Tag Archives: SAG-AFTRA

MOVE LA (or More SAG-AFTRA Involvement)

I’ve written lately how I am making an effort to be more involved with SAG-AFTRA. The elections for being a delegate are coming up again, and I’ve realized that I have not maximized my union membership over the past 2 years the way that I wanted to. So I’ve been trying to find new ways to be involved now so that when I hopefully get elected to be a delegate again that I will already be on the right track to be doing more with the union.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting for the MOVE LA committee. MOVE stands for Members Organizing Volunteer Efforts. I’ve been on their email list for a while, but I haven’t been able to attend any volunteer events or meetings in the past. But since I am making my union more of a priority in my life, I set aside the time to go to this meeting.

The beginning of the meeting was more of social time than anything else. We all had time to get something to eat and drink and to talk to the other union members who were at the meeting. It was nice to have that time because a lot of the members of the MOVE committee are friends of mine so I got to catch up with them. And there were new people to meet at the meeting as well which is also really fun.

Once the meeting officially got started, we got to learn a lot about the MOVE LA committee and the events that they do.

The committee puts on a lot of really great events covering so many different topics that are important to SAG-AFTRA members. These include discussing auditioning, working in voiceover, making ends meet with day jobs, social media, producing our own projects, and safety on set. These events often are recorded and put up on the MOVE LA website so even if I can’t make it to an event I can still learn about it! I had no idea about the video archive and I will be watching so many of these past events now.

They also do a lot of volunteering work (as the name of the committee suggests). These volunteer efforts include a senior buddy program, doing charity walks, and helping the post office with their big food drive. I really want to be able to help with more volunteer work, but I know that some of those will have to wait. The food drive will be right after my surgery, and I won’t be able to lift things like I would need to in order to help. But I hope that many people will be able to help out and I’ll be sharing on social media all about it so hopefully I can get others to sign up to volunteer.

MOVE LA is also the parent committee of the NextGen Performers Committee, which put on the happy hour I went to recently. NextGen Performers will be doing more happy hours that I will be attending in the future, but I know I will be missing the next one. But again, I will be making the effort in my schedule to fit those events in so I can meet more actors and work on being more involved with SAG-AFTRA in general.

Even though I have been getting the MOVE LA emails for a while, I learned so much more about the committee at this meeting. There are more ways for me to be involved with this committee than I knew about and lots of opportunities to learn at the various events that they throw. If you are in LA, I highly recommend getting involved with MOVE LA. And there are MOVE committees in other SAG-AFTRA locals as well if you are a union member not in LA. If you have questions about the committee, there are email addresses for the local committees on the website. But you can also ask me in the comments and I’d be happy to pass your question on for you!

I’m so glad that I made the commitment to get more involved with SAG-AFTRA. I haven’t been taking advantage of my union in the way that I should (which is outside of going to screenings and enjoying screener DVDs). The MOVE LA committee is a great way for me to be more involved in the union while also putting some good out into the world. And that seems like the perfect thing for me to be doing right now.

SAG-AFTRA Local Meeting (or Coming To The End Of My Delegate Term)

I’ve been lucky to be able to do a couple of different things with SAG-AFTRA recently. Earlier last week, I was able to go to the NextGen Performers Mixer which was a really great time. It was a fun casual event and I got a chance to see a bunch of friends and meet a couple of new people. It reminded me how much I want to be involved with the union and how I need to put focus and attention on doing just that.

And fortunately for me, I had the perfect opportunity to do just that on Sunday. The Los Angeles local had their big membership meeting and it happened to be on a day that I had free! I had been wanting to attend one of the meetings since becoming a member of SAG-AFTRA. But they seem to keep falling on days I have to work or am out-of-town. So with this one being on a day I’m free plus being right after attending a fun union mixer seemed to be fate and I was super excited to be there!

The meeting was held in Burbank and once I got there I quickly found the meeting room. There were 2 rooms set up for us. The first one was an expo type set up with different SAG-AFTRA committees and helpful organizations there with tables so you could learn more about them. I took a quick look around and was able to see a bunch of my friends who were there helping out at the different tables. Then there was the large room where the meeting was going to be with all the chairs facing a projection screen and the stage area. I was able to find some seats near the front and center and got myself and my friend Robert some great seats.

