my union status. I also was very up front about my willingness to work with the producer to help coordinate the minimal paperwork to use union talent. I felt good about the callback, and was hopeful that they might want to use me. It isn't often a smart, well-written script comes along for middle-aged women, so I was doubly excited about the possibility. I was told afterwards that although they thought I'd done a great job, they just couldn't afford to use a union person on the project. Rats!

Ironically, given the amount of the stipend they were planning to pay, hiring a union actor for the current minimum – the producer must abide by state labor laws – for the maximum number of rehearsal hours and filming hours that they had budgeted SAG’s flexible New Media Contract could have saved the project some money. Sadly, even after I showed them how they could save money while filling their cast with union people, they demurred. I felt sorry that they decided to go that route, since I know there were quite a few SAG actors who would have been great assets to the project. My sources tell me that one SAG member decided to take financial core status in order to take a role on the project. Why anyone would think that resigning from the union to take non-union work is a good idea is beyond me, but that is a topic for another article. You can never really know why a producer decides not to go union. Sometimes even minimal paperwork is too much for an inexperienced producer, sometimes a producer is misinformed, and still others may be unwilling to cooperate with unions for personal reasons.

So why did I put so much effort into trying to get a union job for me and my fellow actors in that project? Because it can work! Several years ago, a project came up on TPS for a non-union student film. I liked the concept and thought I was right for one of the parts. I met the writer and director at the audition, and they really liked me. I helped them make my part a SAG one. It didn't take much doing, and everyone was happy. Contracts for new media, student films and other low budget projects shouldn't cause fear and consternation. As a matter of fact, we all should brush up on the contents of such contracts, so that we can allay any fears people have about entering into a SAG contract.

It didn't work out for this particular new media project, but it might for the next one. (I'm batting .500!)

My suggestion to all of you is to submit for the parts that you know you are right for, whether they're asking for union actor submissions or not. Be up front about your union status, blow them away at the audition and let the producers know that if they want to use you (or any other union actor) in the project, you'll work with Seattle/Portland Executive Director Dena Beatty to make it happen.

Organizing happens project by project – and YOU make it happen.

Note: In Washington State, employers must pay minimum wage ($8.07/hour) as well as Employment Security and L&I.


By Dena Beatty
Seattle/Portland Executive Director

With all five Pacific Northwest states (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington) having film incentive packages, the Pacific Northwest is telling the film industry, “Come on up!”

States in the Pacific Northwest have been building film incentive packages since 2005, beginning in Oregon with their Production Investment Fund and the Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate, and in Montana with their Big Sky on the Big Screen incentive fund. In 2007 both Oregon and Montana revisited their legislation packages and offered enhancements to give their states a better edge in an increasingly competitive film incentive market. Washington State soon joined its neighboring states in 2006 with its own package, and in 2008 the state improved legislation to bolster interest from larger-budget films and lower-budget commercials.

In the first quarter of this year, Alaska and Idaho joined the rest of the Pacific Northwest by throwing their hats into the ring and offering incentives for filmmakers to bring production to their states as well. With Alaska and Idaho joining their neighboring states, the Pacific Northwest now has blanket coverage to entice local, national and international filmmakers to the region.

Current Pacific Northwest incentive packages:


$100,000,000 Tax Credit Fund:

  • Must spend at least $100,000 in a consecutive 24 month period
  • 30% transferable tax credit on qualified expenditures
  • Claim an extra 10% for wages paid to Alaska residents
  • Claim an extra 2% if filming in a rural area
  • Claim an extra 2% if filming between October 1 and March 30
  • No salary cap per employee per production


    Idaho’s Motion Media Rebate Program: Funding pending legislative action during next session

  • Production must spend $200,000 in Idaho and 20% of crew must be Idaho residents
  • $500,000 cap per production
  • 20% rebate on all goods and services purchased in Idaho

    Additional Idaho Incentives:

  • Sales Tax Rebate on Goods
  • Idaho provides for a rebate of the 6% sales tax on tangible personal property (which excludes consumables such as food) when $200,000 is spent on a wide variety of qualifying expenses.

