Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Union President Ken Howard Looks to Future


SAF AFRA Ken Howard

SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard has remained a working actor — portraying a judge in “The Judge” with SAG-nominated Robert Duvall — while admitting that the acting game isn’t easy for any of the union’s  160,000 plus members.
“Actors are in a tough business and we always have concerns,” Howard says. “Getting paid promptly has been a challenge and that’s why we spent time getting our residuals processing times down from around 90 days to under 30 days. Getting enough work is also a concern.”

To that end, Howard recently created the President’s Task Force for Education, Outreach and Engagement to push for greater activism and organizing. “That will make a difference in adding to the available work as will increasing the number of signatory producers,” he notes.

Howard campaigned actively for the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, which he terms “a tremendous success” after negotiating six major contracts and streamlining two separate organizations into one that’s more efficient and powerful. He’s still pushing for a merger of the separate SAG and AFTRA health and retirement plans.

“Progress is being made,” Howard says. “While decisions about our benefits plans ultimately rest with the trustees and not the union, our members and our union trustees all understand what’s at stake.”

He hasn’t decided whether to go for another two-year term as president later this year. “It’s too soon to comment on that, but I can say that I certainly love representing the members of SAG-AFTRA,” Howard adds.


REMAKING HISTORY: Movies do not represent or present history. Movies reinvent history.

We view movies through the lens of our times; case in point, 'Selma'

When you watched 'Selma,' did recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island come to mind?
 
What we see on a screen is affected by the world we happen to be living in on that particular day.
 
'Gone With the Wind,' 'Song of the South': The present affects how we view these films from the past.
 
It is impossible to see "Selma," Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated drama tracing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 1965 march to demand voting rights be accorded all citizens of this land, and not feel the weight of Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, felled by a policeman's bullets.

Impossible to watch the real footage DuVernay intercut — of police in riot gear in 1965 tear-gassing and bashing peaceful protesters — and not hear the echoes of clashes between protesters and police in Missouri and around the country in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict the officer involved in Brown's death.

New York's Staten Island too colors any viewing of "Selma." The life of Eric Garner cut short during an arrest, the emotionally charged protests that followed, another grand jury opting not to indict an officer.
Watching the Selma march unfold in the film, it does not play so much as a page out of history but a replay of the racial tensions and human rights issues we still see today.
Whatever impact a film might have on those who see it, the reality is that events, attitudes and present-day understandings affect and shape how we view movies as much, if not more.

This cultural exchange doesn't apply only to new films, as I discovered after rewatching the Oscar-winning "Gone With the Wind," on its 75th anniversary this month.

Like Selma, the 1939 epic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Southern-inflected Civil War novel — coming in just shy of a mind-numbing four-hour running time — is affected by the shifting winds of time. But in very different ways than DuVernay's film.
While the current racial conflicts enhance and inform the experience of watching "Selma" and make the discussions of racial inequality more trenchant, modern times dim the power of "Gone With the Wind." Its depiction of Southern slaves both before and after the war that would free them emerge now as exceedingly uncomfortable clichés.

One of the opening scenes is of a huge bell being rung by the counterweight of two young boys, slaves in tatters, "happy" to summon those on the plantation and call those in the audience to settle in for this story.

Though "Gone's" central theme is of Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, who goes from flirty to flinty in this time-warped female empowerment story, it is the portrayal of blacks that emerges and overtakes the experience of watching the film today. 

It serves as a stark reminder of one of this country's darkest chapters, not the romance suggested by Mitchell's words on screen — a time when "Gallantry took its last bow. ... Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair" — but of how inhumane and insensitive a people we were.
Among its eight Oscar wins would be one for lead actress Vivien Leigh for her petulant Scarlett. And in a groundbreaking first, the supporting actress win went to Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy, the O'Haras' house slave. McDaniel became the first African American to be nominated for an Oscar, the first to win, so there is that. (The film also received two special citations from the academy.)

