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The SAG Film Society of Hard Knox where You’re Guilty until proven innocent!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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The Screen Actors Guild Hollywood Film Society is a nonprofit organization. It’s been around since 1974, and is a great deal, one that gives members an opportunity for a nominal fee to gather in fellowship and observe other performers work while promoting awareness of the types of film being produced

That’s what it is! What it ain’t is the personal fiefdom of Committee or staff members in which they can conduct a Star Chamber type court in which members are presumed guilty until found innocent!

Case in point, this official Film Society missive sent to a society member by the society’s Assistant Manager Ken Knox! (Printed with the permission of the recipient.)

The Ol Dog has added a few pertinent comments in italics to the following transcript of the letter in discussion! A photocopy of the Film Society’s letter is provided below.


Peaches Johnson
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Re: Incident at the DGA -Prior to the 6:30 p.m./Sept. 8th screening of HALF NELSON

Dear Ms. Johnson:

Prior to the start of the 6:30 p.m. screening, after having your card scanned at the check in desk, you offered to admit another member’s extra guest on your card. You said that Ron said it was okay for you to do that. Almost immediately after you made this offer. Richard Chew, the SAG attendant, informed you that the problem had already been solved.

WOOF !Huh? Is it just the Ol’ Dog, or is the above allegation printed as irrefutable fact. (According to Ms. Peaches Johnson, the recipient of the letter, not only had her card not been scanned, but she was not consulted for her side of the story prior to the above determination being concluded and included in the Film Society’s correspondence to her. A thought, *idea if Ms. Johnsons card had been scanned surely Mr. Knox can produce a record to support a portion of his allegation. If not perhaps an apology is appropriate.)

Please be advised that Film Society Rule #9 states the ” Any attempt to solicit members who are attending a screening alone, for the purpose of having that member bring you or your guests into the theater, will be considered a violation of Film Society rules. This violation will result in the cancellation of the Film Society memberships of all persons involved.”

WOOF !Huh? Part Deux! First Mr. Knox states that Ms. Johnson invited another person to be her guest, then states that by doing so she violated Rule #9 which states that “any attempt to solicit members who are attending a screening alone, for the purpose of having that member bring you or your guests into the theater, will be considered a violation of Film Society rules.” Not only does Mr. Knox cite a non-applicable rule, but he completely ignores the applicable one. Rule #4 clearly states “one guest accompanying the member is allowed at screenings!” Hmmm, no caveat there about who that guest might be!

You must be aware that the Film Society announced that extra guests would not be permitted at this screening. Permitting a member’s extra guest to enter the theater on another member’s card would be unfair to our members who have abided by the “no extra guest” provision. Furthermore, even if this had not been a “no extra guest!’ screening, allowing another member’s unpaid extra guest into the theater would be unfair to those Film Society members who had paid $7.50 for an extra guest pass.

WOOF !We’ll just call the above section, the “tap dancing around the issue” paragraph. Have you ever noticed that when proclamations are on shaky ground irrelevant information is added to obfuscate the issue?

The Film Society office requests that you please comply with this rule in the future, otherwise the Film Society office will be forced to terminate your membership.

WOOF !So first Film Society spokeperson Mr. Knox states allegation as fact, then proceeds to compound this offense by referencing an unrelated rule violation, and then adding insult to injury, he issues a not so veiled threat in what can only be interpreted as a “Hat Trick” of arrogance, ignorance and intimidation. You beginning to get the idea that perhaps some of these folks have too much time on their hands?

If you ever have any questions about Film Society rules or procedures, please feel free
to contact me.

WOOF !I got a question, Mr. Knox where does a staff member, whose salary is paid for by SAG members dues money, get off treating a SAG member in such a pompous, disrespectful, and intimidating manner?

Sincerely

Ken Knox
Assistant Manager
SAG Film Society
Phone: 323 549-6658

Enclosure: Film Society Rules

Obviously, Mr. Knox would not have sent such an unadvised letter without the okay of the Film Society’s Chair Timothy Blake. Now, if Mr. Knox, Ms. Blake, or any other committee member would like to send the Ol’ Dog an explanation of the letter to Ms. Johnson, addressing the specific issues raised by the Ol’ Dog, it will be posted.

In the meantime, I would suggest that Mr. Knox’s boss NED Peter Frank, or the SAG Board, look into the matter, and perhaps we can get an explanation of why, currently, at the Film Society “You are guilty until proven innocent.”

Or, and here’s a thought! Since, the “terminate” word seems to be tossed around so capriciously, how about adding a #Rule 11 to the Film Society’s regulations.

Watchdog Proposed Rule Addition:

# Rule 11, any Staff or Committee member who sends a letter to a member which states supposition as fact, and uses that supposition to threaten a society member with termination WILL BE TERMINATED.

For the record, Peaches is a friend of mine, and has been since we met during the 2000 Commercial Strike: A strike in which she, and others, stood up for our union, and its members, in her case, to the extent that she jeopardized her career.

