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SAG-AFTRA National Convention (or I Had No Idea It Would Be Like This)

I’m going to split my recap of the SAG-AFTRA Convention into two posts. Today will be about a majority of the 4 days I spent at Convention and tomorrow I’ll write about the gala.

I’ve mentioned this on here before, but when I ran for my delegate seat I wasn’t 100% sure what I was in for. I knew that it would involve attending the National Convention, but that’s pretty much all I knew. I have been wanting to get more involved in the union for a while, so this was jumping in with both feet.

With National Convention coming closer, all the delegates got lots of emails with schedules and things that we would need to be aware of. The Convention website (and later the app they created) had all the amendments and resolutions that we would be voting on during Convention. Some of these things made sense to me, but many confused me. Fortunately, I have friends who know more about the union than I do that I can trust and they explained things to me and helped me understand which way I was wanting to vote on each thing.

The first day of Convention was Thursday evening for the delegate party. I don’t have any pictures of this because I had to run an unexpected errand right before the party and ended up arriving an hour late (the party was only 2 hours). I checked in and got my delegate badge and bag filled with information for the weekend.

My Badge

I got to see a bunch of my delegate friends at the party. But since I knew the next morning would be a very early morning for me, I didn’t stay too long.

The next morning was the first day of “real” Convention activities. We voted on the Executive Vice President as an entire group and then we divided up to vote on Vice Presidents for our regions or categories. The voting took time, but I appreciated that because on Friday (and again on Saturday) I was working my box office day job from Convention. I got permission to do chats only and not phone calls, but I still had to focus on my customers. So while the voting was being done or counted, I sat at my table and worked (most of the other delegates used that time to talk to friends or meet new people from other parts of the country).

Convention Room

We also spent a lot of time at Convention voting on the amendments and resolutions that we had been sent prior to Convention. I really can’t say too much about what happened during that voting. But I do want to say that while during the elections over the summer there was very much an attitude of one side versus the other, at Convention everyone came together as one and we all worked to make sure that what we chose to do is in the best interest of all performers, recording artists, and broadcasters in the union.

We also got to hear from our National Executive Director, David White, about what is coming for the union and what he wants us to accomplish. I’ve met David White briefly before, but getting to hear his report was so inspiring and I’m so happy that he is our NED and helping us make the union the best that it can be. Again, I’m not able to share a ton of what was discussed, but there are some really great plans for the future that should be announced in the next few months.

At one point during Saturday, we got to split up and chose a workshop to attend. There were a couple of different options and it was tough to choose one, but some of my fellow delegates and I decided to all try to attend different ones so we could share what we learned. It was interesting hearing the issues that members of the union face and learn what we can do to fix things, whether or not we are personally affected.

While a lot of the business was work, the staff (who did an amazing job putting together and coordinating Convention) did try to make things fun for us too. Every morning there was a breakfast (I only took advantage of that on Sunday when they had some eggs, bacon, hash browns, and fruit) and on Friday and Saturday there was lunch provided. Friday lunch was good, but nothing too special. But Saturday lunch was provided by several food trucks!

Food Truck Lunch

I got to enjoy some tacos and ice cream before heading back into the Convention room to get back to work. The food truck lunch was a highlight for many of us and a much appreciated break from working so hard on getting things done.

We heard speeches from our President, Executive Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer to hear what their plans and goals are for the next 2 years (when the next election and convention will be). There have been so many things done in the past 2 years and I know the next 2 will be just as productive, if not more so.

I know this sounds like a lot of information. It is. I’m still a bit overwhelmed on everything I experienced. A friend of mine asked me to explain why I thought that Convention was so beneficial for me as an actor. The best thing I came up with was that before it was like I was a tourist of my union. Now I’m a citizen or resident of the union. I had no idea about the issues that the broadcasters or recording artists deal with, but since we are one union it is important for all performers to help them with their fight. I learned so much about what I can do when I see things that aren’t on the up and up and how to properly report them to the union (I haven’t done that properly in the past). I learned about how there are so many things in the works for the union that can’t be announced publicly yet because that puts those things at risk for not being able for being done. But most importantly, I became more proud of being a SAG-AFTRA member than ever before and want all my fellow union members to feel that same pride.