Still, do we forgive the film, and other art forms, whether past or present, their indiscretions? Their arch assessment? Their idiotic insensitivity? Should the relative quality of the intellect and artistry factor into the equation? The questions certainly nag.

The answer does not come in shelving the offending material, as Disney has done with the embarrassment of the 1946 film "Song of the South," locking it away in the vaults and opting not to release it on video, DVD when that came along, or the Internet streaming services that followed.
The studio's decision was triggered not by self-reflection but by public complaints about "Song of the South's" depiction of African Americans, starting with Uncle Remus, the jocular former slave so happy to charm children with his Br'er Rabbit tales. And though Disney continues to keep the movie on ice, bootleg copies of the live-action animated mash-up of Uncle Remus tales are easy enough to buy, only a credit card and a click away.

If one of history's roles is to remind us of our predecessors' transgressions and show us how not to repeat them, films, even offensive ones, can be instructive. But that is not the issue or an argument in favor of their dissemination. Like all forms of freedom and equality, speech — whether in movies, cartoons, high art or YouTube hits — should be protected. No caveats, no matter how uncomfortable or how distant and dissonant the discourse in relation to our own particular views.
The very nature of freedom is to allow friends and foes alike to live under its tent — a position that has never made its protection easy, as the legacy of war forever underscores.

Make no mistake, film is rarely on the front line of the battle. It's not so much a leader of causes as a reflector of our attitudes tied very closely to the times in which it is made. Moviemakers tend to pick up the pulse of the nation. It is up to their creative inventiveness, or inappropriateness, to send that pulse racing. 

Though I wouldn't vouch for its inventiveness, "The Interview" certainly got North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's blood boiling, as Sony Pictures so painfully discovered. Which is not to denigrate film's ability to change lives, either.

But true courage is rarer still.


For all who respect free and uncensored discourse, as well as those who create movies anchored by that precept, a great deal of trust is required. Trust that most moviegoers are smart enough to decide what is worthy of our time and attention and what should land on the scrap pile.
I know there are idiots among us; we have too many statistics on the link between violent images and violent action to pretend it doesn't exist. Whether mentally disturbed or trained terrorists, their actions put the responsibility on the messenger.

Filmmakers, as one of the more effective of those messengers, do carry responsibility for the tenor and tone of their work. For as much as the power of free speech in creative endeavors should be protected, those who wield it should never forget that with great power comes great responsibility.

At the same time, we should keep in mind that, with movies, it's never a clear case of cause and effect. The experience, the outcome of that interaction, if you will, is framed by what is on the screen and the world we happen to be living in on that particular day. Without both pieces of the equation, film is nothing more than a tree that falls in the forest with no one there to hear.
Twitter: @BetsySharkey

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

George Burns on Acting

Acting is all about honesty. 
If you can fake that, you've got it made. 


-George Burns




Thanks to a business associate and friend from Maui I was able to see George Burns before he passed away. My friend and her husband came to Las Vegas, using my position as a write off, for her 30th birthday. She walked over to a roulette wheel and put $100 on number 30. It came up! Her husband dragged her from the table and they used the money for a first class vacation. Among the perks, they took my wife and I to see George Burns at the Rivierra. He did his song and dance without ever getting up from his stool. Music and comedy ranged from the 1890's to contemporary. "Oh God" what a performer!


Source: http://twitter.com/#!/Actors_Wanted
and http://www.facebook.com/GotPublicity

Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is no longer viewed as inevitable