Some may say that this is a trivial matter, after all she was only reprimanded, and we have more important things on our agenda. My response is that there is nothing more important than insuring that all our members are accorded the respect that they deserve —-without being subjected to threats based on unsubstantiated allegations. Does anyone believe that if Ms. Johnson was a high-profile actor she would be the recipient of a correspondence such as the one that she received from Mr. Knox and the Film Society Committee! *

Any organization should be judged not by how it treats its most powerful members but rather its most vulnerable. In this scenario, our Film Society needs to yell “Cut!” and call for “Take Two!”.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

Post addendum: The Ol’ Dog showed up for the Writers’ Unity Rally this morning before posting this piece, and although I’m sure there were other SAG members there showing solidarity, who should yell out my name but, you got it, Peaches Johnson! *up

*All Formatting is the SW’s.

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Guild’s Unity Rally

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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Support your brothers and sisters!!!

If you ever want the respect and benefits of a WGAw contract

IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO STAND UP

WGAw Unity Rally

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 9am to 11am@ Pan Pacific Park (Third Street & Grove Dr.)

Join writers, editors, showrunners, actors and staff from all over Hollywood: Feature Film, Sitcom, Drama & Reality

WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER, WE WIN!

Writers Guild members and reality storytellers will come together on September 20th to show the industry that we all deserve fair treatment and respect, regardless of the genre in which we work.

Writers at “America’s Next Top Model” don’t have basic benefits, and have been on strike for eight weeks; Hundreds of reality storytellers (including reality editors) are being denied WGAw representation and benefits.

NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!

RSVP at Reality@wga.org or by calling (323) 782-4620.

Hope to see you there! In solidarity!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

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Much ado About Molting!

April 19, 2006 (19:03) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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So there are these two guys. Both are members of the same SAG party. One is a board member. The other is the SAG President. During the last ten months bad blood has developed between them. The board member has been increasingly critical of the President, and the President has become increasingly irritated by it. This all became evident a few days ago when the board member made public a private email that the President had sent him.

The implied justification for posting the personal email was that it indicated why the contract was so bad. Actually the only thing indicated was that due to festering resentment both parties showed bad judgment. One for writing the private email and the other for going public with it! Two good guys one bad scenario!

When the contents of the Prez’s personal email was made public, the Ol’ Dog did not post it because, well, the Ol’ Dog, being the Ol’ Fashion sort, believes that a private email is just that. Private! I would not go public on any personal communication. Therefore, why would I post someone’s private email, just because someone else chose to do so?

However, once the incident became fodder for an LA Times story, and covered by several news services, I suppose it is now, a quote, legitimate news story!

SAG Chief’s Dramatic Lines Heard ‘Round the World
By Richard Verrier, Times Staff Writer
September 15, 2006

No doubt they are some of the more dramatic lines actor Alan Rosenberg has ever delivered.

The Screen Actors Guild president teed off on fellow member Laird Stuart by e-mail last week after Stuart urged actors to reject as inadequate a new contract Rosenberg helped negotiate governing work in commercials.

“You realize, I hope, that you are not terribly bright,” Rosenberg wrote Stuart, a former guild national vice president. “Nobody cares about you or what you think. Go find a place to molt, you sorry excuse for a human being.”

Rosenberg’s e-mail came to light when Stuart copied it to thousands of members. Stuart could not be reached.

Even by the standards of the notoriously fractious SAG, Rosenberg’s remarks were unusually pointed, reflecting his frustration over criticisms from some former supporters.

Rosenberg acknowledged that his response “wasn’t terribly professional. I wish I had taken him up on the issues. I sent him a personal e-mail. I had no idea it would be sent out to 17,000 people.”

Despite the war of words, SAG members are expected to approve the contract this month.

So what have we learned from this unfortunate event? A couple of things: One of these guys will never become the head of the Secret Service. And the other will never become the President of the Writer’s Guild.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

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A Minority Report Opposing Commercial Contract Extension

April 19, 2006 (19:02) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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As the Ol’ Dog informed you in an earlier post, although your Hollywood Leadership voted overwhelmingly to issue a Minority Report on the 2 year Commercial Contract Extension, they were defeated in their effort because of the overwhelming opposition by AFTRA and SAG’s NY/Branches contingent of the Joint Board.

Although the Ol’ Dog supports this contract extension, he also supports members reading both sides of any issue before coming to a decision. Therefore, as promised, the Watchdog is posting one board member’s opposition to this proposed extension.

(The following report exercises a few more liberties than might be allowed by an official Minority Report, but, hey, the Ol’ Dog ain’t a lawyer! He also ain’t an accountant, so when it comes to the numbers proffered, you’re on your own.)

—-

MINORITY REPORT

From SAG Board Member Laird Stuart

Even if you don’t work the Commercial Contract, Please help those that do and VOTE NO on the Commercial Contract Extension.
WHAT AFTRA & SAG DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VOTE!

You won’t read a minority report with the ballot because the majority of the SAG and AFTRA Board Members voted NOT TO LET YOU READ BOTH SIDES of this vital issue.

