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Equity (The Actors' Union)

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HasBeany
219460.  Thu Oct 11, 2007 6:19 am Reply with quote

Hi Bracken and Jim

You both make valuable points about the exceptional and disgraceful abuses of what is supposed to be a system which protects people from exploitation. I've not implied that everything's always perfect, but was merely trying to remind people about why there's such a discrepancy between who does and doesn't receive royalties.

But, can I point out, from all your quoted examples, that it's not actually the union's fault these circumstances arose? As I said, I, too have worked on both sides of the camera and as a tv commissioning executive, so I have a pretty wide-ranging experience of the process of film-making. OK, I've been out of the loop for a while, but I still keep tabs on things.

There are a number of factors which I believe impact on your various experiences.

First is a more general tenor-of-the-times kind of thing. It's undeniable that over the past 15 years or so the escalation of the freelance and independent sector has been accompanied by an erosion of best practice. In the early days of IPPA and PACT, compliance was a big issue and very closely monitored. Then, more and more stories started filtering through of really bad treatment of cast and crew, blatant disregard for matters of health and safety, and really terrible discrepancies of who was paid what.

It's no excuse, but perhaps understandable, that agents began to emulate the most powerful of their US counterparts and start making contractual demands, pushing to their limits and beyond matters of pay and conditions. That was disgraceful in and of itself, and, I agree with you - it was disgraceful that the union backed up such bad practice when confronted with a challenge.

The most important word in that para is 'contractual.' More and more indies and inexperienced producers and casting agents are issuing do-it-yourself contracts which fail to take into account all the various ways they're shooting themselves in the foot. I'm not saying either of you did or didn't go that route, but an increasing number of industry employers are either deliberately careless or just ignorant of what's required.

Contracts in show biz as all other industries are for protection against the 'what if.' I've met producers who claimed they couldn't afford to have their contracts issued by industry-expert lawyers and who've paid the price later on down the road.

There are unscrupulous people in all industries. What makes show biz bad practice remarkable is because of the industry cache among the public, and the fact that what's being 'traded' are human beings whose work is intrinsically part of themselves.

Whether your teddy-bear tale could have been resolved differently I can't say. What instantly occurs to me is that a teddy-bear doing promotional work on the street surely needn't be performed by an actor. PR for something isn't the thing itself.

Did you, in the body-double debacle, point out to anyone that you were getting cold. Did you suggest that you might be offered some protection during the time between shots?

So far as the incompetent actress is concerned, didn't you audition her? There are so many truly talented people around desperate for work. There are, I believe, some 40,000 members of Equity, and only about 1000 are working at any given time. That's an awful lot of trained people to choose from. Good audition evaluation skills are a valuable part of a director's and producer's repertoire. You prepare shots with camera people, you assess the director-editor relationship.

Surely, you need to evaluate the cast before you commit finance to a shoot? If you hire someone and are contractually obliged to pay them, you can't reneg if you're unhappy with their work - especially if you didn't vet them adequately beforehand. Auditions don't cost anything and out of work actors shouldn't mind doing them. Even very experienced actors will audition if they really want a part.

Relationships with agents are crucial to all the points you both raise. And, let me repeat, I believe they ARE valid points. The people you've both encountered have behaved disgracefully. Now, you both need to evaluate how you can protect yourself and those you work with from now on.

The wider point I'm trying to make is that as this and other industries are de-regulated there's an almost inevitable series of abuses of the system that begin to creep in from all sides. The most important thing to do is to protect yourself and provide the kind of working environment which produces loyalty and a feeling that everyone's on the same side without issues of exploitation.

You can make good relationships with agents, with crew, with union reps, and others in your own profession. Many abuses exist because people don't talk to each other and assume they're being exploited, then act preemptively.

Oh, yeah - on the matter of porno actors and hostesses and hookers as Equity members ... I remember a very heated Equity AGM a long time ago, when Vanessa Redgrave was trying to get membership extended to so-called hostesses. Now, whatever I felt about such women or their need to unionize, I was adamant that they did not belong in a union that I had to train for years before I could join. She presented her arguments and I mine, and that motion was defeated. Has the situation changed in the interim? If so, I'd really be opposed to that.

Porno actors are probably in a different category, since they are for the most part acting - apart from those people who are sadly in the control of criminal gangs who get men and women to participate in such films and vids to pay off drug debts. I don't know what the union stance on that is, but I do know from some work I did in conjunction with Interpol that this is a global problem which is getting worse.

Hope this is helpful.

Incidentally, not that it matters - but I'm a woman. ;)

 
m1ndy9876
219749.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:34 am Reply with quote

Working in performing arts in education ( we teach btec performance and production) if people go off to uni after X'000 they get a little present of a Equity card, which I am told, was not available until you had done at least 4/6 weeks in a run for a theatre or tour.