The meeting was really informative and educational. I can’t share too much of what was shared because it is union only information, but there were a lot of things that we discussed because they had been announced to everyone recently. These include the new SAG-AFTRA Members app (which is awesome!), Telemundo voting to unionize, and the news that we will soon be able to get residuals by direct deposit. While I don’t get residuals on projects yet, many of my friends do. And they are always posting how they may be getting 5 or 6 different checks for under a dollar in the mail. Being able to have these by direct deposit is going to be really nice!

Another thing that was discussed was the election that will be coming up this summer. It is the end of my time as a delegate, but I will be running again for sure this year. I was worried that my surgery might be during the time that I need to get my paperwork submitted so I could run, but when they announced the dates for all the deadlines I found out that everything is well after my surgery. So that won’t cause any issues for me! And while they were talking about the election, I mentioned to my friend Robert that he should run for delegate too. I think he’s still thinking about it, but I really hope that he goes for it!

The last half of the meeting was dedicated to Q&A time. Before the meeting, you could write down a question on a card and they would be brought over to the Los Angeles Local President so we could get up to ask something. As much as I hate public speaking, I had a question about the app that I wanted to ask so I submitted my question. I was shaking and nervous when I was at the microphone to speak, but I was able to get my question out (which was about logging into the app) and get it answered without shaking too much. Robert told me that you couldn’t hear the nerves in my voice so that made me happy.

Besides questions on the app, people had questions about the current contracts, upcoming elections, committees that either currently exist or they would like to see in the future, and general union questions. It was really educational for me because I learned a lot of new stuff about the union but also what my fellow members are concerned about. The meeting lasted as long as we could stay in the room (there was another event after ours in that space so we couldn’t keep going forever), but most of us ended up going out into the lobby or parking lot to keep talking.

After the meeting, I was able to catch up with more of my friends. Some people arrived a bit later than I did so they were in the back of the room during the meeting. But since I was in the front of the room and pretty much stayed seated the entire meeting, I hadn’t gotten to see them before the meeting was done. I ended up staying over an hour after the meeting just chatting and catching up with friends before getting into my car to drive back home.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but this really made me think about more ways I can be involved in SAG-AFTRA. I think that most of it will need to wait until the beginning of summer since my schedule is starting to fill up now to get things done before surgery and after surgery I’ll need to take some time to recover. But just because I can’t do more things in person for a while, I will try to be more active with the union on social media and sharing important information as I hear about it.

I’m so grateful that I’m a part of such a strong and involved union and that I have the opportunity to be involved as well. I’m really looking forward to running as a delegate again (and hopefully winning my seat again so I can attend the convention this year). I hope that if you are a SAG-AFTRA actor that you are getting involved in the union as well and that you consider running as a delegate this year too!

A Happy Hour Mixer (or Being A NextGen Performer)

As much as I’ve wanted to get involved more with SAG-AFTRA, it seems like it just hasn’t been working out well with my schedule. I’ve wanted to attend various gatherings and meetings, but they seem to always be when I’m working. So when I do see an event that I can attend, I try to do whatever I can to make sure my schedule stays clear so I can go.

The NextGen Performers Committee is a committee within SAG-AFTRA to help unify those in the union between 18-35 and to help them get more involved. It’s a great committee and I have several friends who are a part of the leadership of that committee. They do a lot of great work especially since many younger union members don’t realize how important the union is. They haven’t known any other time and sometimes don’t realize when something is something that the union had to fight hard to get. It’s one of the committees that I’ve wanted to get involved with but hadn’t had a chance just yet.

But when they announced a mixer this past week at Rush Street, I knew I had to go! I had that evening free (except needing to pick up a friend at LAX at 11pm) and Rush Street is so close to my house that it wouldn’t take me long at all to get there. So I RSVPed and was excited about getting to spend some time with my fellow union members. I had ever intention of walking over there since it’s so close to my house, but I decided to dress up and wear heels. I don’t have to wear anything other than workout clothes normally, so I took advantage of this mixer. And since I was wearing heels, I didn’t want to walk over. So I drove over and found a free parking space!

The mixer was upstairs at Rush Street where we had a private space. I’ve been upstairs at Rush Street before for dinner, but never on the back patio where we were this time. And there was some free food (which always gets actors excited) and postcards promoting the upcoming Los Angeles meeting for SAG-AFTRA right when I walked in.