HERE’S WHY:
There is NO FINANCIAL INCREASE. Despite union claims of “first time across the board residual hikes”, this contract will instead COST YOU MONEY “across the board.”
It allows WORLDWIDE OVEREXPOSURE on the Internet for 1/3rd of our current payment.
It establishes dangerous and expensive precedents that we will spend years fighting to eliminate from the contract
It forces the union to GIVE UP ITS RESPONSIBILITY to provide you assistance in new areas of the contract.
It establishes a GREATER MONITORING ISSUE, this time on the Internet.
Could have you working for “free”.

IF YOU READ FURTHER YOU WILL AGREE WITH US AND VOTE THIS CONTRACT DOWN. DEAL LOSES MONEY

The 6% increase is a ONE-TIME hike that has to last FOR TWO YEARS. There is no increase in the second year. (The additional .5% increase for Pension and Health puts no money into your pocket and if you don’t qualify for P&H, that raise is worthless to you.)

No matter how they try to sell it, the 6% increase is BELOW the current projected Cost of Living (COL.) The one time payment is the equivalent of a 4% PER YEAR increase (except we get paid more taking the 4% increase each year but, naturally, we didn’t take it that way.)

In 2005 the COL was 4.1% and the projected COL for 2006 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm) as of JULY is another 4.1%. Combined for the last two years that’s 8.2% versus the equivalent of 6% for two years.

Do the math yourself.

If the Cost of Living increases continue at an average of 4% or more during the term of this agreement, this deal loses money!

The projected growth from the Bureau of Labor is ONLY as of July and is an AVERAGE for cities throughout the country. If you visit the Bureau of Labor’s website you will see that in both New York and Los Angeles the COL is projected at 5% for 2006 ALONE. That is almost the same as the ENTIRE increase for the contract that is supposed to last for both years.)

This contract will NOT BE AN INCREASE but will actually be a REDUCTION of income for every actor and the leadership knows that. That’s why they didn’t want a minority report sent to you.
When this 6.5% deal is compared to Union announcements on Average Yearly Increases on previous negotiations dating back to 1997 (7.4% for 1997, over 10% for 2000 and 8% for 2003), this deal pays almost 1% LESS THAN THE WORST of those contracts on an average yearly basis.

This is the worst paying commercial contract in recent memory!

IN THE 2000 COMMERCIALS CONTRACT:

According to Chief Negotiator John McGuire (at the informational meeting in LA), we acquired guarantees for Internet jurisdiction under an agreement we believed at that time covered all new media. But now, the contract requires a change of definition because either:

(A) The SAG negotiator screwed up in the original 2000 legal language
or
(B) The other side bargained in bad faith at that time, now arguing the definition doesn’t cover it and the SAG negotiator accepted the argument it in making this deal.

THE INTERNET:

According to Ad industry analyst Robert Coen, the growth of spending on Internet advertising has grown from $2.832 Billion dollars in 1999 to a projected $20 Billion dollars in 2006. That would be a 700% GROWTH SINCE 1999, which are the numbers the union had available when we negotiated in 2000.
Since then, despite the 700% growth in advertising spending, our payment has increased just 7%, in the last six years.

That incredible growth in spending clearly demonstrates the importance of the Internet to the advertisers and we should be demanding an increase in payments to actors as well. Instead, they negotiated a DECREASE for the use of an eight-week period to one session fee, to ONE-THIRD of the existing payment.

SAG is already apologizing for the mistake in cutting the Internet payment from three session fees for a full year’s use to one session fee for eight weeks use. We say apologizing because they are trying to excuse this action by saying “If we don’t like it we can end the “waiver” after one year.”
You can end it before it begins by voting NO right now!

OVEREXPOSURE

In 2000 our concern on cable was over exposure because the average use of a cable spot was 650 times to several million homes, which subscribe to cable. For that exposure in a 13-week cycle we received $1,013.
We increased that amount in 2000 by 140% and, as of the 2003 negotiation, maximum cable payment for a 13 week cycle is now $2581.

COMPARE:

Under this deal an actor can have a commercial seen FOR FREE over and over again, 24 hours a day, Seven days a week for up to Eight weeks throughout the entire world to a billion or more computers/devices capable of connecting to the Internet.

And for the privilege of that Career ending, World Wide exposure, we receive $567.10.

It is no coincidence that just two weeks after this deal was presented, CBS announced FREE AD SPONSORED downloads of their programming; or Universal Music announced FREE AD SPONSORED downloading of their music and youtube.com (with over 100 Million subscribers) announced FREE AD SPONSORED downloading of video product.

NEW MONITORING PROBLEMS

This deal expands the unsolved Monitoring problem into the Internet. While the agreement states:
“THE PARTIES AGREE TO USE THEIR BEST EFFORTS TO…RAPIDLY COMPLETE THEIR PILOT PROGRAM REGARDING MONITORING.”