I hope that this is just the beginning of my political career with SAG-AFTRA. I know 100% for sure that I will be running as a delegate again in 2 years. I don’t know if I’d want to be a board member yet, but I’ve got plenty of time to learn more about that position and to decide.

But for now, I’m taking the inspiration that I feel from Convention and making sure that I keep this feeling and momentum going and share it with you all.

My First Official SAG-AFTRA Duty (or Learning What’s In Store)

After winning my delegate seat in the SAG-AFTRA election, my first question was “what’s next?”. I knew that I would get to attend the convention this year, but so much of what I could do or get to do was a mystery to me.

Fortunately, not only do I have some amazing mentors through Unite For Strength but the union has been sending emails with lots of information for us! And with the convention coming up next week, the Los Angeles SAG-AFTRA local decided to have a sort of orientation for all elected delegates.

The orientation was this week with a dinner first, followed by an opportunity to observe the local board meeting, and then finishing with the orientation. I got there nice and early so I could check in and make sure there wasn’t anything else I had to do before the official things started for the evening.

SAG-AFTRA Delegate

The dinner was fun. It was very nice of them to have food for us and we all had a great time getting to chat with our friends. We had a minor snafu when the fire alarm went off, but we were back inside pretty quickly.

Next, all the board members took their seats for the board meeting and then all the delegates got to follow inside to find a seat. I found a seat pretty close to the front and was very excited to see what would happen at the board meeting.

This was my first time getting to see a local board meeting for SAG-AFTRA and while we didn’t get to have the agenda and other paperwork that the board members had, they put the agenda up on a screen for us to follow along with. There was some housekeeping stuff to take care of since this was the first board meeting since the election. But there was also some new business and discussion about committees and other things that the local board will be doing soon.

It was really fun to see the process that goes on in the room. There are rules to follow and ways that you can and cannot bring up information or concerns. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to observe more board meetings in the future because it really was cool to see how things that affect me and my fellow actors are decided and debated on. And maybe one day I’ll run for local board and I want to make sure I understand what it’s all about before running.

When we had our delegate orientation, there was a lot of information to cover. With convention being next week, they wanted to make sure that all of our questions were answered and we were ready to go. Since the convention is in LA, we are the host local and we want to be able to help any of the other locals who are traveling to LA with questions they might have.

The convention is going to be a couple of very full days. I’ll be working my day job from the convention (just the chat customer service work since I won’t be able to answer the phone) so I know that each day will be tiring. But there are some fun things involved too. There is a gala that you had to buy a ticket for (I did) that will be held on the backlot of Warner Bros. That should be pretty awesome. There will also be a food truck lunch one day, but if it’s on Friday I will have to miss out on it because I will be in the convention room working my day job during lunch. But maybe someone can bring me food.

No matter how full the days will be or how stressed out I might get trying to balance out my schedule, I know that this is going to be great. I’ve been wanting to get more involved in the union and now is my chance to start! I’m excited to represent my fellow Los Angeles SAG-AFTRA members with the voting that will be happening next week and I hope that what is decided continues to make us a stronger and more unified union.

The End Of The SAG-AFTRA Elections (or Being An Observer)

This past Thursday, the ballots for the SAG-AFTRA election were counted. The ballot count was at the SAG-AFTRA offices starting at 9am and originally we were told that we would hear results around 5 or 6pm.

As much as I would have liked to be there in the morning, I had to work. So as soon as work was done at 3pm, I headed to the offices to wait for the results to be announced.

At first, I just waited outside the counting room. I knew I couldn’t use my phone inside the room and I was helping to update a lot of people who couldn’t be at the count. But some of my fellow candidates encouraged me to go inside, so I did.

I have to say, watching the counting was pretty cool. The main counting was done so I never got to watch the counting machines in action. But what I did get to observe was the counters hand counting questionable ballots. Those questionable ones were ones where people might have over voted (or over voted and then crossed some things out) or where the bubbles weren’t filled in in a method that the counting machines could recognize. It was pretty cool seeing these people analyzing what the intention of the voter was. It’s impressive to see how seriously they take their jobs and I feel very comfortable with the integrity of the count. If you ever have the opportunity to do something similar for a ballot count, I highly recommend it.

