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Effects Of LA Stage Wage Hike!

April 23, 2015 (16:02) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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For decades, the Los Angeles small-theater scene has operated under a single set of wage rules based on the willingness of professional, unionized actors to perform for token fees. Now this world is about to break in two.

Leaders of the national stage actors’ union, Actors’ Equity, on Tuesday adopted a $9-an-hour minimum wage for L.A. members; on Wednesday, they downplayed the effects of the change. Union members can still perform for little or nothing in shows they organize themselves or in shows that take place under the umbrella of a “membership company” formed by actors, Actors’ Equity leaders said.

But mainstays of the local small-theater scene, including the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena and the Fountain Theatre and Matrix Theatre in L.A., face having to pay actors $9 an hour for performances and rehearsals starting June 1, 2016. Their alternative will be forgoing stage union talent. To continue hiring union actors after that date, each company would need to negotiate a contract with Actors’ Equity.

Mary McColl, the New York City-based union’s executive director, said Wednesday that contract talks would focus on work rules other than pay, because Equity would not negotiate with producers who wouldn’t agree to pay actors the prevailing minimum hourly wage in Los Angeles County.

Theater companies with no more than 50 seats can avoid paying the minimum wage, but they would be limited to three productions per season.

The Theatrical Producers League of Los Angeles, a consortium of the county’s small theaters, has said that paying minimum wage will cause costs to rise exponentially and threaten to break already tight budgets.

McColl responded by saying that the decision reached Tuesday represented new opportunities for the L.A. theater scene to grow by shaking up a system that had stagnated.

“There will be some ebb and flow; change is difficult,” she said. “But the big picture here is that [the old system] has not benefited the industry.”

Theaters have not shown the will to grow beyond 99 seats, she said, and to develop midsize operations that can pay regular union wages and benefits. McColl characterized the new system as offering “a road map that will help producers figure out how to make it to larger spaces.” The focus on opening new 99-seat theaters might shift to building a 150-seat theater, she said, “and that helps everybody.”

McColl said the plans going into effect allows for more pay flexibility than an unpopular earlier set of changes that union leaders initially proposed. That version was recently rejected by a 2-1 margin in an advisory vote taken by more than 3,000 Equity members in Los Angeles County.

McColl said 337 productions were staged in Los Angeles during the 2013-14 season under the old 99-seat plan; about half would qualify for a waiver of the $9 minimum wage going forward because they were staged by actor-driven membership companies or took place in venues with fewer than 50 seats.

“It empowers actors,” McColl said, adding that the change wasn’t meant to give member companies a leg up over regular producers. “This is a response to our members who said they wanted to participate in membership companies” as volunteers.

Some of L.A.’s most established producers aren’t buying the notion that union leaders have created a ladder for growth. They see the change as digging a burial hole.

“It’s a sad day for Los Angeles,” said Gary Grossman, producing artistic director of Skylight Theatre Company in Los Feliz. Like many of the 188 companies that Actors’ Equity says have performed in recent years under the 99-seat plan, Skylight has relied on actors rehearsing for nothing and accepting $7 to $15 for each performance. Under the new system, producers who paid $240 or less for a 16-performance run would face costs of $1,000 or more per actor — possibly far more for shows demanding extensive rehearsals.

“We’re really disappointed in Equity’s response, especially after the landslide vote in the referendum,” Grossman said.

Joseph Stern, head of the Matrix Theatre, predicted that the change would create an impossible new economy for companies not qualifying for the minimum wage waiver. He portrayed the changes as a power grab by the union and as “disrespect for our acting community.”

The union leaders, he said, “just don’t understand the facts” about L.A.’s small theaters. “The audience has dwindled, and there are very few grants nowadays. We live in tough times.”

Stern said extensively rehearsed Matrix shows that now budget $5,000 or $6,000 for a 10-member cast would see costs shoot up to about $35,000.

With ticket buyers accustomed to heavy discounts, Stern said, the theater has no way to offset a large wage increase with box office receipts.

“We’ve been doing everything we can do to sell tickets,” he said. “The average price in most places is $12 or $13.”

Union leaders began exploring changes last year at the behest of some L.A. members, who said they could not afford to act in small theaters. Backers of the wage hike argued that acting should be dignified with a minimum wage.

But opponents said they wanted to preserve the L.A. small-theater tradition of actors volunteering their time and talent for the sake of their art — with the added hope that a small theater role could lead to high-paying offers on bigger stages or in film and television.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle deplored the proposed minimum wage, saying during the campaign leading up to the advisory vote that the change would stifle the small theater scene’s sense of adventure, lead to downsized casts and minimize creative risk for the sake of maximizing box office returns.