Ask any attorney; the phrases “Best Efforts” and “In Good Faith” mean nothing. We remind you we have been hearing that same thing for SIX YEARS from the Ad Industry and this is still only a “Pilot Program”, not a FULL AND COMPLETE monitoring system promised three years ago! (See SAG website)

So while Guild promises that if the spot runs one hour longer than eight weeks it automatically kicks in a three-session payment, who monitors to 8 weeks? Are we really supposed to accept their promise to “turn in the paperwork on time” when they have reneged over and over again on Monitoring of ANY KIND?

What establishes the start and stop of the eight weeks? What time zone is the Internet run on? What department at the Guild will be enforcing the influx of new demands for the $1701.30 that are due actors when the actors think they can prove the eight weeks became longer? Can the Guild afford the arbitration demanded on all of these cases or will it just tell the actors to go away because they can’t afford the legal work as it already does now?

UNDER THE “NEW MEDIA” AGREEMENT WE CAN WORK FOR FREE!

Isn’t the basis of “New Media” just smaller computers that download our ads from a source for viewing? We already have an existing deal with the Ad Industry, but it is one they don’t want to live up to. So in this contract they create a NEW DEFINITION within the contract with different rates for essentially the same thing we already have under our existing Internet agreement (computers that download our ads for viewing) and potentially giving away your services FOR FREE.

The union has a responsibility to establish contract minimums or there is no reason for a union at all.
Every time you read “BARGAINED FREELY” in this contract, and they use it SEVEN TIMES, the negotiators chose NOT to establish a minimum deal and expect the actor (and/or his agent) to negotiate an amount on his or her own. It REALLY means the actor will be told what the advertiser will pay for a move over to the Internet or an “Edit” for a spot onto the Internet and if they don’t like it, the advertiser will just hire someone else for the spot.

In the past a new edit demanded an additional session fee AND on going holding fees as it was treated just like a new or additional commercial.
The Guild wants you to believe that “Bargained Freely” allows an agent to negotiate anything they want, but an agent can always negotiate freely beyond the contract minimums. Ask yourself when was the last time you received MORE than the Minimum Payment BEFORE they shot a commercial?
And then remind yourself; there is NO minimum payment.

Protect yourself, VOTE NO!

GUILD CANNOT OFFER ADVICE AND COUNSEL

Not only did the Guild not establish a minimum payment but if you want to know what you should be asking for, or what others have received under this deal, the guild is contractually FORBIDDEN to provide YOU with any assistance.
Whenever you read:
“NEITHER THE UNIONS NOR THE PRODUCERS WILL PROMULGATE MINIMUM RATES FOR EXTENDED OR UNLIMITED EDITING RIGHTS FOR THE INTERNET/NEW MEDIA” (and that phrase is used FOUR TIMES)

That means the Guild can’t help you determine a fair wage. The Guild negotiators not only threw you to the wolves on this one, the union can’t even reach out a hand to help you.

And these provisions don’t go away in a year. We will have to negotiate these precedents in future contracts before the union can help the membership in the future. When the time comes for us to negotiate a minimum for “New Media,” which we already have under the existing Internet agreement, we will have to trade something away in a future negotiation. That’s how it works.

And just as it exists in Cable, it will take years for us to catch up since we are starting at zero (free) “to give the New Media a chance to catch on.”

Then remember the Ad Industry is already paying $20 Billion dollars to use this “New Media.” That’s MORE than they pay for either Network or Cable advertising ALREADY.

“New Media” doesn’t have to “catch on,” it’s on fire!

The leadership is excusing this deal because the Internet/New Media is the “Great Unknown.” Well obviously it is only the great unknown to the union negotiators, but hardly to the advertisers.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Turning this deal down forces the Union leadership to listen to the membership. If we can extend the deal two years, then we can certainly extend the current contract just four months and go immediately into abbreviated Wages and Working conditions meetings to at least hear some input from the membership.

That allows us time to procure data on the most important areas that we need to consider such as the Internet growth, the use of imbedded ads in Television shows, and so much more.

We can still move ahead on the study if both sides want one. That doesn’t require a vote of the membership UNLESS it is directly tied to a contract. And since the Ad industry asked for it, surely they won’t turn it down.

VOTING NO will STOP a contract:

That LOSES MONEY against the Cost of Living (despite their claims of “first time across the board increases”)
Allows worldwide OVEREXPOSURE on downloaded ads for just $567.10
Could have us WORK FOR FREE under the term “Freely Bargained”
That GIVES UP THE UNION’S RIGHTS to counsel us on what a fair wage SHOULD be!
Creates a NEW MONITORING PROBLEMS without first solving old ones.
The union will claim a NO VOTE would send us into turmoil but in this case we can safely claim a

NO vote can’t get us a WORSE deal.

IF YOU PLACE A VALUE ON YOUR WORK,
If you cherish your future as a commercial performer and Unless you think working for less money is a good deal,

VOTE NO and SEND THE UNIONS BACK TO THE TABLE fully informed and fully prepared.

—-

If those supporting the extension wish to respond to the above report by Mr. Stuart, the Ol’ Dog will post that signed response!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief

WOOF !

All Formatting is SW’s!

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Rosebu…Rosebu…Rosenberg Everything you want to know about the SAG Prez but were afraid to ask

April 19, 2006 (19:02) | 2006, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

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The great thing about having one’s website is that one can jump right into the middle of things and open one’s big yap! Sort of like talking back to the TV set, but the set listens.

Although, the Ol’ Dog is very fond of Alan Rosenberg that don’t mean that sometimes he doesn’t evoke an occasional “Grrrrrr!”

What follows is an in depth interview with Mr. Rosenberg interspersed with a couple “Grrrrr’s” along with some concurring pants.

From the Top

SAG President Alan Rosenberg reflects on his accomplishments, hopes, and frustrations.
September 11, 2006

By Jaime Painter

Alan Rosenberg shakes my hand, takes a seat in his office at the Screen Actors Guild’s Hollywood branch, and proceeds to tell me about the audition he just got back from that morning. Frankly, I’m surprised to hear he still has to audition or has the time to audition. After all, he’s a 30-year veteran actor with credits ranging from the Broadway production of Lost in Yonkers to the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ and such TV series as Civil Wars, L.A. Law, The Guardian, Chicago Hope, and ER, for which he was nominated for a 1995 Emmy for his guest role. More recently, Rosenberg has been busy filling the role of a lifetime — as the most outspoken and visible political figure representing professional actors today. Not surprisingly, his role as SAG president interferes, at times, with pursuing acting. “I simply find I’m less able to concentrate the way I need to concentrate to do my [acting] well,” he admits. “It’s just that I’ve got so many things swimming around in my head.”

Rosenberg says he doesn’t mind still being asked to read for parts, when he has the time to audition. What he minds is that he and his fellow “middle-class” actors, as he calls his peers, are far more desperate for work now than they were not so long ago. What’s changed the landscape he once knew so well? Read on. Asked how he became passionate about politics, the New Jersey native explains that it runs in his family. “I’ve been passionate about it since I was a little kid,” says the actor, who was involved in the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests before turning his attention to issues affecting performers. As Rosenberg shares, his elder brother, Mark, who died in 1992, was a great influence on him. In addition to being a film producer and former president of Warner Bros., Mark was a prominent civil rights activist. Rosenberg first became involved in union politics as a New York stage actor. He recalls earning his Actors’ Equity card as “one of the proudest moments” of his life, and he became even more active in 1981, when he joined the council at Equity, in response to his dissatisfaction with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers. In the wake of 9/11, Rosenberg ran for and was elected to the national board of SAG.

He is also involved in charitable causes, including a golf tournament for breast cancer awareness that he and his wife, actor Marg Helgenberger (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), host annually. And he is active in the fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). As Rosenberg puts it, “I figured that it wasn’t enough just to go out there and audition for plays and try to do sitcoms and movies that may or may not be socially relevant; you’ve got to do something with your life.” As much as he gets heated up over politics and good causes, his first love remains acting, something that he first committed to while in college (Adelbert College in Ohio). He later attended the Yale School of Drama but dropped out in his second year. “I was unhappy with the education I was getting there, and I dabbled in a couple classes since then but basically haven’t seen many teachers,” he says. “But being in the Yale School of Drama, what was great about that environment was that Meryl Streep was in my class. I learned a lot more from the other students in the class than I ever did from the teachers. Where I learned the most was doing summer theatre and doing showcases in New York and just walking through the world, thinking about things and keeping myself open to the planet. I know that sounds pretentious, but give yourself time and stay open.” And although Rosenberg can’t tell us yet whether he’s decided to run for a second term as SAG president, one thing’s for sure, as illustrated in the interview that follows: He’s passionately trying to make the most of his time in office and to restore solidarity and strength to this actors’ union.

So you still audition for roles?

Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, I have always enjoyed auditioning…. However, roles like the one I went up for today I used to just be offered. I went to this audition today, and I saw a lot of high-profile actors. Everyone I could think of that was basically around my age and my type was there, which in essence says to me that actors just need this kind of work, which they didn’t necessarily five or 10 years ago. Every one of these actors five or 10 years ago would have said, “Offer it to me and I’ll consider it,” but yet they were auditioning for this job today. And that speaks to me that we are losing our middle-class actors. People are just hungry for work.

What has surprised you most about being president of SAG?

Well, that basically the day that I took office I’d be hit in the face with all this new emerging technology. It seems to me that this is the most volatile time in this industry’s history — even more so than the advent of television, perhaps. And it’s all happened just in the last seven or eight months.

Is there a plan in place for the Guild to tackle this new media and to get fair deals going forward with producers, studios, and networks?

We’re always monitoring that. You know, unfortunately, they always call us their negotiating partners, and they are in many ways, but then they launch these new formats without telling us about it. And as far as I know, when you change the terms and conditions of a contract, you’re supposed to inform your partners, and they never do that. So we find out they’re doing it in some way, and then we have to arbitrate, and then they want to pay us a lower rate; we want the higher rate usually. They always try to pay us in these new formats based on their old VHS formula, which is what we get on DVDs. And we haven’t improved on that formula since 1982. It’s just not sufficient. That’s why all these actors are auditioning for this role today, because they’re not making enough on DVDs to keep their heads above the water.