Now its very early in the morning so I am missing out on some thing's but 40,000 members I think I read and only 1000 working, to behonest out of the 30 students who left I think it was about 5-10 who went off to uni and thus get a Equity card.
out of those maybe 1 will work. There is a teddybear story and the other one about the acrtess now if they were 20 years ago and had Equity you would know they were good, had worked before, etc etc. now almost anyone can get it and in my eyes flooding the market with actors/actresses.

Its FAR too early in the morning to be typing a post like this so I hope it makes sence.

But as a performer if you are a muso you have the best union ever.
And all this talk reminds me to look at my union and join up.

 
Sheriff Fatman
219758.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 3:16 am Reply with quote

Quote:
I remember a very heated Equity AGM a long time ago, when Vanessa Redgrave was trying to get membership extended to so-called hostesses. Now, whatever I felt about such women or their need to unionize, I was adamant that they did not belong in a union that I had to train for years before I could join. She presented her arguments and I mine, and that motion was defeated. Has the situation changed in the interim? If so, I'd really be opposed to that


But as you said before Equity represents Newsreaders whose job is to 'read out loud'.That doesn't take years of training, but you are happy for Equity to represent them

 
HasBeany
219906.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:07 am Reply with quote

Sheriff Fatman wrote:
Quote:
I remember a very heated Equity AGM a long time ago, when Vanessa Redgrave was trying to get membership extended to so-called hostesses. Now, whatever I felt about such women or their need to unionize, I was adamant that they did not belong in a union that I had to train for years before I could join. She presented her arguments and I mine, and that motion was defeated. Has the situation changed in the interim? If so, I'd really be opposed to that


But as you said before Equity represents Newsreaders whose job is to 'read out loud'.That doesn't take years of training, but you are happy for Equity to represent them


Newsreaders do train and the job isn't so mindless as you imply, as you'd know if you'd ever auditioned to be one. Most newsreaders also acquire related presenting skills.

I'm not quite sure what your point is? Do you want to make a case for hostesses and prostitutes being in the same category as professional entertainers and presenters?

If so, I'd be interested in hearing your argument.

My own pov - in case you're interested - is that if prostitutes [and allied professions] want to be unionized, they should certainly have their own union. So my objection isn't a moral one, but one of appropriateness. I wouldn't advocate a portrait painter being in the same union as a house-painter even though they both use paint and brushes. I don't think secretaries should be in the Writers Guild even though they both produce words on paper.

Another factor to consider is that unions do not accept or reject members on a qualitative basis, but because they've acquired a threshold of skills. Unions try -- or they used to -- to liaise with NVQ standard setters to assure the skillsets are consistent.

Anyway - it would be interesting to hear your arguments.

 
suze
219916.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:28 am Reply with quote

Just as an aside, why are newsreaders in Equity? Isn't it usually the National Union of Journalists for those in the news media?

 
Jim Phelps
219919.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:31 am Reply with quote

I just want to thank Hasbeany for her response, above, to what I wrote. I think many would have responded in a more argumentative and/or confrontational way - especially many of those in the Equity universe that I have met and had the pain of working with. I am delighted that she didn't go down that route, and was instead much more constructive and fair-minded.

I guess the point I was making, albeit through the gritted teeth of several bad experiences, was that you can find saints and sinners on both sides of the producer/actor working relationship, and that neither has a monpoly on potential abuse/exploitation.

By way of providing a little balance, I might add that I have, of course, also worked with many actors and presenters (from the lowliest to big names) who were the epitome of professionalism, a joy to work with, and lacking any trace of either financial greed or militant pedanticism regarding pay and contractual matters.

May I mention a couple in passing? Many of you will remember a TV presenter called Judith Hahn, perhaps still best-known for her years presenting Tomorrow's World. I had the pleasure of working with her on a corporate video. Not only is she an excellent presenter in all respects, but over the 2 days of filming it was clear that her first and foremost concern was to do a really good job. She couldn't have cared less if we went a bit over time or if the conditions were occasionally a little fraught and difficult. Ditto with Josie Lawrence, who I worked with once on a low-budget, completely forgotten comedy sketch show from the earliest days of Channel 4, called 'Comedy Wavelength'. A brilliant actress, a talented comedian, a joy to work with, and - as above - the last person in the world to kick up a fuss about anything except getting the job done and doing it well.

 
Tas
219924.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:36 am Reply with quote

I knew Josie was lovely.

Mmmm.....Josie.

:-)

Tas

 
HasBeany
219945.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:05 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Just as an aside, why are newsreaders in Equity? Isn't it usually the National Union of Journalists for those in the news media?


Just an educated guess, but it's probably because the NUJ covers print and Equity covers broadcast.

 
HasBeany
219947.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:07 am Reply with quote

Jim Phelps wrote:
I just want to thank Hasbeany for her response, above, to what I wrote. I think many would have responded in a more argumentative and/or confrontational way - especially many of those in the Equity universe that I have met and had the pain of working with. I am delighted that she didn't go down that route, and was instead much more constructive and fair-minded. Ditto with Josie Lawrence, who I worked with once on a low-budget, completely forgotten comedy sketch show from the earliest days of Channel 4, called 'Comedy Wavelength'. A brilliant actress, a talented comedian, a joy to work with, and - as above - the last person in the world to kick up a fuss about anything except getting the job done and doing it well.