It is unclear whether the U.S. Department of Justice and FCC will approve the Comcast-TWC merger
'All of us are united in our position that a Comcast-TWC merger would present substantial harm' - Dish exec
Comcast Corp.'s bold move to buy rival Time Warner Cable in a $45-billion deal once seemed inevitable.
Wall Street figured combining the nation's two largest cable operators wouldn't have much problem clearing regulatory hurdles. Both companies operate in different parts of the country, and wouldn't be seen as anti-competitive. Subscribers, including 1.8 million in the Los Angeles region, would have the same number of choices for pay-TV as they currently do.
But that was 11 months ago — and a lot has changed.
Now, it is unclear whether the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission will give Comcast their blessing.
"They've had a lot of trouble, more than they thought they would — and rightly so," said Gene Kimmelman, a former top lawyer in the Justice Department's antitrust division who now leads advocacy group Public Knowledge, which opposes the Comcast-TWC merger.
Here's the rub for Kimmelman and others: The new Comcast would be the nation's dominant supplier of high-speed Internet service. The company would boast 30 million customers in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle.
Streaming service Netflix, satellite giant Dish Network, lawmakers and others have voiced concerns that Comcast could use this grip to stifle development of the Internet video business. In a sense, Comcast would have an incentive to beat back online challengers to its core business of bundling cable TV channels.
Meanwhile, a parade of major TV network executives have privately met with federal investigators, outlining their worries about a bulked-up Comcast, according to people involved in the meetings who were unauthorized to speak publicly. They fear Comcast would use its size and influence to undercut how much programmers such as CBS, Viacom and Discovery are paid for their channels.
Comcast, for its part, maintains the regulatory review of its acquisition is proceeding on schedule.
The FCC, which must decide whether the deal serves the public interest, has until March 30 to make a decision. The Department of Justice is also in the process of reviewing whether the deal would be anti-competitive.
"We believe it is too early to come to any conclusions about which way regulators are leaning," said D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast's chief communications officer. "We continue to believe this is a pro-competitive deal in the public interest and that we are on-track for the approval process to conclude early this year."
The landscape has changed dramatically since the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal was announced last February.
Comcast's acquisition was originally viewed as a combination of huge cable TV providers. But opponents have painted Comcast as a potential gatekeeper of the Internet, raising the stakes as regulators wrestle over how best to regulate the Internet.
And there have been many developments in the digital and streaming video space.
Netflix reached 39 million subscribers in the U.S. and Amazon.com is spending millions of dollars on original content to bolster its streaming service. Programmers, including HBO and ESPN, have changed their strategy to sell their channels to consumers who don't subscribe to pay TV — essentially providing an alternative to the cable bundle.
Satellite television provider Dish Network this week rolled out its own Internet-delivered programming service called Sling TV, a $20-a-month option that includes ESPN as one of its channels.
"The combination of Comcast and Time-Warner Cable would threaten these over-the-top services," said Jeff Blum, Dish's deputy general counsel. "All of us are united in our position that a Comcast-TWC merger would present substantial harm."
President Obama also jumped into the debate, saying that ensuring a free and open Internet would be a priority in his last two years in office.
Obama stunned the cable industry in November when he prodded the FCC to begin regulating the Internet as it would a public utility — a proposal that the cable industry is expected to resist. Then, this month, the president encouraged cities to offer their own low-cost broadband Internet service that would compete with entrenched cable interests.
"Some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors," Obama said at an event in Iowa.
The federal government's review of the Comcast merger is only one part of its mission to figure out how best to regulate the Internet.
The FCC has been consumed with another aspect of that issue — so-called net neutrality, which requires Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. The agency next month will unveil its solution, and wrestle over whether to regulate Internet service providers as utilities.
Comcast has agreed to abide by the principles of net neutrality.
Industry executives expect the FCC won't take up the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, or a second blockbuster combination between AT&T and El Segundo-based DirecTV, until after it grapples with the Internet rules.
The FCC and Justice Department declined to comment on their reviews.
Whether Comcast is judged to have too much control also depends on the definition of high-speed Internet service.
The FCC chairman has proposed raising the threshold of what constitutes high-speed Internet service to encourage cable companies to upgrade their systems and reach more consumers.
Watching high-quality video on the Internet depends on having a service with enough bandwidth to handle data-heavy transmissions. Comcast is one of the few companies that offers Internet service with enough capacity to handle the load.
If the FCC raises the threshold, Comcast might end up with an even greater market share than it currently has — which could be considered anticompetitive.
To be sure, dozens of groups also support the proposed Comcast merger, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Business Council, the L.A. County Economic Development Council and the National Urban League. Television networks including Ovation, Hallmark Channel and Starz also support the deal.
Comcast never considered the deal a slam-dunk.
The company structured the acquisition so there would be no break-up fee if the deal falls apart. This would shield Comcast from any financial penalties if the government opposed the combination — or attached too many conditions.
If that were to happen, Time Warner Cable could again be in play.
Charter Communications would probably make another run at Time Warner Cable, analysts said. It was Charter's advances a year ago that prompted Time Warner Cable executives to approach Comcast to buy it instead.
Los Angeles is one of the markets most affected by the proposed merger. Nearly 1.8 million homes, which now receive their pay-TV and Internet service from Time Warner Cable or Charter Communications, would become customers of Comcast.

George Burns




Actor and comedian GEORGE BURNS (1896 – 1996) was born on this day. He was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, film, radio, and television. His arched eyebrow and cigar smoke punctuation became familiar trademarks for over three-quarters of a century. He teamed up with his wife Gracie Allen for long running comedy series on both radio and television. At the age of 79, Burns' career was resurrected as an amiable, beloved and unusually active old comedian in the 1975 film The Sunshine Boys, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to work until shortly before his death, in 1996, at the age of 100. He was to perform at the London Palladium on his 100th birthday, but was not healthy enough to do so.

My wife and I were taken to see George Burns when he was in his late 90's performing at the Riv here in Las Vegas. He was in fine from, even doing his soft show (from his stool). He performed vaudeville and burlesque all the way to contemporary 80's and early 90's hits.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SAG Award Winners 2015: Full List


SAG Award Winners
Sag Awards
The winners of the SAG Awards are being announced at the annual awards show, held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. See below an updated list of winners.

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: EDDIE REDMAYNE, “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” (Focus Features)

STEVE CARELL, “FOXCATCHER” (Sony Pictures Classics)
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, “THE IMITATION GAME” (The Weinstein Company)
JAKE GYLLENHAAL, “NIGHTCRAWLER” (Open Road Films)
MICHAEL KEATON, “BIRDMAN” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: JULIANNE MOORE, “STILL ALICE” (Sony Pictures Classics)

JENNIFER ANISTON, “CAKE” (Cinelou Films)
FELICITY JONES, “THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING” (Focus Features)
ROSAMUND PIKE, GONE GIRL” (20th Century Fox)
REESE WITHERSPOON, “WILD” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: J.K. SIMMONS, “WHIPLASH” (Sony Pictures Classics)

ROBERT DUVALL, “THE JUDGE” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
ETHAN HAWKE, “BOYHOOD” (IFC Films)
EDWARD NORTON, “BIRDMAN” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
MARK RUFFALO, “FOXCATCHER” (Sony Pictures Classics)



Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Winner: PATRICIA ARQUETTE, “BOYHOOD” (IFC Films)
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, “THE IMITATION GAME” (The Weinstein Company)
EMMA STONE, “BIRDMAN” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
MERYL STREEP, “INTO THE WOODS” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
NAOMI WATTS, “ST. VINCENT” (The Weinstein Company)


Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Winner: BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

BOYHOOD (IFC Films)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE IMITATION GAME (The Weinstein Company)
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus Features)


TELEVISION PROGRAMS
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries Winner: MARK RUFFALO, “THE NORMAL HEART” (HBO)
ADRIEN BRODY, “HOUDINI” (History)
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, “SHERLOCK: HIS LAST VOW” (PBS)
RICHARD JENKINS, “OLIVE KITTERIDGE” (HBO)
BILLY BOB THORNTON, “FARGO” (FX)


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Winner: FRANCES McDORMAND, “OLIVE KITTERIDGE” (HBO)

ELLEN BURSTYN, “FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC” (Lifetime)
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL,  “THE HONORABLE WOMAN” (Sundance TV)
JULIA ROBERTS,  “THE NORMAL HEART” (HBO)
CICELY TYSON, “THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL” (Lifetime)


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: KEVIN SPACEY, “HOUSE OF CARDS” (Netflix)

STEVE BUSCEMI, “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (HBO)
PETER DINKLAGE, “GAME OF THRONES” (HBO)
WOODY HARRELSON, “TRUE DETECTIVE” (HBO)
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY, “TRUE DETECTIVE” (HBO)


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: VIOLA DAVIS, “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER” (ABC)

CLAIRE DANES, “HOMELAND” (Showtime)
JULIANNA MARGULIES, “THE GOOD WIFE” (CBS)
TATIANA MASLANY,  “ORPHAN BLACK” (BBC America)
MAGGIE SMITH, “DOWNTON ABBEY” (PBS)
ROBIN WRIGHT, “HOUSE OF CARDS” (Netflix)


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Winner: WILLIAM H. MACY, “SHAMELESS” (Showtime)
TY BURRELL, “MODERN FAMILY ” (ABC)
LOUIS C.K., “LOUIE” (FX)
JIM PARSONS, “THE BIG BANG THEORY” (CBS)
ERIC STONESTREET, “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Winner: UZO ADUBA, “ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK” (Netflix)
JULIE BOWEN, “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)
EDIE FALCO, “NURSE JACKIE” (Showtime)
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, “VEEP” (HBO)
AMY POEHLER, “PARKS AND RECREATION” (NBC)


Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Winner: DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS)

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
HOMELAND (Showtime)
HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix)


Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Winner: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix)

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX)
MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
VEEP (HBO)


SAG AWARDS® HONORS FOR STUNT ENSEMBLES
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture Winner: “UNBROKEN” (Universal Pictures) 
“FURY” (Columbia Pictures)
“GET ON UP” (Universal Pictures)
“THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
“X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST” (20th Century Fox)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series Winner: “GAME OF THRONES” (HBO) 
“24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY” (FOX)
“BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (HBO)
“HOMELAND” (Showtime)
“SONS OF ANARCHY” (FX)
“THE WALKING DEAD” (AMC)

LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Screen Actors Guild 51st Annual Life Achievement Award
DEBBIE REYNOLDS

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SAG-AFTRA Chief on Diversity Woes, Awards Show's TV Deal and Residuals Investigations


David White
David White
 Koury Angelo
This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When David White became national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild in 2009, his mandate was to end years of dysfunction within the union and restart stalled contract talks. During the six years since, White, 46, a married Rhodes scholar and Stanford Law School grad, has led the guild through several strife-free negotiating cycles and, most notably, presided over SAG's 2012 merger with sister union AFTRA. Working with 80 elected board members, he heads a staff of 500 at an organization whose 160,000 members work in film, TV, new media, broadcasting and sound recording. Several of them will be honored Jan. 25 at the SAG Awards, which air on TNT and TBS.


The SAG Awards' deal with Turner expires in 2016. Are you talking to other networks?

I would not talk about it if we were, for contractual reasons. TNT has been an unbelievable partner for us: They are extremely responsive to us, and they give space for us to do the program we need for our members and audience. We've been really pleased with that partnership.

Why does the show not have a host? The Golden Globes didn't have one in the past but switched it up.

The format works for us without a host — it allows a lot of performers to shine in front of an audience of their peers. And our show keeps to the two-hour timeline (snaps fingers), like clockwork.

For the most recent TV-theatrical agreements, the Directors Guild went first — as almost always during recent years — and that set the pattern for pay. To what extent does SAG-AFTRA control its destiny now?

Who goes first in a bargaining cycle varies. Even when a pattern for some issues is set, there is a tremendous range of negotiating activity that occurs outside of that pattern. Some of the patterns the DGA set I believe were quite helpful for us, as we were able to use our leverage in other areas, so it's not always a negative thing. Sometimes it puts constraints on what you can achieve during negotiations, but sometimes it can be helpful.


About 40 percent of actors' earnings are residuals — about $1 billion a year. But enforcement is spotty: Not until a member complains about not receiving a check does an investigation begin.