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Ungrateful actors!  Imagine they want to make $9 dollars an hour so they can get a fast food hamburger before the show from a teenager making 10 dollars an hour!!!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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IATSE Reaches Deal With Producers For New Film & TV Contract!

April 20, 2015 (15:59) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 20, 2015 3:13pm

EXCLUSIVE: A tentative agreement has been reached on a new three-year contract covering some 38,000 Hollywood-based members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Details of the new film and TV pact, which now must be ratified by the union’s members, have not yet been disclosed, but pay increases are believed to be in line with those that management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television recently negotiated with the DGA, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.

The current contract, which expires July 31, covers about a dozen Hollywood locals representing a wide range of behind-the-scenes film and TV workers, including cinematographers, editors, art directors, costumers, sound technicians, grips, lighting technicians, prop makers, studio teachers, set painters, script supervisors, publicists, makeup artists and hairstylists.

Negotiations for a new contract covering members of Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts unions will get underway in May. If those talks are successful, Hollywood is guaranteed to be strike-free for at least the next two years, when the whole cycle of contract negotiations begins again.

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Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

The only other breaking news I have is that…but, but, but then what the hell do you care about what happened to another one of my martini glasses!

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Los Angeles Production Slides 3.1% in First Quarter!

April 19, 2015 (17:33) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 14, 2015 | 12:00PM PT

A sharp decline in feature film activity pulled down overall on-location production in Los Angeles during the first quarter by 3.1% to 8,707 shooting days, according to FilmL.A.

Tuesday’s report came with the state of California transitioning in coming months to a tax credit program that’s been more than tripled in size to $330 million in annual allocations.

Regional feature production in Los Angeles decreased 15.4% in the first quarter to 926 days — 168 days fewer than the first quarter of 2014. Movies that received California state tax credits generated 42 days of shooting, including “Drive, She Said,” “Message From the King,” “Scouts vs. Zombies” and “The Perfect Guy.”

TV activity edged up 1.7% for the quarter to 3,312 days as the TV drama category surged 29.7% to 1,058 days and reality jumpd 19.8%  to 1,245 days, offsetting losses for TV pilots (down 19.4% to 257), TV sitcoms (down 14.8% to 304) and Web-based TV (down 12.2% to 202). Shows covered by the state incentive generated 142 days, including “Hit the Floor,” “Justified,” “Murder in the First,” “Stitchers” and “Teen Wolf.”

“We are grateful for the increased production, especially in television, associated with the current tax credit,” said FilmL.A. president Paul Audley. “We remain hopeful that the region will also see gains in the feature category once the new credit adopted in AB 1839 takes effect in a few months.”

Commercial production increased 6.2% during the quarter to 1,435 days including spots for Best Buy, Bose, Honda, TJ Maxx, Samsung and Yelp. Other categories, including student films and musicvideos, declined 7.5% to 3,034 days.

Shooting in California is likely to jump later this year in anticipation of the state increasing the annual allocation, starting with fiscal year 2015-16 and lasting for five years. It will expand the eligibility to include big-budget feature films and new one-hour drama series, categories of production that have migrated away from the state.

California Film Commission director Amy Lemisch disclosed last month that $90 million of the first $100 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year will go to continuing the allocations for TV series that are returning for another season. More than $77 million of the $100 million available for 2014-15 was allocated to a dozen returning series, led by $11.5 million for “Teen Wolf.” The expanded program has $230 million in credits left for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The new law ditches the lottery system and sets percentages — 40% for new dramas, movies of the week, miniseries and recurring TV series; 35% to features; 20% to relocating TV series and 5% for independent features.The commission will replace the lottery with a new jobs ratio program in May. The application period for $55 million in TV projects and $28 million in relocating TV series will be May 11-17, while the application for features films is July 13-25.
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Arl
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
*Photo selected by Watchdog

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SAG-AFTRA Staying on Miracle Mile for Another Decade!

April 16, 2015 (17:03) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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April 16, 2015 | 03:00PM PT

SAG-AFTRA will stay at its Miracle Mile headquarters for at least another decade in a deal that has renamed the building as SAG-AFTRA Plaza.

The new name — which replaces the Museum Square moniker — is being unveiled Thursday with a dedication ceremony that includes SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard, SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White, SAG Foundation president JoBeth Williams, Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge and Jerome Snyder of Oschin Snyder Partnership, which owns 5757 Wilshire Blvd.

The renaming also includes a 46-by-40-foot rendering of the guild’s year-old logo.

SAG has occupied the building since 1993, while AFTRA moved in four years later. The performers unions merged in 2012.

