Showing posts with label SAG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SAG. Show all posts

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The soul is healed by being with children." - English proverb

I was lucky enough to stumble upon a non-profit called the Virginia Avenue Project when I moved to LA 5 years ago.  VAP works with kids with learning challenges in under-served communities to help them achieve their full potential through theater.  Every summer they take a select group of kids up to Ojai for a week for their One on One program, one of the many programs they have all year round.  The kids are paired with an adult mentor and they rehearse a play based on an interview with the kid to bring back to LA and perform in a professional theater setting.  They aren't plays about the kids lives, the interviews are merely meant to be inspiration.  The first time I participated in the One on One's I wrote and performed a play in which I played an assassin who kidnaps his amnesiac kid sister, also an assassin, to revive her memory and enlist her help in taking down the current regime. The next time I wrote and performed in a play about an Elvis ventriloquist doll who goes to jail for standing up for his rights as a toy.  This time I'm not able to go away to Ojai for the week, so I just wrote a play about a young dragon who wants to enter a beauty contest for dogs so that he can be man's best friend too.  With VAP anything can happen; any reality, any set of circumstances - it's truly amazing.  And the kids are far better actors then a lot of the professional performers I've worked with, because the kids have no training so all they do is work toward being truthful - something I find inspirational.

I've always been inspired working with kids; I've been a swim coach, high school mentor, and a camp counselor among other stuff.  So, I'm always on the lookout for other programs I can be a part of because I think that kids need to know that grown-ups care about them and want them to be smart and healthy.  A few days ago my search led me to become a Book PALS Reader for the SAG Foundation - another program working with kids.  I thought it would be fun to act out books and show kids how fun reading can be.  School is out for the summer, but Book PALS has programs at 4 year round schools and a program reading to ill children in Los Angeles hospitals, so there's plenty to do.  When we went around the room at the orientations and talked about what brought us to the program, many of the adults (aka actors) in the room talked about how it would benefit them as performers.  While I can see their point of view, how it would benefit me was not something that had crossed my mind.  I'm not sure what that says about me but I found it ironic.

If you'd like to donate to the Virgina Avenue Project click here, or Book PALS click here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sometimes we all deserve luxury and a statuette!

I did not watch the season finale of Bridalplasty last night.  I never actually followed that show, but I did get caught up in the 2nd to last episode when it aired as part of a marathon yesterday afternoon - that reality garbage really sucks you in, huh?  And I must admit I was rooting for one particular contestant and was happy to find out this morning, when I Googled it, that she had indeed won it all.  No, instead I chose to participate in the time honored Hollywood tradition of congratulating ourselves for how great we are by watching the SAG Awards.

The show ran long.  When you give awards for talking effectively on screen to a room full of people who love to hear themselves talk that's no shocker.  What may have shocked some people however was that the union, my union, an American union, bestowed its highest honor on a what is essentially a foreign film: The King's Speech.

Don't get me wrong, TKS is an amazing film.  Very moving, full of great performances (the least of which is Helena Bonham Carter playing someone who isn't crazy or a witch), deserves all of its kudos (Colin Firth gave the most charming and classy acceptance speech for his best actor award) and I'm sure that it meets all the qualifiers that make it eligible for the categories in which it has been nominated for all the awards shows across the board.  However, although it is in English, at the end of the day it is still a foreign film; produced by an Australian company, starring British and Australian actors, filmed in London with a European crew.  It's a union's job to keep jobs local isn't it?  To ensure labor standards while keeping employers from escaping to foreign countries where labor is cheaper and, most importantly, non-unionized?  Of course the Brits have their own actors union called British Actors' Equity, which is a sister union to SAG, so it's not like running off to Taiwan to manufacture tee-shirts, but never-the-less the jobs were offered overseas - not exactly "accessible" to actors like me let alone my friends who are gaffers and costumers.  In his acceptance speech for best ensemble, Geoffrey Rush named some of the youngest members of their cast, of which there were several, and I wondered are they even actually members of SAG?  I'm sure they're members of BAE, but as a foreign production would they be forced to join SAG as well?  I'm doubtful.  So an American union designed to protect my job, hands over its highest honor to a production filmed in another country and which employed non-Americans who aren't even members of said union.  Ironic?  Hmm.

Well, this industry is filled with ironies.  Like attending a film festival to get a bunch of free stuff and get drunk as opposed to meeting emerging filmmakers and seeing independent filmmaking.  For the 5th year in a row I attended the Sundance Film Festival but it was the first year that I realized that a majority of industry folks who fly in for the event rarely actually see any of the movies (with the exception of the one they are there to promote etc.) - and this year I whole heartedly gave in to that majority.  After all I AM an independent filmmaker.  I AM exactly who should be getting gifted and be honored with entry in to exclusive parties.    It is very common to attend Sundance, go to the gifting suites and get all your free stuff (like blue jeans and iPads), take a nap at your condo, hit the parties on Main St, and then fly home.  Sad, but true and not too shabby once in a while either.

I had been invited to go up last minute by some good people in my life and I ended up having the most fun I've had in 5 years in Park City.  I stayed in the biggest house I had ever been in in my whole life and I allowed its luxury to color my entire experience.  It had heated floors, an indoor pool, a movie theater, and I wanted for nothing - I was walking on air the whole time.  I was bummed that I didn't get to see any movies, I tried to wait-list - twice!  But I would arrive at the venue 2 hours early just to find out that they had already given away all 200 of the wait-list numbers.  So these people who got a number had been waiting upwards of 3 hours to see one movie, once they did they would have spent almost 5 hours of their day to see one thing!  I had more fun things to do - like getting my picture taken for Vogue, getting gifted a pair of Agloves for texting in the cold, and stuffing my face here.

