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Actors’ Equity Elects New Union Officers With Kate Shindle as President!

May 21, 2015 (17:47) | 2015 | By: Arlin Miller

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Kate Shindle was born on January 31, 1977 in Toledo, Ohio, is an ...

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Some States Yell ‘Cut!’ On Film Tax Credits!

May 19, 2015 (12:47) | 2015 | By: Arlin Miller

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Posted: 05/18/2015 11:14 am EDT Updated: 05/18/2015 1:59 pm EDT

This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

Louisiana residents may go gaga over Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson when they arrive in the state later this year to film a movie about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. But Louisiana and some other states are starting to question whether they are giving up too much to attract such star power.

The movie is being made in Louisiana largely because the state offers unlimited tax credits to entice film companies to shoot on location there.  Louisiana was the first state to adopt the credits in 1992. Now, 39 states and Puerto Rico have tax incentives of one kind or another, all aimed at the film and television industries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Proponents of the incentives point to the many jobs created during filming, from carpenters and electricians to caterers and drivers. But critics say those jobs don’t last. They point to numerous studies (except those commissioned by the film industry) which show that states never recoup the tax revenue they give away with the credits.

Louisiana currently has no limit on the value of the credits it will give out in a given year. But that may change.

Earlier this month, the Louisiana House voted 102-2 to limit film tax credits to $200 million annually. The bill was one of several that sought to put a cap on the credit. With the state facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Louisiana legislators are considering a slew of bills that would reduce or eliminate many tax credits which are draining the treasury. Lawmakers rejected one bill that would have eliminated the incentives. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t recommend scaling back the tax credit in his budget, but he may be amenable to doing so.

Other states also are looking at reducing or eliminating film tax credits.

The Alaska Legislature on April 19 approved a bill to kill the state’s film tax credit program, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2018, in 2016. Independent Gov. Bill Walker also called for a halt to new credits.

Those who supported scrapping the program cited the state’s steep decline in oil and gas revenues. According to a report by the Alaska Department of Commerce, filmmakers received over $38 million in tax credits between June 2009 and June 2013.

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker called for scrapping the state’s $80 million film tax credit program and using the funds to partially pay for increasing the earned income tax credit for the working poor. A Massachusetts Department of Revenue report showed that in 2012 only about $50 million of the $304 million in spending by the film industry went to Massachusetts vendors. The House has voted to keep the credit; the Senate has yet to act.

The Michigan Senate voted to spend $12 million on film tax credits after the House voted to scrap them starting Oct. 1. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder sought $50 million for the program in fiscal 2015-16, despite facing a budget deficit. The issue has yet to be resolved.

But other states are doubling down on their film tax incentives.

California, worried about the incentives other states are using to lure Hollywood productions, last year tripled to $330 million the amount available for film tax breaks.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack traded footlights for a footrace to raise awareness about what he says is too low a cap on the state’s film tax credit. The program is capped at $60 million a year, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wants keep it at that amount. But Stack, a film actor who still appears in local productions, wants to expand that as much as possible. He ran in the Pittsburgh marathon to raise awareness of the credit issue.

And Maine, which has limited film incentives, now is considering a 25 percent credit for wages paid to residents employed by film productions and a 15 percent credit on wages paid to non-Maine residents. Backers of the bill argue Maine loses production to Massachusetts, which has similar coastal settings.

Bidding Wars

In choosing locations, studios shop for the best tax deals and frequently play off one state against another.

For example, Netflix’s “House of Cards” last year threatened to pull production out of Maryland until the state extended its generous tax credit program, which gave out $62.5 million in credits between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, mostly to “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Veep.”

This year, the Maryland General Assembly tried to rein in the credits, but lawmakers ended up approving a tax credit bill while leaving the specific dollar amount to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.  Hogan hasn’t yet decided whether he will sign it.

Todd Lewis, unit production manager for the film about the Deepwater Horizon disaster, said tax incentives are almost the first thing movie producers consider when deciding where to shoot. Lewis said Louisiana’s incentives are especially enticing.

“They’ll say to me, ‘Todd, I’ve got a movie, and I want you do to a budget for Louisiana, New Mexico, other states, and we’ll compare them,’” he said. “As long as it’s not location dependent, all of those things have to be taken into account.