By the way, if you are a member of SAG-AFTRA and are free on Sunday, I highly recommend coming to the meeting. It should be a really educational afternoon and you will get to meet many leaders in the union. I’m excited to get to be there to see some people who I haven’t seen since either the holiday party or convention.

I wasn’t sure how many people I would know at the mixer, and there were a ton of people I didn’t know. But I did keep running into friends there including the friends who are a part of the committee. Some of them I had seen within the past month and some of them I hadn’t seen in over a year. Either way, it was awesome to get to catch up with everyone. And while everyone was busy saying hi to everyone who was there, I felt like I did get some great quality time with the people who I wanted to see while I was there.

And since this committee is focused on millennials (and those of us a bit older than that), they had a challenge for us for social media. They had different signs and if we could take a photo and post it on Instagram, we would get a free water bottle. I’m never one to turn down a free water bottle, so I took a photo with 2 friends to post online.

Since this mixer was a casual event, there was no agenda or timeline of anything. It was just a good time to get to hang out with other union members and talk shop. And that’s exactly what I got to do. It was perfect and again made me feel the pull to want to be more involved in the union. I know there isn’t a ton that I can do right now, but with elections happening this year I know that I want to do more than I have in the past.

I would have loved to have stayed at the mixer for a while (even though it was supposed to end at 9 it was still going strong at 9:30), but I did need to get home to get stuff done before my late night run to get my friend at LAX. I was trying to leave quickly, but of course it was taking forever to say goodbye to everyone that I wanted to say goodbye to. But I eventually made it out of there and was on my way back to my car.

With this mixer this week and the meeting coming up this weekend, I’m just feeling so excited about everything happening with the union. There have been some really exciting announcements lately (including the official union app and that residuals can be direct deposits now) and I can’t wait to hear what might be announced next!

 

SAG Awards (or Being Inspired)

After my podcast hangout, I had to rush back to my house. That night was the SAG Awards and I decided to host a viewing party at my house! I had invited a ton of people to come over and at one point there were 12 people who said they were going to come by. I’m glad that people started to cancel because there was no way that my house could have that many people! In the end, there were 3 of us watching.

All of us got to vote on the SAG Awards, so it was fun to see if who we voted for won. There were a bunch of surprises and we were all pretty chatty while watching. Sometimes, we were commenting so much that we ended up rewinding my DVR so we could catch what we missed. But we were all in a pretty good mood and being chatty was the mood for the night.

Of all the award winner speeches, I think the two that hit me the most were the ones for “Stranger Things” and “Hidden Figures”. I loved that show and that movie and was so happy to see them win. But I didn’t expect the speeches that we got.

If you haven’t seen or read it, the “Stranger Things” speech was a truly inspiring moment in a time where politics are making a lot of people stressed or upset. Here’s just a part of it:

“I would just like to say, in light of all that’s going on in the world today, it’s difficult to celebrate the already celebrated Stranger Things, but this award from you who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe, like me, that great acting can change the world is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper. And through our art to battle against fear, self-centeredness and exclusivity of our predominately narcissistic culture and through our craft to cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken and afraid and tired they are not alone. We are united in that we are all human beings and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting and mysterious ride that is being alive.

Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of ‘Stranger Things,’ we 1983 midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters and when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility. Thank you.” 

This was exactly what so many people needed to hear right now. So many things in politics have been upsetting, but there are people willing to fight for what they believe in. It’s nice not to feel alone and that there is a community that shares my viewpoints.

When “Hidden Figures” won, I didn’t consider it an upset (it’s the movie I voted for), but I think the cast was so shocked that they won. With the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite last year, I think the fear would be that show and films with diverse casts wouldn’t be recognized this year. But I’m glad that it wasn’t the case.

I love the genuine emotion that was in the speech for “Hidden Figures”. The speech was about recognizing those who were not recognized for their accomplishments at the time and the power of coming together. Again, that is exactly the message we need right now. There is so much trying to get us to be against each other and we can’t have that. As a country, we need to come together and work on making sure everyone is living their American dream.

The SAG Awards was much more political than it has been in the past, but I think that was appropriate given the circumstances now. I know some people think that celebrities don’t have a right to share political views (I don’t know why since our current president is known for being a reality TV performer), but I think hearing other people being so passionate in what they believe in is so inspiring. It has encouraged me to speak out more to make sure that my voice is heard and that I’m not a silent bystander.

Besides being so inspired by the speeches, I was inspired to see people who I’ve gotten to work with on tv. I’m working hard on my acting career and I know that eventually I will be at a level of success similar to my friends. But for now, I just have to be so excited when I see them on tv or their names in the credits.

Enjoying Movie Nights (or Watching My Screeners)

It’s almost time for the SAG Awards which means I’m getting ready to vote on who I think should win in the various categories. It’s still so much fun that I get to vote on the awards and it fees so special to me. I know that all union members get to do this, but it’s still relatively new to me and feels like a novelty. And I do take it seriously and want to make sure I vote for who I feel deserves to win and not just who is my favorite. I know that no everyone does that, but I look at it as if I might be nominated one day. I might not be a name actor by that point, but I would want as much consideration as an a-list actor might get. So I take each nomination just as seriously as the others.

Usually, I’ve been able to see more of the films before the nominations come out. I get to go to screenings through SAG-AFTRA and the film society as well as thought Women In Film and usually toward the end of the year those end up being the films that are the ones that get nominated. But this year, for some reason I really didn’t get to make it to many of the screenings of the films that were nominated. In fact, I didn’t get to see anything other than shows that were on Netflix this time. It’s just the way that the screening season went. A lot of screenings were times that I couldn’t go, and during the holidays a lot of screenings were the blockbusters and not necessarily the films that get award nominations.

So when we started to get our screeners, I was excited because I knew I needed to watch a bunch of movies. But somehow time was going by and I wasn’t watching the screeners I had. And over the weekend, I realized that I needed to start catching up in order to have time to watch everything before I had to vote. So I have been trying to watch one movie a day if possible to make it through my movies. I haven’t been able to do that every day, but I’ve been able to do it for many of them and I’m finally about halfway through watching all of them.

It’s been a fun routine at night (or sometimes before I start work in the morning) to pick out a movie that I want to watch. It’s a luxury to be able to watch these movies at my house where I can be comfortable on the couch (and pause the movies if I need to get something to drink or run to the bathroom). And when my hips have been hurting, it’s nice that I can stretch out on the couch or floor and get my body to feel ok. That’s not something that I can do in a theater, even though I do have to stretch out in my seat when I’m out at a movie or a show. Each time I watch a screener, I feel so lucky that I get to have this privilege and hope that I never get so jaded that I start to expect this treatment.

Most of the movies I’ve watched have been very good. I’m actually sad that some of my favorites are only available on the screener website because I know I’ll lose access to watching it soon. And there are some other films that I’ve struggled to get through and haven’t understood why my friends have thought it was the greatest movie ever or that it was better than all the rest. But whether or not I like the movie, I totally agree that the performances in the films have all been the best of the best and all the actors have been very worthy of their nominations.

There totally are some front-runners in my mind for who I want to vote for already. I won’t vote until I finish watching the movies because that’s only fair. I don’t feel like there is a lot of campaigning by actors and producers to get their films or performers to win. I do get flyers and things in the mail (and I guess you could say getting a DVD screener versus having to watch it on a website is a way to campaign), so I don’t feel pressured to vote any certain way like some other awards shows might have. I get to be an actor watching actors and deciding who is inspiring me the most with their performance.

I’ve got less than 2 more weeks to work on this and I think I’ll be fine getting through all the movies. I do need to set aside time to work on it (which seems like a funny concept to me), but as long as I make it a priority in my off time, I will watch everything before needing to vote. And right after voting, I’ll get to see how the rest of my union actors feel about the performances when the winners are announced. I can’t wait to see what happens!

SAG-AFTRA Holiday Party (or Getting Ready For Elections Again)

This past week was the SAG-AFTRA holiday party in LA. Even though I’ve been a member of SAG-AFTRA for a while, I have never made it to a holiday party before. Either I was working the night it was held, I had a commitment I couldn’t get out of, or I got sick. So even though I RSVPed for the party this year, I was worried that something would come up that would prevent me from going.

Fortunately, nothing came up and I was able to attend the party! When I arrived, it was just as things were starting and there was a pretty big line to get in. But they had several representatives from the union throughout the line to talk to people and greet them. Many of those people were people I know from Unite For Strength, so it was nice to have some time to catch up with friends even before I got inside the party.

Most of the people standing in line with me were people I didn’t know, but I didn’t pay too much attention to that since I was so focused on catching up with the friends who were hanging out with the line. And as soon as I checked in for the party, I walked past the food area (I wasn’t hungry so I wasn’t planning on eating) and tried to find some more friends.

The problem with big events like these are that they do make me a bit nervous and shy. I was there alone (it’s always easier when you arrive with a friend) and was really trying to find someone I knew so I could hang out with them. It took a bit of time to find a friend, but once I did I felt much calmer. And once I found one friend, it seems like more people I knew were coming over to where I was.

Since I don’t get to see my delegate friends that often, there was a lot of catching up to do. It’s been an interesting year for most of us so it was fun to hear the cool projects that they have been working on. And since most of us are friends on Facebook, they wanted to hear more about the liver tumors since they had seen the posts about them.

Most of the stuff about the liver tumors was pretty quick since I don’t have a lot of updates right now, but I did realize something at the party that I didn’t think about. SAG-AFTRA elections will be coming up next year. While the elections will most likely be in the summer, getting signed up to run and doing the prep work will be in the spring. And that will be when I will be having my surgery and recovering.

As soon as I realized that, I talked to some of my friends who are higher up in SAG-AFTRA. I explained how I have every intention of running for a delegate position again (and I’m still considering running for the local board) but I’m worried the timeline of election stuff and my surgery will be an issue. They reassured me that they will do what they need to do so everything works out for me. Hopefully the surgery won’t take me out that long, but if it does I’m glad there is a plan that we can follow that won’t cause the recovery to be an issue for the election.

For most of the party, I stuck with the few friends I found there. I don’t know if more of my friends were there, but we were all looking around and didn’t really see too many people we all knew. And as things always seem to be at a party, I started to say goodbye to people and it seemed to take about an hour for me to leave. I did run into a few more friends while leaving so the goodbye got mixed in with trying to quickly catch up, but I was able to leave at a time that was early enough for me to not have to stress about rushing home to get to bed.

I’m so glad that I was able to go to the holiday party this year. It was a good positive thing to get to do when my day had been a bit long (customers have been getting pretty angry the past week at my day job). And I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in a while and was able to start planning for the election next year. I know I keep saying I need to do more with my union, and having fun at this party proved that I need to work harder at that.

Union Stuff (or My SAG-AFTRA Delegate Time So Far)

It’s really shocking to realize that my term as a delegate with SAG-AFTRA is already more than halfway over. Even though this isn’t the most involved position as an elected union member, I’ve tried to be as involved as I can. I really loved my time at the National Convention and I’ve been trying to find that in as many aspects of my union participation as I can. While it can be tough to be involved while balancing as many day jobs as I can, I try to find the time or at least stay informed on what’s happening.

We’ve had some really awesome stuff happening in our union lately. In case you aren’t a union member (or are but aren’t aware of these things), one of the biggest things the union has been working on since SAG and AFTRA merged was the merging of the healthcare plans. Split earnings was such a huge issue, and it was announced this summer that starting on January 1st 2017, the plans will be merged and split earning will be a thing of the past! I’m not eligible for the healthcare yet, but I know how big of a deal this is for my fellow actors and hopefully in the future I can take advantage of it.

Another big thing that’s been happening lately is a bill that we are trying to pass that helps to reduce the age discrimination that happens with actors (and other industry professional). Some industry websites post the birth dates of people on it, and while that doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people it really can cause people not to book a job. If someone is in their late 20’s but looks like a teenager, they shouldn’t automatically be eliminated from consideration because of their age. No other job allows your employer to see your age before considering you, so I don’t see why acting should be any different. This bill hasn’t passed yet, so if you are in CA and want to see age discrimination reduced in industry jobs, you can fax in your support of the bill passing (and you can fax for free from your email!).

And we’ve got our upcoming contract negotiations happening with our TV and theatrical contracts. I’m not a part of the negotiation committee, but that doesn’t mean that I (or any union actor) can’t be involved in this process. We’ve got our wages and working conditions meetings happening now and we will continue to have them for a while leading up to the negotiations. I think every single SAG-AFTRA actor needs to attend these to share their experiences and to learn from others. It’s so important to know what is happening and what issues are going on so you can learn as well. I’m excited to attend some in the future when I know I will have a bit more free time between day jobs.