    Lodging Exemption: Production personnel who are staying 30 days or more in Idaho lodging facilities are totally exempt from both sales and lodging taxes, currently 8%. Local option taxes levied in certain communities would also be exempt, which would add to the savings.


    The Big Sky on the Big Screen Act:

  • No fund limit
  • No per-production cap
  • 14% incentive on Montana labor Applies to first $50,000 of wages per Montana resident
  • 9% incentive on Montana expenditures
  • Includes hotel and lodging expenditures, production equipment rental, fuel costs, expendables, lumber/construction materials, vehicle rentals, and food expenditures.

    Additional Montana Incentives: Montana has no sales tax.


    Oregon Production Investment Fund:

  • Funded at $5,000,000
  • No per-production cap
  • 20% cash rebate on production related goods and services paid to Oregon vendors
  • 10% cash rebate of wages paid for work done in Oregon, including both Oregon and non-Oregon residents

    Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate:

  • Production must spend $1 million in Oregon to qualify
  • 6.2% cash rebate for Oregon-based payroll

    Additional Oregon Incentives:

  • No sales tax
  • Fee-free state parks
  • Fee-free on select city and county parks
  • Hotel discounts
  • Lodging taxes waived


    Washington State Incentive:

  • Funded at $3.5 million
  • No per-production cap
  • 20% return on all qualified in-state expenditures (including Washington-based labor and talent)
  • Production must spend
  • $500,000 (feature films)
  • $300,000 (television)
  • $150,000 (commercials)

    Additional Washington State Incentives:

  • State sales and use tax off rental equipment, services, vehicles
  • Hotel/motel tax exemption on 30-day stay
  • Vendor discount deals for below-the-line services
  • Seattle permit $25 per day, including city-owned property



    By Steve Oster
    Oregon Film & Video Office

    A just-released economic report illustrates the major impact that the film and video industry has on the Oregon economy. Commissioned by the Governor’s Office of Film & Television, the study shows the industry generated $1.39 billion of combined direct and indirect economic impact, representing a 41 percent increase over 2005.

    The direct industry impact was $709 million, representing an increase of 43 percent. The greatest increase was the out-of-state spending in Oregon, with a 117 percent increase, and representing more than $41.3 million in direct spending for the state. According to economic consultants ECONorthwest, “Out-of-state film and video production reversed the decline it experienced between 2002 and 2005, with growth over the last two years that has left the economic impacts associated with this sector well above 2002 levels.”

    The study further shows that more than 13,330 people are employed in jobs supporting the film and video industry and earned an average annual wage 34 percent higher than the state average. “On a statewide basis, the film and video industry exhibited strong linkages (i.e., sizeable multiplier effects) to other sectors of the Oregon economy. With a job multiplier of 2.11, every 10 jobs in the film and video industry is associated with 11.1 jobs in other industry sectors in the state.”

    Films that recently shot in Oregon and employed Oregon crew include Without a Paddle II, The Road, Twilight, Burning Plain, Calvin Marshal, Management and Untraceable.

    A full PDF copy of the study can be found at the Film Office website news page.


    By Dena Beatty
    Seattle/Portland Executive Director

    As you know, filmmaking is a competitive business and nearly, if not every, state in the nation is looking to draw production. With our new incentive plans, Washington and Oregon state lawmakers are doing their part to put SAG members to work, but our film offices and incentive programs consistently hear one resounding complaint from filmmakers who would like to film here: There’s no SAG talent (or talent period) in the Pacific Northwest!

    Wow! You and I both know this is not true; we have a large supply of SAG talent whose skills benefit any project lucky enough to hire them.

    With iActor, SAG’s online casting database, we have an ingenious tool to help overcome this complaint. This tool will allow us to show filmmakers who want to film in our region all the SAG talent we have to offer them.