6pm came and they were saying we were still hours away from the results. So my slate went next door to Marie Callendars to eat and wait (too bad I already used my birthday coupon!). Ken Howard, who was running for National President, was going to get a phone call when the national results were in (we knew those would be first). Every time his phone rang, everyone got quiet and waited to see if it was “the call”. Finally, it was and Ken got the happy news that he was re-elected as president! But then we had a¬†twist: his running mate for Secretary/Treasurer was not elected but instead the candidate from the other slate one that position. Everyone in the room was celebrating when we heard that Ken won, but then went into shock when we heard that Jenny O’Hara lost. I was really hoping for Jenny to win. I had gotten to know her really well while campaigning and I felt like she would be so amazing in that position. But now I must have faith in our new Secretary/Treasurer Jane Austin.

After Ken’s win, we heard that it might be another hour or two for the rest of the results. Many people decided to go home, but I figured I might as well stick it out as long as I could.

Since the restaurant closed, we all went back to the offices and hung out in the counting room. We kept watching for signs that the count was done. We had been told that if we were still in the room when it was done, they would let us go in and meet with the election committee one by one in private and they would tell us our results. If we weren’t there, we would get an email (actually, we’d get an email either way but finding out in person was going to be first).

I knew I couldn’t sleep until I knew so I waited it out. And finally around 11:30pm we were told to line up. There were a couple of people in front of me and some of them didn’t get elected for everything they ran for. I was so incredibly nervous and when it was my turn the nerves were even worse.

The room that we had to go into for the results felt like a judging. It was as conference room with about 10 people and you had your name and what you were running for announced so they could all check their information. It felt like forever before they could find my name. And when they did, I got the happy news that I won my convention delegate seat!

I went outside and waited for everyone else from my slate to get their results. There were some surprises on some losses, but in the end my slate has maintained the majority that we had before. And I think that maybe having the national positions split will help bring the two slates closer together and the next election won’t be as nasty.

I went to bed as soon as I got home and had this email waiting for me when I woke up in the morning.

SAG-AFTRA win

It all feels real now! And I’m getting emails about joining committees and other things. I’m seriously so excited! While I haven’t been treating my career as a hobby, I think that maybe I have been treating my union membership as one. I’m so excited to be more involved from now on with the union and hopefully make a difference in our working conditions, pay, and other issues that I and all SAG-AFTRA actors deal with.

Thank you to all of you who voted for me! I’m so excited to serve you as a convention delegate for the next two years! And who knows, maybe in 2 years I’ll be running for a board position too!

Unite For Strength (or SAG-AFTRA Election Time)

I’m so excited to announce that I am running for a Convention delegate seat with SAG-AFTRA (the actor union I’m a member of)! I was asked if I was interested to run by a friend of mine. I was a bit hesitant at first, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. So I decided to go for it! I’ve been wanting to be more involved in my union and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. I just needed someone to give me the push to get involved.

I’m running with the Unite For Strength slate. The UFS group was formed before the two unions merged. They were the SAG-AFTRA representatives that were pro-merger. I actually got to attend one of the pre-merger UFS meetings before I joined the union. The same friend who asked me if I wanted to run this year brought me as his guest. It was a bit overwhelming at that party at first since I really didn’t know anyone (and everyone seemed to be a really established actor who I had looked up to and I was a bit nervous). But I was immediately struck by how smart and friendly everyone was. And even though I was a non-union member attending the event, everyone was interesting in getting to know who I am and answer any questions I might have had (and I had a ton at the time).

I’m honored that I’m a part of UFS for this coming election. We actually have a ton of really amazing people running for various positions in the union.

UFS 2013 Mailer Side 2

(I’m #144 on the list!).

We had a meeting as a group the other night to discuss some election things including rules of what we can and can’t do while we campaign and so us newbies could meet some of the more experienced union members who can help us out. It’s a little intimidating being in that room and hearing what other members have had to deal with in past elections, but I tried to listen to what everyone said and take in as much as I could (thankfully, UFS also sends us emails so I have copies of all the super important stuff).

Again, I was so impressed by everyone else running with UFS. Everyone was so friendly and really was there to help everyone else. I got to talk to most of the people who were at the meeting and they helped me realize that everyone has the same nerves and fears when they ran for a position for the first time. But that’s why you join a group like UFS. They are almost like election mentors and they are there to help guide me through this. And hopefully I’ll be elected and then they will be there for me again to help make sure that I am able to be a successful Convention delegate.

I think the most important thing I learned at the meeting was that it’s ok for me not to know everything. I’m going to learn and there are plenty of people who are supporting me who can help me out if I can’t answer something. My job is really to listen, to learn, and to be a voice of the union. And that’s something that I can do.

If you are able to vote in the upcoming SAG-AFTRA election, I would love it if you would vote for me (#144) and the rest of the Unite For Strength slate. But even if you don’t want to vote for me or the slate, it is so important for you to vote no matter what. I know for the merger vote there was a pretty high turnout but for this election it’s not expected to be nearly as many. So every single vote counts. It is important to be an active member of the union and by doing so you may be inspired to get more involved one day like I’m hoping to do if I win my delegate seat.

If any of you have any questions about Unite For Strength, the upcoming election, or anything else regarding SAG-AFTRA; feel free to ask me. You can comment on here or you can use my contact form if you want it to be a bit more private. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does and get you the answer. Even if I don’t get voted in as a Convention delegate, I really do want to help any of you find the answers you want regarding the union. I had people who did that for me and now it’s my turn to repay the favor.

Ballots should be getting to you in the next few days, so please take a look at the Unite For Strength slate and make sure you vote!

A Summer Of Movies (or Grateful For Union Membership)

While TV is the medium that I dream of working in, I love going to see movies. A couple of years ago when I was out of work (before I started this blog), I would try to watch at least one movie a week. Most of the time it was something I got from Netflix since I didn’t have money coming in. But seeing a movie at home is still better than no movies at all.

For a while, I wasn’t seeing movies that often. Money is part of the reason, but I’m not really sure why I stopped. Movies make me happy and they should be a part of my life when I can go.

Since becoming a member of SAG-AFTRA, I have more opportunities to see movies for free. Most of the free movies are around the holidays and into the new year because they are screenings for the SAG Awards (I have to see movies to be able to vote on them). I’m also getting more opportunities to see movies through Women in Film.

But for the past few years I’ve paid to be a part of the SAG-AFTRA Film Society. Between the membership into the society and the parking pass I pay for, it costs me about $200 a year to be a part of the film society. And in the past, I’ve tried to see as many movies as I can. The more movies I see, the better value the membership each year is.

This past weekend was the opening weekend for Film Society (the season runs May-March/April). And I decided to go and see both movies.

The movies that screened last weekend were “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Both movies screened in 3D and for both movies I brought a guest (all movies through Film Society allow me to bring a plus one). So with just this first weekend, I’ve already gotten about $60 value out of my membership (based on the idea that a 3D movie ticket costs $15).

I really enjoyed both movies. Neither are movies that I probably would have picked on my own. But both movies came highly recommended by friends so I decided to give them a chance.

I found it really interesting that while they were both action filled movies, Avengers was CGI based and Mad Max had practical effects (very few effects were done with CGI). It’s fun to see how the actors are able to react to effects that are really happening versus effects that get added in after the actors complete their part. Neither was better than the other, it was just different.

Now that I’ve got my Film Society membership started up again, I’m going to limit how many movies I will pay to see. I was happy to pay to see “Pitch Perfect 2” since I was going with a group. But I am spoiled because I have a tough time justifying paying for movies when I might get to see a screening for free or when they will eventually be on Netflix. But with this summer having a ton of movies I want to see, I might have to spent a bit on movies over the next few months. I usually don’t know what I get to see through Film Society until a week or two in advance, so I’m going to have to wait to see how many movies on my wish list will be included.

I’m really excited to see all the amazing movies this summer and making sure that I continue to keep myself happy by going as often as I can.