I don't agree with that at all. We have people out there looking at shows and patterns all the time, looking for discrepancies. A great deal of the claims we bring are based on our own analysis. And we are constantly looking at and thinking about ways to automate [the claims process].

It's no secret the DGA once had a very negative opinion of SAG in terms of its factionalism and approach to negotiations. Has that evolved?

Sure. The minute I arrived in the door, my counterpart at the DGA was extremely welcoming and very helpful to me — to help me see the playing field and understand industry dynamics from his perspective — and it was extraordinarily helpful.

Study after study reveals a glaring lack of racial diversity within the industry. What should be done?

It's a scourge on the industry that in 2015, in the majority of meetings I attend, I am often the only African-American in the room. It's an industry of good people trying to do good things, but the habits formed are very hard to break.

I remember when we met in person as things were spiraling out of control in 2009 with SAG under previous leadership and I said, "Help me out, I'm doing the calculations and all I see is David White getting appointed national executive director."

(Laughs.) I have no recollection of that conversation!

Well, let's rewind. Your first job at SAG was as general counsel, starting in 2002. How did that come about?

I served as outside counsel when I was an associate at O'Melveny [& Myers]. After about eight months, I got a phone call from the general counsel asking me if I wanted to take his place. And I said yes.

That's a great way to get a job offer.

It's a hell of a way to get a job offer. People were happy that I arrived with a skill set to help the organization navigate through complex operations and an intensely political environment.

Those aren't typical law firm associate skills.

Yes, but prior to going to law school I had run and grown a community-based nonprofit organization that dealt with gang prevention and youth development and was in the center of pretty heated community politics. That diversity of political activity was my best preparation for coming into this environment.


Winning the Rhodes must have been enormously moving for your parents and grandparents.

Absolutely. For my mother, who never completed college, it was one of the high points of her parenting career. My stepfather, when he heard the news, brought his elbow down in celebration so hard that he broke the chair he was in.

What do you foresee as your biggest challenges during the next few years?

Customer service — engaging members across contracts and communities. Also, revamping and updating the way we prepare for negotiations.

Another piece of unfinished business is combining the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans, which remain separate.

The [health] plans need to merge to fully address the problem of split earnings, but it's a complicated exercise. The trustees are focused on that, so we're hoping to see that done sooner rather than later.

What about on the pension side?

The pension side is trickier because of all of the federal regulations tied to each of the plans. That will be a pretty intense process.

Will management try to use the pension process to shift to a less advantageous, defined contribution plan?

I certainly hope that management would not play games with the retirement plans of our members during this process and not use the merger process as an opportunity to significantly alter the ability of our membership to have a safe and well-funded retirement. To date, management has been quite amenable to working with us to merge the health plans, so I will keep the open expectation that we will face the same disposition by our management trustees when it comes time to merge the pension plans.

How committed are you to the job? In 2014, you were a candidate to lead the NBA's players association.

I'm deeply committed — I love this job. When I really looked at what it would mean to leave the job, the community we have cultivated here in Los Angeles and the lifestyle my family and I have, that moment crystallized for me how much we enjoy this life and how much I get from my job and my role here at SAG-AFTRA. Ultimately I'm quite pleased at the way things turned out, and that I'm going to be here for at least the next four years.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why work union?

Why are you union or anti-union, a SAG-AFTRA member works by the rules or non-union talent?

I have, in front of me, heard actors told not to join the union. It is insulting because the people talking know that I have given twenty years on the national board of a union, SAG-AFTRA and more than that in local service.

Who was saying that? Someone who talked about what joining will keep you from doing, how it will "limit" your potential and how production is "going non-union everywhere". Right to Work laws were also misrepresented...the truth is that Right To Work laws exist so that workers in 40 hour jobs are not locked out of a position solely because they are not a member of a union. With actors we do not, for the most part, have forty hour jobs acting. Right to work does not allow you to work union jobs outside of the state without joining, as this person was told, and it does not have the same benefits as being union.

More on when you should consider joining later in this open letter...