Why, thank you!

I agree about Josie - she's a lovely person -- even though Stephen expressed on QI what many of us felt about her spiritual beliefs. ;)

 
suze
219954.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:33 am Reply with quote

HasBeany wrote:
Just an educated guess, but it's probably because the NUJ covers print and Equity covers broadcast.


Thanks HasBeany, but that doesn't seem to be it. Now I've had a bit of a time to look things up, the NUJ says that its members work in "broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, books, on the internet and in public relations".

http://www.nuj.org.uk/inner.php?docid=88

The difference could be that NUJ is only open to those who actually have some involvement in preparing the news broadcasts - I don't know whether or not TV newsreaders do, but I believe that radio newsreaders write at least part of their bulletins themselves.

 
Sheriff Fatman
219985.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:03 pm Reply with quote

HasBeany wrote:
Sheriff Fatman wrote:
Quote:
I remember a very heated Equity AGM a long time ago, when Vanessa Redgrave was trying to get membership extended to so-called hostesses. Now, whatever I felt about such women or their need to unionize, I was adamant that they did not belong in a union that I had to train for years before I could join. She presented her arguments and I mine, and that motion was defeated. Has the situation changed in the interim? If so, I'd really be opposed to that


But as you said before Equity represents Newsreaders whose job is to 'read out loud'.That doesn't take years of training, but you are happy for Equity to represent them


Newsreaders do train and the job isn't so mindless as you imply, as you'd know if you'd ever auditioned to be one. Most newsreaders also acquire related presenting skills.

I'm not quite sure what your point is? Do you want to make a case for hostesses and prostitutes being in the same category as professional entertainers and presenters?

If so, I'd be interested in hearing your argument.

My own pov - in case you're interested - is that if prostitutes [and allied professions] want to be unionized, they should certainly have their own union. So my objection isn't a moral one, but one of appropriateness. I wouldn't advocate a portrait painter being in the same union as a house-painter even though they both use paint and brushes. I don't think secretaries should be in the Writers Guild even though they both produce words on paper.

Another factor to consider is that unions do not accept or reject members on a qualitative basis, but because they've acquired a threshold of skills. Unions try -- or they used to -- to liaise with NVQ standard setters to assure the skillsets are consistent.

Anyway - it would be interesting to hear your arguments.


I wasn't making a point for prostitutes and hostesses to be members of Equity. I was making a point about Newsreaders. I'm sure Newsreaders do acquire reading skills, but anybody with a relatively competent school education should have the skills to read from an autocue in 5 minute sections for half an hour. Interviewers and presenters of specialised programmes, yes I can see that they have a skill that comes with training, but reading out loud isn't a massively hard skill to learn.

I could make a very good case for waiting staff and bar staff to be members of Equity as they are regularly portraying personas that are not their own for shifts of up to 12 hours a day, many are far better at improvisation than most 'actors'.

 
Sheriff Fatman
219987.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:13 pm Reply with quote

[quote="HasBeany"][quote="Sheriff Fatman"]
Quote:
Another factor to consider is that unions do not accept or reject members on a qualitative basis, but because they've acquired a threshold of skills. Unions try -- or they used to -- to liaise with NVQ standard setters to assure the skillsets are consistent.


I would also disagree with that statement. I have been a member of two different Unions, and neither have accepted me because I had aquired a threshold of skills. One accepted me because the company I worked for agreed to pay my dues. The other, because I worked for the railway.

 
Jim Phelps
220089.  Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:46 pm Reply with quote

HasBeany wrote:
even though Stephen expressed on QI what many of us felt about her spiritual beliefs. ;)
Sorry, I must have missed that particular show. What are her spiritual beliefs? Anything especially distinctive or just run-of-the-mill christinanity? And why did this come up in the show, was she being evangelical?

 
samivel
220125.  Sat Oct 13, 2007 6:54 am Reply with quote

IIRC, she suggested that asking St Anthony for help in finding anything you've lost was a guaranteed way of finding it, to which Stephen coughed the word 'Bollocks'.

 
schroder
501981.  Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:44 am Reply with quote

I have been a member of Equity these past 14 years. When I joined they had just got rid of the old closed shop (no equity card, no work, established companies given X amount of new cards per annum) and instituted a 'provisional' scheme where you could get a provisional card with any acting/performing job (allowing smaller companies to flourish as the rep system was dying) as your first. You then had to work under the provisional card ( a lower provisional subs rate)in the business for 40 weeks before it became a full card.

Now anyone can get a full membership immediately, and continue to pay full membership subs, even if they only work once.

I don't know if that's exploitative of Equity or not!

 

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