These things are things that have just been announced recently, but have been in the works for a very long time. The age discrimination issue has been in the works with SAG-AFTRA for 8 years and they finally got it to the Governor just recently. While I think all of us would love to things to change faster than they do, it just shows how dedicated everyone is in the union and how we can make changes if we try hard.

Since I’m seeing the results of long-term dedication to SAG-AFTRA, I’ve started to think about our election that will be coming up next year. I have no question in my mind that I will be running for a delegate position again. This has been such a great thing for me as an actor and I only wish I had done this sooner! I wish I’ve been more involved this past year, but I know that the day jobs had to take priority until I got a bit of stability happening. Now that that’s more normal, I can focus more on my acting career and union.

But I’m not totally sure that I’m fine with just being a delegate again. I’m seriously considering running for the local board so that I can be even more involved in what is happening in my union in my local area. This will be more responsibility, but I think that I can handle it and really do some great things. I’ve got some time before I have to decide what positions I’m running for, but I’m really leaning toward being both a delegate and local board member.

I’m so happy that about 2 years ago a friend of mine encouraged me to run for a delegate position. I love all the people who I’ve met through Unite For Strength and the various union events. I’ve never felt more connected as a member and I can’t want to make that connection even stronger through the years.

Working On A New Plan (or Self-Producing)

I’ve been super excited about a couple of projects related to acting that I’ve been working on. These projects are all things where I’m doing at least one thing behind the scenes for the project. There is one project where I had an idea and a friend is currently writing it so we can both star in it. And we are still in post-production for “Single Parent Date Night” and I’m still super excited about that as well. But one project that is closest to the next step has had a setback and I’m trying not to get overwhelmed.

There is a project that I’m working with a friend on that is a reenactment of a video we saw online. I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to give it away, but it’s something that I think is going to be really interesting. I’m not necessarily going to be in this project (I might play someone in the background to fill the space), so this is the first project since the Twitter documentary that I’m involved in that I’m not also going to be an actor in as well.

I’ve been busy getting our actors on board and my friend who is helping me has been busy working on the script. We’ve had some issues with getting actors, but we’ve pretty much cast the entire thing and the script is ready to shoot now. But we’ve hit another issue with this project.

We are doing this project as a union project, and I wasn’t aware that no budget projects (literally we have a $20 budget) need to have liability and workers comp insurance on them. I’ve been busy making calls this week to find the pricing on that, and most of them in are the several thousand dollar range. For a project that was going to be shot for the cost of water bottles and snacks, spending over $1000 to insure things isn’t really going to be feasible.

So I’ve been working on a lot of options. Some of my friends have guided me to companies that may do reduced premiums on no budget shoots, so I’m contacting them to make sure they meet the minimum requirements we need to have. There is also an option to see if another production company who already has insurance will come on board and insure us. And the option that I don’t want to go with is to get rid of our actors and make the project non-union. I have no plans to make this non-union, so I have to figure out another way.

In the past, this setback may have stopped the entire project. I’ve actually said online while I was frustrated that this might be the end of this plan and I wanted to give up on it. But the reason I started this project was because I wanted to share the story with everyone and I can’t let that go. So I have to figure out another option to make this work and to do things on the terms that I have wanted to do them.

While this is the first time I’m self-producing a project like this, I’ve realized that the insurance issue has been a recent one so many people who have self-produced have discovered this setback as well. I was putting myself down for not self-producing sooner so I would have known about this, so knowing others have this issue make me feel a bit better and less like I’m unprepared. This is just how you have to do business and I’m glad that I have a supportive community around me that is helping with figure out the best option for me.

Hopefully, once we get this project done and I figure out more of the legalities of self-producing, my next project and any more after that will become easier for me. While I don’t consider myself a writer, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be self-producing more often and creating the content that I want to see out in the world. I do have some ideas that I want to work on, and once I get over the hurdle of self-producing my first project I think things will just start rolling for me.

Hanging Out With Unite For Strength (or Talking About The Union)

Remember how the other day I blogged about skipping a couple of actor events? I definitely made up for it over this past weekend! Not only did I have the Netflix event on Saturday, there was a fun get together with fellow actors who also were part of the Unite For Strength slate when we had the SAG-AFTRA elections last summer!