    We need your help. In a recent review of iActor, we noticed that very few members living in the Pacific Northwest have posted a resume. It is our desire to have full participation in this valuable marketing tool. If every member in the Pacific Northwest enters a resume, we can show filmmakers that we have hundreds of talented members available to work on their projects, overcoming the misconception.

    What’s the benefit to you? You get exposure to producers not only here in the Pacific Northwest, but also across the nation and internationally, as it is a tool available to any SAG-signatory producer.

    Help us overcome this unfounded complaint and sign up for iActor today! Let’s show filmmakers that the Pacific Northwest has SAG talent!


    By Mary McDonald-Lewis
    Portland Branch National Board Member

    On June 22, Oregon's film community donned its finest and celebrated Screen Actors Guild's 75 anniversary in style. Tony Starlight's Supper Club was the place, and the players included area actors, crew, filmmakers, casting and talent management pros, members of the OMPA and representatives from the Oregon Film and Video Office, political partners and more.

    Tony's sits at the gateway to old Hollywood, with its retro look and glamorous style. Judging from the delighted response of the guests gathered there, it was the ideal spot for the fete.

    Thanks to the efforts of SAG council member George Fosgate, the anniversary was lauded ahead of time via movie marquees at both the Academy Theater and Living Room Theatre, which read "Celebrate SAG's 75th Anniversary – See a Movie!" Gov. Ted Kulongoski proclaimed June 21 henceforward to be "Screen Actors Guild Day" in Oregon.

    A crowd of about 100 filled Tony's, and conversation ran high as old friends got caught up, new contacts were made and maybe even a few projects got pitched. After a few words of greeting from SAG national board member Mary McDonald-Lewis and Portland Branch President Robert Blanche, two of our city's most popular songbirds took the stage to entertain the audience with movie tunes from the 1940s. Michele Mariana and Chrisse Roccaro, accompanied by Reece Marshburn, topped their performances with a final shared moment on Roccaro's interpretation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, with Mariana harmonizing and signing the final lines with ASL.

    Tony Starlight himself stepped into the spotlight for the second act, crooning songs from Hollywood's Golden Age, and getting huge laughs with his send-up of more modern songs and acts.

    A raffle created and managed by our “giveaway gals” Anita Barry, Betty Moyer and Karen Moulder was held throughout the event, with items provided by Anisha Center for Holistic Health, Terry Higgins and Bouffant Salon, Chinook Winds Casino Resort – An Enterprise of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, Evan Halbert Photography, Frame Central, Karen Moulder, Mt. Hood Beverage, Mt. Hood Repertory Theatre, the Portland Trail Blazers, and Tony Starlight's Supper Club. One last-minute item – a "green" Hummer rental – was provided spontaneously by a mystery gentleman, and we'd love to be reminded of his name so we can thank him in our next newsletter!

    The evening was capped with a champagne toast and a gorgeous cake from our friends at Roux Restaurant, which tasted as good as it looked. Pacific Northwest Executive Director Dena Beatty did the honors by blowing out the candles as all there sang happy birthday to Screen Actors Guild, and we're certain her wish was for 75 more years of protecting, defending and occasionally celebrating the talented performers the union represents.

    With our union chanteuses, the hot band at Tony’s and the group's cool performance in a room full of guys and gals in snazzy evening garb, it wasn't hard to believe it was 1933, that somewhere at a back table a few proud actors were working on the idea of a powerful performers union, and that the future was about to change. No more would actors labor under onerous contracts or film in dangerous situations. There would be decent wages. Safe working conditions. And pension, and health. To those dozen or so visionaries, it must have sounded like a dream.

    That night in June, our filmmaking community honored the dream come true.


    By Dena Beatty
    Seattle/Portland Executive Director

    The Seattle Branch of Screen Actors Guild celebrated SAG’s 75th anniversary with a bash that will not soon be forgotten. Members, filmmakers, industry partners and legislators from all across the Branch attended the celebration, held on May 24 at the Seattle Labor Temple in the heart of Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.

    The old Hollywood glamour of the evening was enhanced with an enchanting performance by Judy Ann Moulton, who sang newly arranged Judy Garland favorites, and the powerful big band sound of Swing Session. The music made the wonderful evening full of celebration even more memorable.

    No event can go without thanks, and the Seattle Branch of Screen Actors Guild would like to thank Jon Miller, who not only arranged the music for the evening, but also made sure that everything, right down to the sound system, worked without a hitch; Kim Deskin (wife of Seattle Branch President Rik Deskin) and Carol Ann Beatty (mother of Seattle/Portland Branch Executive Director Dena Beatty), who volunteered their time and talent to cater the evening; and Lori Deskin (Rik’s daughter) and Cornish student and up-and-coming actor Erica Neils, who kept the food coming throughout the evening. A very special thanks goes to SAG Seattle Branch Council Member and 75th Celebration Committee Chair Gary Schwartz, whose leadership, networking and party planning skills provided the industry with this very successful and glamorous event. Thank you very much to all who worked so hard to make this event the huge success it was.

    For more information about the evening’s music please visit the following websites:
    Judy Ann Moulton
    Swing Session


    By Laura Kenny
    Seattle Branch Council Member at Large

    One of Screen Actors Guild’s goals has been to have a presence at all film festivals in the country. In keeping with this goal, Susan Connors and I, local council members who live in Seattle, attended 19 Seattle International Film Festival films this year. Whenever we could, we met with the filmmakers and the producers and thanked them for bringing their films to Seattle. We invited them to do more filming in Washington. We let them know that the local SAG council and the film office were here to help and support them in any way we could. Some of our favorites were Boy A, 32A, and Mister Foe. Some locally filmed favorites were Visioneers, Butterfly Dreaming, and The Dark Horse. Documentary film Theater of War was inspiring, showing Meryl Streep developing her interpretation of the monumental title role in Mother Courage. But our favorite was American Teen, a documentary about senior year in a small town high school. It was brilliantly done and will be in theaters soon. Over the course of the festival we saw Sir Ben Kingsley and Karen Black speak about their films. SIFF is the largest film festival in the country, and this year it showed more than 400 films in 25 days.


    Have you ever been on set and had a concern regarding a safety, health or harassment issue after SAG’s normal business hours? Have you been unsure where to turn to have it resolved? Screen Actors Guild wants you to know that we are here to help, even after hours, if you have an issue related to safety, health or harassment on the set.

    We have two afterhours emergency numbers for members to call when issues arise:

    On the East Coast, call (212) 516-0909.
    On the West Coast, call (323) 954-1600.

    You will be put in touch with a staff person who is able to assist you with the situation. For your convenience we have printed both emergency numbers on the back of your SAG membership card.


    If you haven’t done so already, please pay your dues today. If you are not an active, paid-up member in good standing, you may not be able to vote in Guild elections or be eligible to serve on the council or committees. You also must be paid to date to register on iActor, the Guild’s online casting program, which is now being used by casting directors nationwide. If you have any questions regarding your dues, please contact the Membership Department at (800) 724-0767, option 2.


    What: Film Industry Happy Hour
    When: The last Wednesday of every month, 5-7 p.m.
    Where: Sole Repair on Capitol Hill

    You are invited to the new Film, Music and Digital Media Happy Hours, sponsored by the Seattle Mayor's Office of Film + Music, WashingtonFilmWorks, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy and Washington Interactive Network.

    Seattle has been a growing hub for film, music and digital media over the past several years, and it is vital for these three communities to interact for our city to continue to thrive. This happy hour offers just such an environment for people from these industries to socialize, network, and build a unified community.

    These events will be held on the last Wednesday of every month, 5-7 p.m., and will be hosted by Sole Repair, located at 1001 East Pike Street on Capitol Hill (near the corner of 10th and Pike). You must be at least 21 or older to attend. We hope to see you there!