When you do non-union work, whether union or not, you are weakening the ability of your fellow professional union talent to feed their families and earn a living. Sounds far fetched, but it is true.

You keep the union from building a base of contracted producers and directors so that the amount, and thus income from, union work can grow.

When you work non-union you are telling the world you are not a professional, and you have no interest in the profession and your fellow talent.

When you work non-union you are risking being looked upon as a hobyist by union casting directors, directors and producers.

When members work "off the card" they are violating union rules and can be kicked out of the union, or fined the amount they made on the non-union project plus any money the project makes in future.

When you work "off the card" you risk the union going after the producer to find out how much you make and will make, and putting a lean against any future earnings from that project.

If you work non-union you are providing your talents without the protection of a union.

That means no pension and health contributions (they add up fast and when you qualify it is the best possible coverage...referred t as Cadalac coverage at very little cost).

When you work non union you may have to fight. or even sue to get paid. Union talent is paid within seven days of working or there are penalties. If a producer defaults, the union distributes the production bond to actors and sues to collect whatever else you are owed. You therefore impact all actors in your area by not growing the ability of the union to protect talent .

When you work non-union you have no contract or when you do it is one that is written by and for the producers benefit. A union contract does protect the producer, but it also protects you.

You may think you are increasing your income but in fact you are limiting your income though association, reputation and loss of integrity. The industry does know.

When you work non-union there are no residual or use fee checks to follow. One check and that's it, regardless of how long or in how many ways your image is used.

When you work non-union you are impacting the unions ability to represent talent in an industry that in the past, and in more than some cases now, takes talent for granted and may abuse, misuse or mislead talent at will.

Post Sript. If you are new and are not ready to be considered a professional, your work on pre-union (non-unon) projects is trainging and the place to learn and make mistakes. It can help you gain a reel and reputation as an actor. But at some point, that only you can decide, you need to take the plunge. Well over 98% of money in actors pockets is from union work. Despite what you may hear on the street, the real professional work, quality paying work, is union.

The work that will truey showcase your talents is union.

I know, I have judged for or been on the board of a half dozen film festivals and the films that are the best made, with the best talent, most often have a union "bug" logo or a SAG Indy credit at the end of the film. Short and student and student films that win Academy Awards are almost entirely union films, under one of many unions covering talent of all types around the world.

Also...it is not a fire sale but a fact. If you join in Nevada (check on the rates where you live) you pay $1,150 plus one dues period, or under $1,500. When you work on a union project in a union security state (such as Hollywood, Chicago and New York) you pay the difference in initiation fees as of the date you joined. Dues and initial fees will go up, but you never pay more than the difference on the date you joined. So Savings in the long run if you join now rather than wait.

Those up for awards, any award, this awards season are all union members. There is a reason for that. Union represents quality, fairness, workers rights and the ability to earn a living doing what you love to do.

Holding a union card high is a sign of a professional. Ask Tom Hanks or the long line of actors who have done so on award shows, at rallies. on picket lines and even at events at their own homes.

Membership has its benefits.

So think about it.

I welcome your feedback or additional thoughts in comments below or at dr.artlynch@me.com

Art Lynch
Lynchcoaching.com
702-682-0469
artlynchcoaching@gmail.com

George Lucas Slams Oscars: "It's a Political Campaign"


 
Hollywood Reporter


George Lucas didn't pull any punches Friday on CBS This Morning, ripping the Academy for its all-white actor nominees this year, saying of the Oscar-nomination process, "It's a political campaign. It has nothing to do with artistic endeavor at all."
Lucas was responding to host Gayle King's question about whether he saw the all-white categories as a snub against eligible black actors, like Selma's David Oyelowo.

 
Lucas elaborated, referring to Academy members, "Why do we elect people who drift toward not the most talented, best, and brightest we have in the country? It's all political ... I think it hurts everybody."

The Star Wars director, who appeared on the morning show to promote his new animated film Strange Magic, said he's not a member of the Academy specifically because of all the controversy constantly surrounding it.