Technically after the SAG-AFTRA convention my work as a delegate was done. I can try to join different committees and I can be as involved in various events as I’d like (just like any other SAG-AFTRA member), but there are no other responsibilities as a delegate other than to represent my fellow actors at the convention and to vote on different things at the convention with their best interest in mind.

Since my delegate work was done, I’m so glad that this gathering was organized for us to see each other again and to discuss recent or upcoming union issues. It was held at the house of one of the actors who ran on the Unite For Strength slate and it was pretty casual. There was a ton of food (I feel bad that I didn’t bring anything with me) and it almost felt more like a reunion than anything else. Most of the people there were people I hadn’t seen since the convention because I have not been as active in the union as I was hoping to be so far.

We’ve had a lot of things happening in SAG-AFTRA lately. One of the biggest, and saddest, things that has happened since the convention was the passing of Ken Howard who was the SAG-AFTRA President. It was a big blow to all actors when Ken passed away. He was an amazing advocate for actors and he was one actors who helped to get the merger of the unions to happen. I know that we all miss him and while we know that the new president, Gabrielle Carteris, will do an amazing job we all wish that he was able to complete the term he was elected into.

On a happier note, the union is celebrating the very recent passing of the new commercials contract. This contract will give us raises in our work and will also help to protect us as actors in the new landscape of commercials. Since there are digital commercials (like what you see on YouTube or Hulu) plus ads through social media (like twitter and Facebook), we need to have policies in place for those and this new contract is getting that started. The new contact was passed by over 92% of those who voted, but we are all a little saddened that only 13% of those who could vote did so. We were trying to share ideas of how to encourage our fellow actors to vote because I feel like more actors should be voting on major issues like new contracts.

Along with the commercial contract, we also were discussing the Best In The Biz campaign that SAG-AFTRA has to help organize commercials to get them organized as union contracts. When I was non-union, there were quite a few non-union commercials, but now it seems like non-union commercials are a bigger percentage of commercials than ever. Non-union commercials can pay actors whatever they want and don’t have to follow the same rules as far as how long they can run the commercials or residuals.

I did a non-union commercial back in 2007, and it’s actually still running now. When I did that commercial, I made $500 for the day (which I was so happy about) and didn’t think about it. But since it was non-union, I haven’t gotten any residuals for the 9 years it has run so far and I have no idea how long they will continue to run it. And while it’s on the air, it’s considered a conflict for any products that might be a competitor. I didn’t realize what I had done when I did that commercial, but that’s why I’m so passionate about getting commercials organized to be union and not non-union. I don’t want to see other actors get into deals like I had and aren’t making what is fair for that job. Major multi-million dollar corporations are doing non-union commercials and there is no reason for them to not be union.

There is also currently a campaign to get Spanish-language jobs to be union so those actors get the same pay and benefits as the actors who work on English-language jobs. I don’t know too much about this situation, but I agree that all actors should be equal under contracts. You shouldn’t be paid less (or not get eligibility for union benefits like health insurance and pension) because a show is in Spanish and not English within the same studio system.

The last thing I got to hear about was the new opportunities that there are for union actors to volunteer within the MOVE (Members Organizing Volunteer Efforts) program. I have signed up to be a part of MOVE and I do get the emails about the various events. So far, they have been when I couldn’t attend. But I’m really hoping to be able to join something soon. Just this past weekend, they helped the post office sort donations that were given during the Stamp-Out Hunger drive where people in LA left canned goods in a paper bag for their postal carrier to take. I wanted to help, but I had the Netflix event at lunchtime and then I had to go straight from that to a babysitting job. But they have other programs like the Senior Buddies and attending various charity walks that I think I might be able to do at some point this year.

I’m hoping that we can have another hangout like this in the near future. It’s a great way for me to stay informed about what is happening in SAG-AFTRA and then I can share that knowledge with others. There’s always a ton happening in the union (and we get a lot of emails every day), so I know that people might miss things from time to time. I want to continue to be a leader for others within the union and to help promote events and issues that I think other actors need to be aware of or to take action upon.

Netflix Luncheon (or Rebels and Rule Breakers)

Through both SAG-AFTRA and WIF I got email invites for an event that Netflix was hosting this past weekend that featured the women of Netflix shows. The event was a luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire hotel and since the luncheon technically didn’t start until noon, I figured I should accept the invite because my work shift would be ending at 11am that day (I don’t miss work to attend events so I do miss out on a bunch).