“We can’t shoot the Statue of Liberty in L.A. But when you do ‘21 Jump Street’ or the ‘Fantastic Four’ (both of which were shot in Louisiana), you have options. Hollywood wants to go where the best deal is.”

According to the Louisiana Budget Project, a progressive think tank, Louisiana paid $231 million in credits in 2011-12, bringing the state’s total film spending to more than $1 billion in the past decade. The study called the return on that investment “a flop,” saying that taxpayers have paid $60,000 for every job created.

But the Motion Picture Association of America, in its study of the Louisiana program, said that in 2013, production spending associated with the credit supported 10,800 jobs across all industries, generating $471.2 million in personal income and $1.59 billion in economic output in Louisiana. That study called for the unlimited credit to continue.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president for state government affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America, said states recognize that when they bring in film and television productions, they are “creating employment and investment in a state that wasn’t there before. You are generating additional tax revenue because people who weren’t making money before are spending money on goods and services.”

Robert Tannenwald, a retired Federal Reserve Bank of Boston economist and a lecturer at Brandeis University who authored one of the studies  on the impact of film tax incentives, said the “most careful studies show that you spend an awful lot for every job you create for residents of a state.”

“Film tax credits don’t pay for themselves, so states have to raise taxes or cut expenditures (to make up the difference), Tannenwald said. “Those snuff out jobs as fast as film tax credits create them.”

Tannenwald said the competition among states puts them into “perpetual competitive purgatory. If one state backs out, and the other states keep doing it, the state loses an awful lot of film production.”

He said the benefits of the production are quickly visible – working carpenters and electricians and politicians getting calls from the locals saying it’s fun to watch those films take place. The costs are less visible—and spread out over time.

“People get excited about seeing movie stars in local cafes and walking down the street. You can’t do an anecdotal interview with a commuter who is sitting on a train platform with frozen hands because of the lack of money to upgrade public transportation,” Tannenwald said.

Taking the Long View

Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland film office, dismissed the negative studies, while not disputing those that have concluded the credits don’t pay for themselves. “This was never about revenue, it was about stimulating the economy, creating jobs and attracting crew members (to Maryland).” He said tourists still come to see the church in tiny Berlin, where the movie “Runaway Bride” was filmed.

Since 2012, Maryland has handed out $62.5 million in tax credits to production companies, according to the state Department of Legislative Services, which concluded that the credit was not worth the cost.

Maryland state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a Democrat and longtime backer of the tax credits, said the goal wasn’t to bring in more state revenue, but to create a film industry and“film culture” in Maryland. He said the production companies have spent upwards of $300 million in the state since the credit began.

But Matthew Mitchell of the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University said states shouldn’t try to create industries where they haven’t grown up naturally.

“There’s an allure to policymakers, who get irrationally star struck and like the idea of being at a production shoot with Ben Affleck or whoever,” Mitchell said. “With enough incentives, you can grow oranges in Maine. Would it be wise to do so? No.”

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Hmmm…It seems everyone wants their Cut!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by the Watchdog

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SAG-AFTRA Launches Campaign Against Work on Non-Union Commercials

May 15, 2015 (15:17) | 2015 | By: Arlin Miller

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May 15, 2015 | 01:04 PM PT

The leadership of SAG-AFTRA has launched an extensive campaign against performing work on the fast-growing non-union commercial sector.

Dubbed the Commercials Organizing and Recapture Initiative, the campaign aims to expand the jurisdiction of the performers’ union over commercials work, which currently generates $1 billion annually in performer earnings covered by the union’s contract with the ad industry.

“There have been concerns raised by members about non-union work under on the Commercials Contract, particularly in areas such as commercials for the Internet, radio and local TV,” SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez told Variety. “We can see that there is pressure on ad agencies from advertisers to cut costs.”

The initiative is taking place less than a year before SAG-AFTRA’s current contract with the ad industry expires on March 31. Rodriguez is quick to stress that the campaign is not linked to those talks.

“This initiative is not tied to coincide with negotiations, though of course more member solidarity and less non-union work only benefits us in bargaining,” he said. “The focus of this campaign, however, is on securing this jurisdiction, not on preparing for negotiations.”