WOOF ! Nod! Nod! Pant! Pant!

So we have to catch them at it, arbitrate it, and eventually we’ll get our members paid at the correct rate. We’ve created a joint statement today with the writers’ and directors’ guilds. We all have the same kind of stake in this new technology, and we’re trying to stand firm together and demand that we be paid at the proper rate. But what we’re doing is — for the first time in our guild’s history — we’re going to have a Department of Emerging Technology. The person heading that department will try to keep us ahead of this curve, so at least we know what we can expect coming down the road. That will help us have conversations with our employers on how they expect to get paid for these new formats.

What else are you proud of so far in your first term as president?

I’m really proud of the fact — and this has been the source of some controversy — that ever since the Janet Jackson thing at the Super Bowl, the [Federal Communications Commission] has been fining corporations and individuals $11,000 for what the FCC considers to be indecent. Part of what’s egregious about that is they’ve never defined what indecency is, and in this past year they wanted to increase those fines on individuals from $11,000 to $500,000. So I went to Washington, D.C., and Pamm Fair, our deputy national executive director, wrote me a terrific testimony. I testified in front of the Senate committee. This law passed the House of Representatives with only 35 dissenting votes, and it really looked like it might have traction in the Senate as well. Partly due to our efforts, along with people like Jack Valenti and others, we were able to get that [defeated]. I’m proud that we got those fines on individuals pulled from the bill. It was also a revelation to me. I’m very cynical about national politics, and the idea that you can actually walk into a senator’s office and speak from the heart and get action on anything is really encouraging to me.

In what ways do you think the members of SAG could be more involved with the Guild or with political issues outside of Guild issues?

Well, we have a speakers bureau here, and we can hook any actor up with any cause on which they want to speak. I personally have a real problem with our board in not wanting to take any political stands whatsoever. They refused to oppose Proposition 75, which was a clear anti-labor proposition…. I always hear from our board, “We can’t support candidates.” But if you look at what unions — our union specifically has been able to accomplish during Democratic administrations versus Republican administrationsit’s an irresponsible use of our members’ money and their time not to support political candidates and not to oppose anti-labor propositions. It just is. Our lives are much more difficult in collective bargaining, in anything we might want to do — with the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice — during a Republican administration. So you can do whatever you want as an individual, but as an institution I don’t see how we don’t have a political action committee. The Directors Guild [of America] does. They have a political action committee. They support Democrats and Republicans. And it’s not just legislatively; it’s also the National Endowment for the Arts. Even if you’re apolitical, if you want to ply your trade as an artist, it’s easier during a Democratic administration. It’s much less repressive. So that’s a debate that we’re going to have in the Guild in the not-too-distant future.

WOOF ! Grrrrr! The irony here is that Alan wants to be a unifier, and yet there is no quicker way to disintegrate this union than to interject politics!

The fact is, every actor, when a microphone is put in their face, should speak out on the issues of the day. Not only every actor, but every American citizen. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to talk about. The idea that an actor — suddenly when they’ve got a microphone thrust in their face — should defer from talking about politics is ridiculous to me. It’s not that we’re more special than anybody else; it’s that we have access sometimes. And every American should be clamoring for that kind of exposure to get their opinions heard. So people should speak out.

WOOF ! Yeah, people should speak up, but I think that history has taught us that if you are say, ah, let’s say THE PRESIDENT OF THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD you should keep most of your political opinions to yourself, since as figurehead for the guild your personal opinions might be construed to represent all members. (Which they don’t! Our members’ politics are as diverse as the country’s.)

Financial core — a legal option allowing union members to work union and nonunion work while giving up union benefits such as the right to vote in elections — is a serious issue facing the Guild. Why is this so damaging to the union?

I think times are hard. [Actors] are desperate for work. What they’re doing is: They’re contributing to developing a whole class of skilled nonunion workers, which threatens the life of the union. I think a third of our earnings are brought in by nonmembers — actors working in right-to-work states or financial-core members or those that are Taft-Hartleyed. And we’re contributing to their pension and health and paying their benefits. And they’re contributing to weakening the Guild. That’s the big problem. If nonunion work was strictly amateur and Screen Actors Guild was strictly professional, it wouldn’t be that much of a problem. But especially in the middle of this country, you’re developing a class of talented nonunion performers who really do threaten what we do. This nonunion work that these financial-core members are participating in, they erode our contracts, they erode everything that Jimmy Cagney and Eddie Cantor fought for when they formed this guild: safe working conditions, decent pay. And [union] people who choose to work nonunion are kind of just spitting on the graves of those actors who sacrificed their careers and their lives to secure pension and health for us. So to contribute to this growing pool of nonunion work, both inadvertently and advertently, erodes our unions.

WOOF ! The Ol’ Dog agrees with the spirit of Alan’s comments. He’s right-on about the Eroders! However, that “a third” figure seems a tad high! And of course, it’s the producers that contribute to our P & H–but Mr. Rosenberg is absolutely correct in that if it weren’t for our collective bargaining efforts there would be no benefits for the Freeloaders!

What’s been the highlight of your career as an actor?

This. [He looks around his office at SAG]. It really is. I didn’t know I would say that. There’s just something really moving to me about this. I’ve got a friend; we’ve been acting together since the early ’70s. He’s a middle-class actor struggling like I am. We always get so moved at the beginning of every board meeting after we read the list of deceased members. The next will be Bruno Kirby; my good friend who died the other day will be part of that list. I always get so moved reading that list, more than I would get reading a list of any other group of people that might have died. I know what goes into being an actor. I know what a struggle it is. I know what a commitment it is. I have to face a life of rejection. And actors are just so brave to keep on doing what they do. So I carry that emotion that I feel whenever I read a list of actors who are no longer with us. It also kind of fuels the meaning in this job.

I’m really proud to stand up and fight for middle-class actors that believe in making a living. I don’t know what you do when you’re 50, 55, 60 years old and you’ve been doing this your whole life. You don’t know how to do anything else, and all of a sudden, because of runaway production and reality television and the inability to negotiate for your salary anymore, you can’t qualify for health care. You can’t pay your kids’ tuitionsI mean, we all know when you get into this business that there’s a real risk and you may be relegated to a life of poverty, but there was a reasonable expectation that if you got lucky and you kept yourself prepared and you worked enough, you could have a life. You could have a house. You could have a family. You’d have some leisure time. And that’s just not the case anymore. And it really disturbs me. So I believe it’s the highlight: being able to stand up for all my friends and try to help keep their heads above water.

Do you see anything on the horizon that can improve actors’ plight?

We need a tax incentive program [in California]. We have a healthy tax incentive program in New York now, in Louisiana. We need to bring production back to this country, if not to the state of California. It’s tough. You’d think our governor [in California], who’s a member, would have a sympathetic ear. And so we’re going to keep on working on that. We keep on looking to see what subsidies Canada and other countries are giving that violate our trade agreements…That’s a delicate thing with tax incentive programs; I’m a little bit wary that what we’re going to do is end up having a civil war between states trying to take production away from each other, and that won’t be good for actors either.

WOOF ! Grrrrrrr! Something Missing! FTAC! We need to make sure other countries like Canada stop violating World Trade Rules! SAG, a National Union, should not champion local tax incentives, but rather national ones! However, if regional SAG Presidents and boards continue to use SAG resources for local agendas contrary to national interests, then Hollywood should level the playing field by having its own Hollywood President to lead the Hollywood board in advocating for Hollywood’s membership!

I loved the time when you used to go on location if it were artistically demanded by the project. Let’s go to the French Riviera because that’s where the movie takes place and we need those locations. That made a lot of sense to me. To go to Vancouver because you can make it look like Pasadena makes no sense to me whatsoever. It shows in the product. That’s one thing that people have lost sight of in this business: the idea of doing good work. I can tell you what show has been shot in Canada in five seconds after it comes on the air. God bless Canada. God bless all our brothers and sisters who are acting up there. It’s just not the same quality as you get here in the States. And the idea of doing anything with quality has just gone by the wayside now. It’s all about the bottom line, and that’s unfortunate for everybody. And it’s killing our actors and the people who work on the crews.

With so much infighting that’s gone on within SAG for so many years, how do you plan to further reach out to your critics within the Guild, particularly in the New York branch?

Michelle Bennett, one of our executives here, she’s fantastic; she always tells me before I make a speech in front of the board, “Enough with the unity talk.” I talk about it at every meeting. It’s not that she doesn’t like the message; it’s just they’ve heard it a lot. But I think you’ve got to keep pounding people over the head with itIt’s a little like the Israelis and Palestinians. You think you have things settled down, and then any insult or perceived insult and you’ve got a firefight going on. So you have to stay on top of it constantly. You have to pay attention to everybody’s needs.

We had a way of negotiating things internally in the Guild before that just never worked. Every single thing that came down the pike was a firefight between New York and the branches. And so what we’ve got to do is think about it in a slightly different wayWe’ve all got to listen to each other and compromise. That’s really what I’m after. Besides wanting to stand up for my middle-class-actor friends, I sat on the board for three and a half years and just saw how we didn’t get anything done on the members’ behalf. We just wasted time and money. We had these stupid internal fights.

We have to have unity in order to do anything in negotiations. I was fortunate this year with our basic-cable negotiations; I was able to sit down with [Warner Bros. executive] Barry Meyer and [Viacom/Paramount consultant] Bob Daly, two guys I admire a great deal on the employers’ side. It became clear to me that they perceive us as being split down the middle, 50-50, and therefore dysfunctional. It doesn’t matter to them…that the majority of Hollywood actors feel this way and the other actors in Hollywood, New York, and the other branches feel [another way]. They don’t see regional divides; they just see the fact that we can’t get our act together because we’re split right down the middle. So you have to change that perception. You have to in fact be unified and be able to give up sometimes and not win every single battle.

WOOF ! You want to change that perception? The next time we negotiate, our negotiators all wear tee shirts with 2000 emblazoned across the front!

So that’s what I’ve got to do, is just keep talking about it, time and time again. And maybe weed out some people who are in the system who are entrenched in the old ways and who have something invested in carrying on these internal struggles. We have those members on our board. Now, in my second year of my term, I think I have a much better sense of who works well in those capacities and who doesn’t. I think changing committees around a little bit might please some people in New York and the branches and in Hollywood.

What do you hope to accomplish in the second year of your term?

Everything in my two-year term leads to the big TV-theatrical negotiation in 2008. If I could get this guild united in just these two years, that would be a huge accomplishment. I’d be very proud of that. The other big goal is to end these jurisdictional battles with [the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists] and find out a way to either coexist with them or, as we say, get all the actors under one roof, because in negotiations [AFTRA is] a constant threat to us, like Canada is a constant threat to us. So we have to find a way to deal with AFTRA. John Connolly’s a friend of mine, and I love all the actors in AFTRA, but it was very difficult for us negotiating this basic-cable agreement. It was all about residuals — very difficult to do when AFTRA is offering contracts at 80 percent of our rates with 10 free exhibition days. And I understand why they do it, I guess, but we’ve got to stop this. It doesn’t serve actors. As many members on our board would say, you’ve got to stop defending the institutions and start thinking about what’s best for actors.

WOOF ! Here! Here!

Also, to solve the problem with agents, that’s a big goal of mine over the next two years. It’s a tough one because I’m not so sure they’re that anxious to solve the problem. I’m not even sure the powers that be at the [Association of Talent Agents] understand what’s going on out there. I get letters from background performers, hand models in San Francisco, who are being charged 25 percent commission by their agents. Maybe it’s tough for those agents to make a living up there, but I’m not even so sure the ATA understands that these are ATA agents that are out there doing that. And maybe, at the very least, we can get them to police these general service agreements. So we’ve got to figure that out as well.

WOOF ! Grrrrrr! “At the very least?” The “very least” is not good enough for our members. They deserve the “very best” that our constitution has to offer. It’s time to stop screwing around with agents that are thumbing their noses at our constitution and membership! If there is one thing for certain, we ain’t gonna make any progress on this impasse by simply appealing to agents kinder, gentler side. Hello? Bottom line! There are plenty of agents that will gladly take the clients of those agents who refuse to be franchised!

How did you get your Screen Actors Guild card?

Well, my first union card was my Actors’ Equity card. I loved acting on the stage, and the play I did to get my Actors’ Equity card was a great play called A Prayer for My Daughter, which did great things for my career. It just meant so much to me to get it and to be doing plays that were really worthwhile. It was a very heady time for me. How I got my Screen Actors Guild card was: I got cast in the movie Born on the Fourth of July — but not starring Tom Cruise — starring Al Pacino 10 or 12 years before they actually made the movie. We rehearsed it for a month in New York. Al Pacino walked off the film, and it was canceled. But on my way to go to Mexico to film it, I came to Los Angeles to visit my brother, and while I was here I got a role on a Barnaby Jones [episode], and that was the first union job that I shot in front of a camera. Then I came back to New York and got cast in the movie The Last Temptation of Christ with Martin Scorsese. It was a great cast, and I was all set to go to Israel to film it, and then that canceled because of a protest from the religious right. This was also 12 years before we ended up filming that movie. So my first two [film] jobs were both canceled.

Is there anything you learned along the way during your own struggles that you can share as advice to other actors?

Believe in yourself. If you have a strong voice inside of you telling you, “Do what you’re supposed to do,” believe it. Don’t give yourself a limited amount of time. Don’t say, “I’m going to try this for a year or two,” and get discouraged after that length of time and give up. You know, it took me three and a half years of driving a cab in New York before I got my first meaningful job and then another year and a half or two years after that before I got my first movie. And I always believed in myself.

You’ve got to keep yourself busy, whether it’s taking class — although you’ve got to get yourself a good teacher — or by doing plays. I did lots of plays for no money while I was driving a cab. And keep yourself open. Don’t get so entrenched in looking for work as an actor that you ignore the rest of the world… Anything that you do on this earth helps you become a better actor, whether it’s traveling, whether it’s having a relationship, whether it’s going to college. So you’ve got to use all that in your work. Traveling is about acting, keeping your eyes open and observing and feeling things. It’s a lifetime commitment.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg will be interviewed live at Actorfest LA, Sept. 16. For more information, visit ActorfestLA.com.

My advise to our SAG President, or any of our leaders, would be to keep your eye on the ball, never compromise on your principles, always question givens, never let them see you sweat, be prepared, choose your friends carefully, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today, always put the membership first, be all you can be, never back down, act from strength not weakness, put your best foot forward, and be veeeeerrrrry careful what you say in personal emails. *toast

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

All formatting is SW’s!

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