Enjoying My Union Perks (or How To Take Advantage Of Things That Are Offered To You)

I’ve been a member of SAG-AFTRA for over a year now. I originally joined AFTRA prior to the merger vote, and now I’m a member of the merged unions.

And besides having better work opportunities, better pay, and protection on set (something I could have used in the past), there are lots of other things that are out there for union actors.

First of all, there are free casting director workshops through the SAG Foundation. A big controversial thing in the acting world are casting director workshops that you pay for. I don’t want to start a debate on here, but my belief is that you should not pay to audition for a casting director. You wouldn’t pay to have a job interview in a day job, so why would you do it for an acting job? If you don’t understand what paid casting director workshops are and want to know more about them, I suggest watching this video.

The SAG Foundation also offers free screenings and Q&As throughout the year. In fact, the podcast that I work for did a live 100th episode at the SAG Foundation interviewing the leadership of SAG-AFTRA.

Another great thing through the union that actors can take advantage of is the SAG-AFTRA Film Society. You have to pay for the membership and you can only apply in the spring for the upcoming year. But there are free screenings for Film Society members about twice a month (I’ve already gone to “The Great Gatsby” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” and will be going to “Man of Steel” tomorrow). Plus, you get this awesome membership card!

IMG_1892

Another membership within the union that you can join is the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory. I’ll admit that I haven’t taken advantage of being a member of the conservatory this past year. I need to get better about that. However they do have a big weekend event coming up next month and I’m planning on signing up for at least 4 classes.

Also, as many people who belong to other unions know, there are discounts available to union members. This page lists just some of what you can take advantage of as a member of SAG-AFTRA. I personally use the IMDBPro discount. And a lot of my friends use the ATT discount (my cell service is Verizon and there isn’t a SAG-AFTRA discount for them).

If you are a union actor, hopefully I’ve given you some new ideas of how to take advantage of your membership. And if you aren’t a union actor, maybe I’ve made you think about joining. Either way, I have to say that for me, becoming a union actor was one of the best things that I’ve done for my career. And whether or not you are a union actor, if you have any questions, you should give SAG-AFTRA a call. They are so wonderfully helpful and really want to make sure that all actors are taken care of.

Being SAG-AFTRA! (or I’m Proud to be a Union Member)

Happy Labor Day blog readers!

I hope a bunch of you are relaxing today with a day off of work! I’m not working at my day job today (and I also have tomorrow off for my dental work), so I’m enjoying having more than one day off this week!

I’m going to spend today hanging out with some friends and catching up on work at my house (I’m currently redoing my closet and I joke that I’m in Phase 2 right now).

I’m very happy that right now, I’m in a day job that is supportive of my acting career and I have a supervisor who is super cool (and I’m not just saying that because there is a chance he might read this). But I’m also super proud of the steps that I’ve taken recently in my acting career.

Right before the SAG-AFTRA merger, I joined AFTRA. I was SAG-eligible since 2007, but joining AFTRA pre-merger was about $1,000 cheaper. So now, I’m a proud SAG-AFTRA member and have been enjoying some of the perks of being a union actor.

There was recently a makeup class done by MAC makeup artists and I went to check it out with a friend. And by attending the class, we got a year membership for the MAC professionals program for free! So now we get a discount on all MAC makeup!

I’m also excited that now, I’ll only book acting jobs that have residuals. I did an infomercial for a hair product in 2007 and was paid $250 and got a few month’s supply of the product. That infomercial is also in commercial form and is still airing today. I’m not making any more money on it because non-union acting jobs don’t have residuals.

I feel that even though I’m not where I want to be in my acting career right now, I’m taking the steps I need to get there. And I know that my big moment is just around the corner. A friend of mine was saying how I need my “Bridesmaids” moment where it seems like I’m an overnight success even though I’ve been working at this for years.

I know that my weight might be holding me back a bit, but right now this body is what I have to work with. And while I’m trying to change my body to be what I want it to be (and not what the industry might want me to be), I’m going to keep trying to kick ass and keep enjoying my new perks in SAG-AFTRA!

Happy Labor Day to all union members! I’m happy that I was able to join your ranks this year!