Douglas Wood, who handles negotiations for the ad industry, had no comment on the SAG-AFTRA initiative. He also told Variety that no date has been set yet for the contract talks.

Matthew Miller, president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, said the effort was likely tied to laying the groundwork for the negotiations. “I firmly believe that members should only work on union jobs,” he added.

The union’s efforts to stir up its 160,000 members offers a stark contrast with its efforts during recent negotiations. Its leaders have kept a low profile on the substance of negotiations with no effort to mobilize members in support of their positions.

But in January, SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard announced the formation of the President’s Task Force for Education, Outreach and Engagement in order to spark more activism from members. In recent days, members have been receiving campaign materials in recent days instructing them how to combat non-union work.

“The commercials industry is quickly evolving and we must evolve with it,” said Howard and National Executive Director David White. “To protect and expand work opportunities for professional performers in commercials, we are asking for you to get involved. SAG-AFTRA members must act.”

The package of materials includes a “Mythbusters” section, aimed at portraying non-union commercials work as poorly paid and without protections; and “Membership Advantages,” touting the advantages of SAG-AFTRA membership. The union is also posting a series of videos by unnamed working actors.

“We selected working performers for the video that members would recognize,” noted Lori Hunt, the union’s national director of commercial contracts. “They are the ones being directly affected.”

Hunt noted that more than 1,300 members had participated in a recent webinar about commercials work.

“The response was fantastic,” she added. “Phase two involves taking the issue directly to advertisers, to ensure the work in these areas is done under our contracts.”

SAG-AFTRA faces discipline if they work non-union, but that aspect hasn’t been a feature of the union’s campaign so far. “The outreach has taken a positive approach so far without emphasizing the discipline aspect,” Hunt added.

The campaign also contains no mention of the 2,000 commercials strike, in which SAG and AFTRA staged a contentious six-month work stoppage. SAG banned 75 thesps for periods ranging from six months to five years after hearing evidence gathered on over 1,500 non-members for working during the bitter strike.

The most notable cases saw SAG trial boards fining Elizabeth Hurley and Tiger Woods $100,000 each for performing in non-union spots during the strike. The strike became a major issue in subsequent election campaigns, with moderates contending it was unnecessary while activists argued that advertisers’ hard-line stance left SAG with no other option.

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In response to to our current leaderships latest empty campaign, we will now pause for a loud yawn!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog

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(Update) The Latest from the Ol’ Dog’s Crystal Balls…ah, Crystal Ball!

May 6, 2015 (14:10) | 2015 | By: Arlin Miller

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I just replaced the Sunbeam batteries in the Ol’ Dogs Crystal Ball…and Yikes,  it predicted that the name of our beloved AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union will soon be changed to the SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union… ah, and as far as I know TNT had noting to do with the change!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

P.S>  I promise I’ll never change my name to Brlyarly !

Update:  We have learned that the SAG-AFTRA  name change will happen in June, but,but, but we did not get the news  on the webs front page.  You can click AFTRA-SAG credit union (on the front page) or try this link.  https://www.aftrasagfcu.org/home/fiFiles/static/documents/Name%20Change%20FAQ.pdf

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IATSE and AMPTP Reach Three-Year Area Standards Deal!

May 6, 2015 (00:37) | 2015 | By: Arlin Miller

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 IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ...

Deadline: May 5, 2015 10:28pm

A tentative three-year area standards agreement has been reached between The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE), and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), IATSE announced May 5. The agreement will last from August 1, 2015, through July 31, 2018. Full details are not being publicly disclosed at this time.

The contract, which “addresses a number of matters and provides stability and certainty for the producers, as well as important terms and conditions for IATSE members” will cover most of the United States outside of LA and New York. Of note, the agreement includes the first ever contributions to the IATSE Entertainment and Exhibition Industries Training Trust Fund. All of the more than 100,000 workers covered by the contract will receive safety training funded by the trust.

This agreement follows a recent deal reached between IATSE and AMPTP governing pay standards for Hollywood locals. That agreement was reported to be roughly in line with deals negotiated earlier with the DGA, WGA and SAG-AFTRA.

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Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Photo selected by Watchdog.

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