“It is a location that has served us well as a national headquarters over the years,” White told Variety. “It is centrally located for a significant percentage of our members, and there is a lot of exciting development in the area so it’s a good short- and long-term locale for us. Given our competitive lease arrangement, it was truly a no-brainer for us to stay here, particularly since we obtained the naming rights to the building at no additional cost.”

White noted that following the merger in 2012, the union had considered finding a new location but decided to stay after a thorough review. He said the building can accommodate all the guild’s needs with its large boardrooms, membership lobby, new SAG Foundation offices on the top floor and the SAG-AFTRA Credit Union offices.

The lease agreement, signed last year, combined the two legacy leases of AFTRA and SAG into one and extended it to 2026. That agreement includes naming rights and what the union called a “highly competitive” rate per square foot and a “generous” tenant improvement allowance.

Commercial real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield administered the deal.

Williams noted that the SAG Foundation Los Angeles offices have been relocated to the 10th floor, which includes casting and branding workshops for members and BookPALS training.

The building opened in 1948 as Prudential Square, home to the western office of Prudential Insurance Co. It was designed by architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket and was the tallest and largest privately owned building in the city when it opened. A piece of the Rock of Gibraltar — the symbol of Prudential — is located in the ground floor lobby.

Prudential moved to a larger location in 1982 and the building was renamed Museum Square.

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The building will now be called The SAG AFTRA Plaza…ah, except on TNT and TBS where it will be called the SAG Plaza!

Arl

The Ol SAG Watchdog

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California Film & TV Tax Incentive Rules Get State Approval – Update!

April 14, 2015 (21:06) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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  April 14, 2015 4:00pm

  

UPDATED, 4 PM: Two months after the California Film Commission board approved new regulations for the state’s film and television tax incentives, Sacramento has signed off. Today, the Office of Administrative Law approved the new regs pretty much as the CFC submitted them back in February.

This approval is in good time for the first application process under the new $330 million credits. With the much criticized lottery system now over, TV applicants can digitally submit their projects for potential incentives based on job creation centric criteria from May 1117. Features get their first kick at the greatly increased incentives can from July 13-25. For the first time, projects with budgets over $75 million will be eligible for the film credits. The CFC estimates those successful applicants in both the film and TV categories will be informed within two weeks of their submission.

PREVIOUSLY, February 12: Just under five months after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a more than tripling of California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program, the form the new $330 million incentives will take today moved one vital step closer to being solidified. With the clock running on the first application dates for the first non-lottery decided application period, the board of the California Film Commission unanimously approved emergency draft regulations for the program. As CFC Director Amy Lemish told the board, these new qualified wages and ranking based regulations are meant to get the new program up and running in to be in sync “with the TV calendar, which was the point of the legislation.” Getting rid of the lottery was an 11th hour addition last summer to the incentives expansion legislation designed to stop runaway production and return Hollywood to the home of Hollywood.

Besides the end of the lottery, the big increase for the program overall, a stable 5-year footing and the inclusion of movies with budgets over $75 million for the first time as well as network TV pilots and series, the most noticeably difference for most is the new job creation criteria that fuels the process.

“For the purposes of the jobs ratio calculation, qualified wages may include: (1) Qualified wages which are directly paid by the applicant or its payroll service; plus (2) thirty-five percent (35%) of all qualified non-wage expenditures, including contracted services in which the qualified wages are not directly paid by the applicant, but by the vendor,” says the new regs unveiled today.

The last of the lottery system applications will occur on April 1 with a big chunk of the money already eaten up by the priority given to renewed TV series that were past recipients of the incentive. May 11 – 17 will see the first application period for TV productions under the new system. Putting in their paperwork online entirely, applicants are expected to know within two weeks if they have received the credits. The Features application period will occur sometime in July, the board was told today.

A presentation from Program Director Nancy Stone this afternoon down at SAG-AFTRA HQ on Wilshire laid out the new rules as well as gave an overview of the now almost 6-year old tax credits program and its support for Golden State filmed pics like American Sniper and Nightcrawler. Afterwards, board chair and Local 399 Secretary-Treasure Steve Dayan put forward a motion asking for a vote on the new regs “substantially in its form.” What that means is the draft rules could change. Those changes could come from the CFC itself or from Sacramento.

The dense drafts regs now go to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development for statutory approval and then to the Office of Administrative Law, which oversees and has the final word on all regulatory changes proposed by state agencies. If all goes as planned, the new regs should get the sign-off in the next couple of weeks – which will give the CFC just enough time to get ready for the first round of applications.

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“If all goes as planned…”  but, but, but…

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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