Monday, January 30, 2012

One united union doesn't change the importance of "don't rush to join" ...

AFTRA and SAG members will soon have their say in the next (and final) step toward the big “I do” between the two performer’s unions. With their Board’s vote of approval this weekend, AFTRA leadership officially joined with SAG leadership in moving the new SAG-AFTRA towards consummation.

The “devil” that may have been in the details seems well on its way to a resolve. Aside from these health and pension items, the rest seems, potentially, rather seamless. We know a few of the details of what the merger will mean to actors who are not yet in either union or who are members of only one union. It will all become public very soon as the merger ballots and supporting documents are issued.

Jonathan Handel, in the current issue of Back Stage, does a great job of spelling out the bigger picture of what lies ahead. A tougher admissions policy will no doubt spell the end of AFTRA’s just walk up and pay membership plan, but the future of SAG’s more complicated and stricter rules for membership will also undergo changes. On the journey to creating a stronger, single union, membership will have to be both earned and paid for. However the long term benefits will far outweigh what might amount to just “minor” inconveniences on the way to a new union card.

What will remain the same has nothing to do with ether union, but instead, has everything to do with a non-union actor’s goal of (eventually) joining the (new) union. Don’t rush it. I have been advising young and new-to-the-business actors of any age to focus their journeys on building resumes, not in rushing to join any union. The (new) union will be there when you are ready for it. But until then, it’s not about the membership card as much as it is about doing the work you need to do to get you to the point where union membership makes sense.

Until then, you better be sure to open your Business of Acting bank account (chapter 9 in The New Business of Acting) to begin to put aside the money you will need for your union initiation fees because one thing is for certain. When it’s time to join, what has been the past initiation fee for either union will for sure go up.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Build your brand this pilot season in positive ways that last all year -- and beyond

Starting with this week's issue, I will be writing on a regular basis for Back Stage.

My first column, just out, is about pilot season strategy for actors. In it, I offer up an easy to follow, five-step plan to guide you through pilot season 2012 in a way that can help you make your mark and build your brand.

I hope you will check it out -- and pass it on.

I am thrilled to be asked to join the Back Stage team!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Do you SAG take AFTRA to love, honor and cherish ... ?"

Although they haven’t yet registered at Target, SAG and AFTRA are now closer to a walk down the matrimonial aisle than ever before. While we all consider what we might wear to the wedding, let’s consider what this pairing can mean.

It certainly wasn’t love at first site. This union has been attempted before with an ugly outcome. Now, a little older, perhaps a little wiser, both unions have been happily dating again in an attempt to finally merge its energy and its benefits, in the hopes that together they can birth a stronger, more viable union that can serve all of the needs of all of its members in this new landscape that is the new business of acting.

I think this is a great move for both unions and for all of it members. The story in today’s Los Angeles Times provides an important and articulate overview of the history of this journey. The time has come for all “performing artists” to reap the rewards of being represented by one entity that is designed to act in their best interests.

The opposition to this merger has been rooted in the question, “How can a union that represents actors also serve the best interests of newscasters and weathermen?” The simple answer is that there is no reason that it cannot.

A merged union can operate with departments dedicated to serving specific segments of its membership. A merged union can also have strength in numbers when it comes time for contract negotiations at all levels.

The bigger issue will be how will a new, single union impact those performing artists who are not currently members of either union when it comes time for them to join? Will it mean higher initiation fees? Will it mean increased dues? Will it still require three vouchers for a non-union actor to gain the opportunity to join? Will it take away the current AFTRA policy on joining requiring only an application and a check from a prospective member? What will happen to the current SAG-E status? How will the Taft-Hartley provision be impacted by this?

Clearly there are numerous questions that need to be addressed – and I trust that they will. Now that the joint committee has created an agreement for a merger that both sides of the merger team are happy with, it’s time for that document to be presented to and voted on by the boards of both unions. The next step will then be yours (if you are current a member of either or both unions).

Before you vote “yes” or” no,” perform due diligence. Read the merger document; read the fine print and consider the bigger picture of what a merger means, not just for you and your career personally, but for the business of acting as a whole.

Having not yet seen the merger agreement, and as a union member myself, I can say that on the surface, at initial contemplation, this move seems like a win-win for all parties involved.

What are your thoughts?