With all the internet chatter about certain disgruntled SAG members going fi-core (Financial Core) in reaction to the destruction of their beloved Screen Actors Guild, the Ol’ Dog decided to take a closer look at the whole issue. To take a closer look I went to fi-core.com
Fi-Core or “financial core” status is a distinction within the Screen Actors Guild allowing actors to work both union and non-union jobs.
Arl: “Ah, so it’s like being a SAGAFTRA broadcaster!”
Stemming from a 1963 Supreme Court ruling (NLRB v. General Moters), the result is an option for actors to not be bound by the Screen Actors Guild member requirement of working only on SAG signatory projects. The reality is, under fi-core you are not technically a SAG member, but still pay dues to the union. There is a misconception that you have to become a S.A.G. member before electing fi-core status. That is not the case.
Many argue the S.A.G. web page (view here) explaining the Fi-Core option doesn’t contain all the relevant information and is even misleading. S.A.G. explains a fi-core ‘member’ is actually not a ‘member’ but is classified as a “fee paying non-member’ or FPNM. Additionally, FPNMs are not supposed to represent themselves as ‘S.A.G. member’ but the site does not detail if a “S.A.G.” and/or “S.A.G. FPNM” distinction(s) are’ allowed.’
Additionally, the site explains “The presumption of Screen Actors Guild is that your resignation is a permanent decision ” Note, they don’t say a FPNM cannot rejoin as a “traditional” S.A.G. member nor any more information on that topic at all.
Another piece of attempted frightening and intimidating information on the S.A.G. page is ” Fi-Core/FPNM are viewed as scabs or anti-union by SAG members, directors, and writers — most of whom also belong to entertainment unions.” It’s interesting to note that cleverly constructed verbiage may lead the reader to assume this claim is being made about “most” actors, directors and writers when that’s not being said – for the simple reason that it would be difficult and likely impossible to back up.
Many actors report horror stories, some coming from Screen Actors Guild representatives themselves, that a large number of producers “blacklist” fi-core actors. To date, we’ve not gotten confirmation of this on any level. The fact is, producers and directors appreciate fi-core actors as they often represent a higher caliber of talent with more experience than typical non-union actors. When it comes to producers and directors working S.A.G. productions, if “union status” trumps talent, appearance and appropriateness for the role, you may want to question the person making those casting decisions anyway.
Arl: “Hmmm…I believe an important word is missing from that paragraph. It should read “The fact is (NON-UNION) producers and directors appreciate fi-core actors….”
What S.A.G. doesn’t reveal on their fi-core web page is that a FPNM sees a reduction in dues (about 4%) nor do they reiterate that the average S.A.G actor can expect to make less than $10,000 in annual income. Yet knowing how little money their average member makes, they try to discourage them from taking other work that might bring them closer to an annual income reaching the poverty level! Additionally, fi-core members still benefit from full health and pe, nsion benefits (also left off the S.A.G. fi-core page!). In fact, as of the launching of this site, we’ve been unable to find this little piece of information anywhere on the S.A.G. site.
Arl: “Ah, look, well….you see, if the membership, you know, on the whole, does non-union work, how much will the average SAG member make, IF ANY, from SAG work….huh, you’ll get back to me on that….right!!!”
February 2001, President Bush signed an executive order requiring unions to disclose to prospective members their “financial core” rights.
Some other sites addressing the fi-core issue:
Actors choose fi-core status for any number of reasons including disagreement with S.A.G. policies and practices and a desire to work on projects they otherwise would be forced to pass on. Some actors choose fi-core as a result of actions or threats from S.A.G. over past work on a non-authorized project or out of simple necessity and a desire for more work options.
The fact is that some projects simply can’t afford the requirements and/or restrictions of working under a S.A.G. contract. Fortunately, some actors see the reality and do what they feel is necessary despite intimidation tactics.
Arl: “And what projects would that be? Hmmmm…right, the ones were the producer decides who gets paid and who don’t!”
Although most fi-core members are stuggling actors just wanting to work and trying to get by on the modest paychecks from intermittent jobs, a few well known talents have made the move as well.
PERFORMERS WHO HAVE CHOSEN FI-CORE STATUS
- Jon Voight
- Wilford Brimley
- Charlton Heston (previously fi-core within Actor’s Equity)
- George Clooney (fi-core within Writer’s Guild)
- George Lucas (fi-core status within the Director’s Guild)
- Quentin Tarantino (fi-core status within the Director’s Guild)
- Robert Rodriguez (fi-core status within the Director’s Guild)
RUMORED FI-CORE ACTORS we’re looking for confirmation or refutation to update our records
(The Ol’ Dog blanked out the names as we could not confirm any of them.)
We’re also hoping to add a more detailed fi-core database inclusive of all interested fi-core actors to make available to producers and directors. This resource will include names, photo(s), resume and, at some point, online acting reels. Actors are inv
write us for future inclusion in this database
( Don’t hold your breath!)
