Sunday, November 23, 2008

To (SAG) strike or not to (SAG) strike? Much more than a matter a dollars and cents.

Does it make sense for SAG actors to vote for a strike authorization? It all depends on who you ask.

The SAG actors I have been discussing this issue with as recently as today all say, “No.” Given the economy, given the times, given the current landscape and given that the producer’s have made it clear that SAG negotiators will not come away with anything more than the AFTRA deal now in place with that union’s members, it seems clear that we might very well be headed for a no-win situation very quickly.

Richard Verrier’s coverage in today’s Los Angeles Times presents an important overview on where things stand and what’s at stake. I urge you to read it.

It’s mostly about the Internet. SAG’s intent is to squeeze out whatever it can for its membership from “new” media, almost at any cost. But is this worth striking over now?

Seventy-five percent of SAG members will have to say “yes” to a strike authorization before the march to a work stoppage can officially begin. But, will 75 percent of the SAG membership be willing to endure the additional hardship the inability to work will cause them?

It’s tough enough just to get an audition for a job in this business when the industry is operating at “normal”; take away any opportunity to work for not only (SAG) actors, but the tens of thousands of people in related and connected industries who will feel the big pinch of a strike, as well, and you have to question the sanity of such a move at this time.

Does anyone ever win from a strike? Can any member of the Writers Guild actually claim to be better off financially right now because of their walk out? Admittedly, arguably, there may be a few folks who can answer “yes” to that today, but for the majority, the stress from bills that went unpaid and opportunities that are still being felt. Will they feel any differently a year from now?

What’s an actor to do?

Tough question. If you’re a SAG actor, what will you do? What can you afford to do? What are you willing to risk? How much risk can you tolerate?

Should a SAG strike occur, those actors who are also members of AFTRA will be expected to honor the strike and not accept AFTRA-contracted work: AFTRA members who are not (also) in SAG, will have a choice to make: will they be asked to or expected to honor the SAG walk-out? What official position will the leadership of AFTRA take?

Indeed these are tough times in the business of acting. I know I want my clients to work and I know they want to work. How exactly are we all expected to survive what could be a long strike – and how much discomfort (or worse) are we willing to tolerate? Finally, how much might all of us stand to gain? Could we ever really make up the losses we would all suffer from another long strike and, even if we could, would those gains really be worth the toll of the stress, strain, and the (lifestyle and financial) compromises that it would take from all of us on the road to that or any victory?

I expec that there will be lots of phone calling between lots of agents and managers and their clients tomorrow.

How about you? If you're a SAG actor, will you vote for a strike authorization? If you’re an AFTRA or non-union actor, what would you do?

Post your comments here or e-mail me directly at I look forward to hearing from you.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A note of appreciation in tribute to talent agent Barry Rick (1945 – 2008)

My friend Barry Rick died recently. He was a remarkable talent agent, with a skill for representing actors in a way that we rarely see in this business any more. As founder and president of the Los Angeles-based commercial talent agency BRick Entertainment, Barry, in a short period of time, managed to carve out a respected niche for his “boutique” agency that he launched in 2003.

We held a memorial tribute for Barry last Tuesday night, at the Lillian Theatre, in Los Angeles. Nearly 100 current clients, friends and industry colleagues were on hand to celebrate his life and his contributions. I was honored to have been asked to emcee the evening. I was also happy to meet Barry’s son, Tom Popp and Tom’s wife, Felicia, who flew in from Washington, D.C. to share in the tribute.

In what was an upbeat, respectful, sometimes tearful gathering. Memories were shared, stories were told, and one thing became very clear early on: Barry was much more than just an agent; he was a mentor, he was a surrogate parent, he was an innovator in how he walked through the business of acting (and in life).

I’ll miss him, as will Tom, Felicia, and Barry’s sister, Elizabeth, and his mother Sally. So, too will he be missed by those who joined in our tribute and those whose lives he touched, but who were unable to attend.

A scholarship fund has been established in Barry’s name to provide an honorarium to students from Emerson College, in Boston, who intern at BRick Entertainment during their semester in Los Angeles at the school’s acclaimed L.A. Center. Barry was a staunch support of this program. Many students who have interned at BRick under his mentorship have gone on to either work at the agency or be represented by the agency after graduation.

I encourage you to make whatever size donation you can in Barry’s name. Checks should be made payable to Emerson College, noting “Barry Rick Scholarship” in the memo line of your check.

Contributions should be sent to:
Ms. Amy Meyers
Emerson College
120 Boylston Street, 7th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02116-4624

Barry wanted his agency to survive and thrive after he was gone. Last summer, he named another remarkable person, Kenny Suarez, to succeed him at the helm of the agency he worked so hard to build.

Sometimes the business of acting shows its true colors; not industry life as it’s portrayed on “Entourage,” but industry life as it’s lived by most of the people who have chosen it as their livelihood. We lost a great guy, but the family of actors he created as his client roster, and the community of industry professionals he interacted with, are forever impacted by how he did what he did.

Bravo, Barry. Bravo.