Thursday, January 16, 2014

I choose to be union.

My work is defined by my pride in unions, a pride instilled by my father, grandfather and great great grandfather. 

I have professional theatre, broadcasting and film experiences from Chicago to Los Angeles, but made Nevada home, literally in a desert, where I work with and in great pride in 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 worth doing until you consider yourself a professional. The plus is "tape" on yourself and experience. The negative is a lack of future residual or use fee income, lack of protection of your image and talents, lack of the legal protection unions provide, lack of safety and working conditions on the set, and the potential of eliminating yourself from future work in product category because you are associated with a product you advertised when you were non-union.

Advice: if you are not seeking work in union security states, wait until you have the resume and  tools needed to compete to get your SAG card. I would then advise becoming a member of SAG-AFTRA, Once you agree you are a professional it becomes worth limiting your work to union work, with its protections and the inference of professionalism the membership card carries. 

Once you feel professional, do not wait to get your card, as being SAG-AFTRA will tell producers that you are professional and 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.

Yes, the work will grow if you are willing to withhold your talents from those not professional enough to use even the easiest and simplest union contracts for your protection and the use of your talent.

If you are a background artist and an extra is all you seek to do, join the union as soon as possible. This will assist the union in many ways and you will earn union pay, benefits and protection. 

Only if professionals, such as yourself, join the union can the union organize work in Nevada and thus raise the level for all talent in terms of pay, compensation, safety and the professionalism. 

Your time is worth money. There reaches a point where if you value your time you will decide you are worth a union paycheck and full union benefits and protections. Those who talk you out of it or preach that you should not join in Nevada have other motives...self ego inflation, keeping rates down on production, using talent for their own advancement or simply taking advantage of you because in their hearts they do not value you or your talents.

An anti-union teacher in town who falsely says they are SAG/AFTRA/Equity claims that 80% of the work in Nevada is non-union. The truth is the percentage is much higher. But, 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.

Financial core actors are not members of the union, they have renounced membership. The law requires paying fees to the union when they work union to cover the expenses the union has in providing and enforcing the contract, but they cannot vote, receive communications or use the talents and knowledge of paid SAG representatives.

SAG-eligible are also not SAG members, they are people who are not proud enough in their work or their talents to take advantage of qualifying for membership and join the Screen Actors Guild. In reality there is no such thing as "SAG eligible," you are either a member or you are non-union.

It is interesting that those who say that working background is not acting, also do background work. 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 (Screen Actors Guild) 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.

You can fool some of the people some of the time...but in the end the truth comes out. I have never lied, inflated my background or mislead talent, at least not intentionally. 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. 

I have been an acting coach and teacher for over 30 years, much of that at two employers teaching full time. I have served the membership of the Screen Actors Guild, without pay, for 17 years as a member of the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild, so that all talent has opportunities, the ability to meet their potential and the potential to earn a living with benefits with their craft. 

I have a BA in Theatre, Masters in Communication, all but thesis on an MFA in Theatre, and all but dissertation on a PhD in Education. I have earned awards in acting, journalism, and production. All of which simply means that I have a life, and that life is good and helps me to be able to help others with their craft and other goals in life. I am others centered, not self-centered.

It has not been about self-promotion and the result has been the opposite of self enrichment. I do it, at a loss and with frequent attacks my others who claim to have your interests in mind, so that you can enjoy your craft, art and reach for your potential. It is not about me, or how good or great an actor I am. It has always been about you.

If you are interested I teach acting and voice related courses through Casting Call Entertainment (702-369-0400), Boulder City Parks and Recreation (702-400-3254), and privately (702-454-1067) including via SKYPE (international). I teach other courses through the College of Southern Nevada, Carrington College, Everest College and the University of Phoenix. /

Published 12/26/2012

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