There was free valet for attendees at the hotel, but it was so packed that it almost took me 30 minutes to get into the valet area and get out of my car! Fortunately, the pre-reception was still going on when I arrived so I checked in at the front, got my table number, and headed inside the room where the event was.

Netflix Event Beverly Wilshire

I had never been inside the Beverly Wilshire before, so I was so impressed by the space and the set up in the room. There was a bar for drinks, but I ended up spending my time before the luncheon started looking for friends of mine. Fortunately, since there were invites from a couple of different organizations I ended up knowing quite a few people there. Most of them were people I knew from the SAG-AFTRA convention because they were there representing the union at the luncheon.

At noon we were instructed to go to our tables and sit down so the presentation and lunch could start. At each of our seats, we had a card that on one side had the people who would be speaking and on the other side the menu of the lunch.

Netflix Speakers Neflix Menu

I knew who would be there speaking ahead of time because it was on the invite for the event, but I was still so excited to hear everyone speak. The panel was done in 2 segments and each woman there shared a bit of her story and a bit about how she feels about being a rebel. Being a rebel in the entertainment industry can mean so many things, and each of them had such a wonderful viewpoint. I loved hearing about how women are afraid not to be polite so they don’t try for things or ask things that might be a bit bold. While women shouldn’t worry about always being polite, there’s no need to not be gracious. Being polite and gracious are different things, and I never thought about that.

I’ve always been scared to not be polite, so this was really hitting home for me. I know I’ve been paid less than my co-workers because I didn’t want to see rude or pushy to ask for a raise. I’ve been treated badly at day jobs because I didn’t want to make a fuss and tell HR that I’m being harassed. I’ve tolerated guys saying pretty bad things to be because I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t being nice because I’ve heard far too many stories of women being shot or attacked by men after they reject them (because to some men, rejection is rude and women shouldn’t do it).

I had already been making strides to being more bold in the past. More recently, I’ve been very outspoken about friends that I’ve wanted to work on projects with. The short film I’ll be starring in soon is because on a phone call with my friend Christopher I said that I was mad that he and I hadn’t worked on a project yet. He said he didn’t have anything that fit me, but next thing I knew our short film was written and now we are in pre-production. I’m going to be in another short film this year because when a friend mentioned that they were working on getting it to pre-production I asked what part there is for me. That isn’t the nicest way to ask, but it was effective and I’ll be playing a small part in that film now.

This entire luncheon was so empowering and really got me thinking about how I need to work on finding the balance between being polite (which is what I’ve been told I have to be) and being pushy (which is what I need to be to help further my career). I don’t have the answer on what that balance should be, but honestly I hadn’t been working hard enough in the past on this to make it work for me. I’m so inspired by what all these women said at this luncheon. I know that if I make a couple of small changes in how I interact with others (and how I network) that it can be a huge impact in the auditions I’m getting and the parts that are being offered to me.

The panel part of the luncheon was only about an hour or so long and after it was done we all were told to head back up to where the pre-reception was for desserts and drinks. I was able to find more of my friends at that point and I think all of us were equally inspired by what we heard (both men and women were at the event and I only heard very positive things from everyone).

We know that diversity is more than just women, but getting more women filmmakers and having women’s stories told in film and tv is important. Just this week, a pilot for a new tv show was rejected because it skewed too female. That’s is horrible. I’ve never heard of a pilot being rejected because it was too male. There’s also all the hatred that I don’t understand toward the all-female “Ghostbusters” movie. Some people don’t think that women need to look up to other women or are complaining that men have nobody to relate to in that movie (there are male characters and if they have to watch an all-male cast they can watch the original movie). And some people think that while women will watch shows about men, men won’t watch them about women. This has been proven wrong by movies like “Bridesmaids” that have been big successes.

These are all attitudes that need to change in order for more women to be writing projects, directing projects, and playing characters that are no just the girlfriend or the pretty one to look at. I feel like this change has started, but there are so many voices speaking negatively regarding gender diversity in film and tv (who want to keep it male centric) and I hope that those people will see that putting more women in front or behind the camera will not diminish men but will in fact create more projects that everyone can be in.