The Ol’ Dog downloaded this from the internet.
Veteran Actor Jon Voight planned to appear in a friend’s non-union film and was unfairly made a target by SAG . He fired back by enabling his financial core status and taking out a full page letter in the January 25, 2005 edition of the Daily Variety explaining why.
January 25, 2005 Dear Fellow Actors,
Please know that I am deeply moved by your recent nomination for SAG’s “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie,” and I want to express my sincere gratitude for that honor. Since then, you may have heard that the SAG board has excluded me from the awards ceremony on February 5, 2005. The published explanation given for my exclusion is not accurate, and I feel I owe a truthful explanation so that what happened to me, should never happen to another actor.
The truth is that during the Summer of 2003, I was approached by a dear friend who had a lifetime vision of directing a piece he had written. He explained to me he had very little money and he would need to feel complete freedom, if there was any possibility to bring his vision to fruition.
When I read the script, I was so moved! It was original, it was spiritual, and I felt it would be important, and an answer to many of our personal sufferings. It wasn’t too long before other people felt the same as I did, and supplied just enough minimal funds so my friend could begin work on his project.
Arl: “Personal sufferings. You mean like working our chosen profession for free and against the rules of our union: rules, by the way, which make it possible for actors to be fairly compensated for their contributions.”
I knew by law I could participate in the project without violating the Guild’s rule against non-union work by electing “financial core” status. I called the Guild to request that status. My request was met with fear and panic from the SAG officer in charge of “financial core.” “Jon, you must not do this,” she said. “You will open the door to all our actors running for financial core.” I thought to myself, “What’s so bad about that? There could be multiple reasons, financial and otherwise, why many creative people might want to do a non-union movie under the protection of ‘financial core.’ ‘Core’ membership is an entitlement of any union member, protected by federal law.” I needed a few days to think about this.
Before I had arrived at a solution, all hell broke loose! Suddenly, there was what can only be described as a brutal attack on the small production, not only by SAG, but other unions as well. They came down hard. It was vicious and ugly. I thought I was living a part in the film, On the Waterfront
Arl: “By the way, a union film, Jon.”
Our Guild exacerbated the assault with the false announcement to the press that I was the film’s producer. My peers, who were rushed off to join the angry mob on picket lines, had no idea that I was not the producer, and that I had not worked one day as an actor on the film, but the false information they were led to believe was immediately released to the press.
The unions’ scare tactics worked. The crew was frightened to continue, and a small filmmaker’s creative endeavor was shut down after 2 1/2 weeks of work, leaving great financial losses.
Arl: “Hmmm…if the filmmaker didn’t have much money in the first place, how did he suffer great financial loss?”
The ugliness did not end. The attacks on me and the production continued on with vicious taunts and lies spread over the internet. It went on for months, leaving in its wake extreme stress and mental anguish for all involved. If this could happen to me, a veteran actor of 40 years and an Academy Award Winner, I shuddered to think what would be in store for other actors. I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone ever again.
Arl: “Hmmm, again. Jon seemed to think because of his Academy Award he should have got special attention.”
Because of all the cruel bullying and unfair play, I then decided to apply for “financial core” to see if I could help salvage in any way this original pure vision. I understood that I would give up my right to vote in union matters, but I would be able to work legally in non-SAG films, as well as SAG films. As a “financial core” member, I willingly pay the same dues as all other SAG members, which support the efforts of the Guild to negotiate and administer our contracts, efforts I concur with. I contribute and participate in the various benefit funds on the same basis as a full member. Given the structure of the contracts, my support of the Guild exceeds that of most members.
Arl: “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back, lad. Just a thought: If all members had your, me first, point of view…ah, there wouldn’t be any union.”
I would hope to think that the anguish and stress that was put upon me would have been enough, but it was not. The SAG board chose to bring me once again what they think is shame, and apparently to warn other actors off joining financial core, by announcing to the press that I was not invited to the ceremony to which my fellow actors nominated me for a union film. All this is because of my willingness to uphold the right to our personal pursuit of freedom and liberty. I am neither sorry nor ashamed for my decision to join “financial core.” My sorrow comes only for a union that can be a great force, that can accomplish much good, and protect, promote, and nourish the actor in his individual pursuits, but does not yet understand that there will be some that will be happy to follow the union in all its rules and regulations, but there may be some that will differ, and follow a destiny of their own choosing, and that is their right, and that is our country’s Constitution
Arl: “But, then fair is fair Jon. There are some who will consider it a betrayal when the rules they obey to keep their union strong are knowingly violated; and not, even, for survival, but because of a sense of entitlement. Oh, by the way,there are SAG low budget contracts for those like your friend. Oh, but,but, wait, then he would have to fairly compensate actors if the film was a success.”
I congratulate all my fellow nominees, and wish everyone the best.
With great sincerity,
The good news is that under the new SAGAFTRA it is no longer necessary to go fi-core to work non-union and keep your union card….ah, just register as a broadcaster. Woof, woof!
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog