A vintage theatre on the shore of Lake Oswego provided the perfect venue for the new Portland Local board's first Membership Mixer. Held on a golden October evening, a diverse crowd of union members representing a spectrum of SAG-AFTRA's categories came together for the festivities.
The new board has a three-pronged focus: to create a connected energized culture in the region, to educate the membership including broadcasters and actors, and expand work opportunities. Portland President Robert Blanche said the mixer was a first step in the process. "We got together just to have fun," he said, "An active membership, that knows and cares about each other, is also the foundation of a strong Local."
The evening was spent in conversation with new members and old. National board member Mary McDonald-Lewis said "With production strong in the area, we have folks joining every month, and we want them to feel like they're a part of our family as soon as they do." Added board secretary Harold Phillips, “The feeling of solidarity and fellowship in the room was incredible. Standing together is what being in the union is all about."
Blanche also shared SAG-AFTRA success stories from the stage, most notably the union's achievements in Spanish language organizing. Josh Leake, Executive Director of the Portland Film Festival joined the fun, providing passes to the festival as a part of the evening's raffle. Other raffle prizes included coaching sessions and classes with several fine area members in auditioning, singing, acting and monologue work, stunt performing and accent acquisition, along with headshot sessions, beauty treatments, eye care, artwork, and more. All attendees walked away with something. Board member Rachael Parrell Fosket tallied over $540 in raffle donations, which the Portland Local donated to SAG-AFTRA Foundation's hurricane relief fund.
Board members Kirsten Foe and Michelle Damis are now hard at work on the second prong of the board's goals: Educating the membership. The two will join other stunt professionals at a workshop during the Portland Film Festival. SAG-AFTRA contracts administrator, Chris Comte and President Blanche will be offering a contracts workshop at the festival, introducing agreements designed to inspire new producers and generate more work for performers.
"And we want you to let us know what you'd like to see happen here," added board member Chrisse Roccaro. "Stay in touch on our informal Portland Local SAG-AFTRA Facebook group. Come to a board meeting with your issues. Volunteer!" Fellow board member Kristina Haddad said the event has inspired her even more "to work harder to create greater opportunities for members in the Pacific Northwest."
"This is a great time to be a Portland SAG-AFTRA member," said Blanche. "We have production, an enthusiastic board, and a growing membership in many of our categories. We're also supported by two outstanding staff members, Shellea Allen and Chris Comte. This mixer was just the beginning." Blanche said members can look forward to relevant workshops with nationally-respected union pros, and ongoing organizing with a focus on Oregon and SW Washington businesses. "If it's made here, " he said, "it should be paid here."
Stay tuned for more!