For a lot of us that's what being in this industry is all about - doing what you like and having fun - at least for actors anyway.  In the biographies I have read about famous actors they are very rarely serious people.  Instead they seem to put a pretty high value on having fun, and I think that's an awesome way to live life.  Sometimes acting can be very serious work, but even then you gotta find what makes it enjoyable, otherwise why do it?  To hell once in a while with low budgets, waiting in lines, fire & brimstone & the economy!  Sometimes we all deserve luxury and a statuette!  When I cast my votes for the SAG Awards I didn't give a second thought about what was filmed where - I just wanted to honor the best performances and to me those are the ones that looked the most fun to perform.  And it's not so shocking to think that's probably what my peers did too (it didn't hurt that TKS was one of 2 movies that made sure all of SAG received their own screener).  So congratulations to The Kings Speech and all of last night's winners.  Hope it was as much fun as it looks!

Friday, January 14, 2011

"It's MY turn!" - Natalie (crazy town) Portman, A YEAR IN REVIEW

 In the past few weeks I've managed to see every major studio release that is being buzzed about for awards season.  True Grit, The Fighter, The Town, Black Swan, The King's Speech etc.  It's one of my favorite times of year to see movies because each one manages to be worth seeing, if not spectacular.  I wouldn't say, however, I've been blown away by any movie this season, nor any performance (although that Black Swan movie gave me nightmares...or was it the steak I had right before?).  What's been amazing about this particular awards season is that, I either got to watch these movies from my own couch, or in a small private screening room filled with people who kept their mouths shut and cell phones off (with the exception of one or two incredibly narcissistic people who couldn't possibly go a whole 90 minutes without communicating the minutiae of their every move to the social networking masses).  I have been afforded the opportunity to do this through my membership in SAG, a turn of events that came about during a pretty spectacular year we all know as twenty ten.  So as I go hurling into twenty eleven, I thought I would review the moments that I blogged that made last year so bitchin!

January - Years after its premiere at the Houston World Fest, my feature film Tom's Wife finally began to move through the last components of its post-production process: sound design and color correction.  It was incredible to see and hear how these two elements transformed Tom's Wife into a far better film.  You can read more about that process here

February - The single most transformative moment of 2010 happened in February.  Through a friend I found out that an adult dodgeball league was forming in West Hollywood and I decided to make that the subject of a documentary.  A few months later I had a lot of great footage and had met some incredible people who helped me to understand that everyone feels like an outcast at some point, but eventually things get better.  When the next season started up I joined a team, my circle of friends expanded exponentially, and I am now a two time league champion.  You can read about how it all started here.

March - This was my birthday month and also the same month that I became part of the hottest trend from 2010 - zombies!  I was cast as The Master, a well bred English sen-sei, who teaches the Bennet girls the art of thwarting zombie attacks in a teaser for the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  The teaser is currently at over 200,000 hits on YouTube, and you can and watch that here.

April - I had finished principle photography on the dodgeball documentary.  It had morphed into a story that I was very proud to tell and I was delighted when a player in the league stepped up to help me cut it together.  You can read about that here.  I also joined Twitter.

May - The reason I was aggressively moving forward on the completion of Tom's Wife was to get it into the hands of our sales agent and distributor Echelon Studios.  Making a truly independent film is a monumental task, for some filmmakers it can take decades, like Colin Fitz Lives which was produced in 1996 but didn't get distribution until just this past year.  While my thoughts of Echelon are mixed, it feels really great to know that my movie is finally getting the opportunity to be seen by audiences all over the world.  You can read about that here.

June - I landed my first starring role in a television series called Lost Tapes.  Every episode is about a different kind of unexplained creature or phenomenon, my episode was about a poltergeist and I got to deal with a real terror of my own...a child actor!  You can read about that here.

July - My amazing editor and I pieced together a teaser trailer to show everyone in the dodgeball league how grateful I was for their participation.  A few months later my editor left the project for creative reasons and I was fortunate enough to land Sean Rowe to take over!  He and I are currently in the process of polishing a rough cut and I hope to have a new and more official trailer very soon.  You can see the original teaser here.

August - Because of the Emmy awards at the end of August it was TV month, and I got some of my favorite bloggers and friends to write about shows they loved.  You can read those and other posts about TV here.

September - I met and worked with Justin Timberlake.  You can read about that here.

October - Even though I injured my back in rehearsals, I managed to live through Il Postino at the LA Opera.  You can read about that here.

November/December - I shot another movie called Finding Mr. Wright and then got wrapped up in more dodgeball, family time, the holidays, and reflecting on 2010.

I look back on last year as one of best years of my adult life thus far.  Professionally and socially it was awesome - it was a year when I truly felt I left amatuer hour behind and stepped into the spotlight with the other pros.  It finally felt like my turn.  So here's to hoping that this year will be even more spectacular, and good luck to everyone this award season - may we all get the validation we deserve in 2011!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This is not a diary (or SAG is expensive)

Have you ever taken a shit and then turned to flush and there was nothing in there? Or been on the freeway, zipping along, and then suddenly everyone slows to 20 mph for like 2 miles and then it all speeds back up again for no reason? And then you say "why?" What was the point of that? I've been asking myself that a lot this week.

I got the part in "Priest." WOOOHOOO!!! FINALLY! Not the one I auditioned for, but its still really awesome and I have a scene with Paul Bettany, so there is a lot to be grateful for. I had it fixed in my mind that this would be my opportunity to join SAG. The Screen Actors Guild. I would be a member of the same guild as such luminaries as Tracy Lords and Sean Young. I could hold my head up high as I walked the streets of Los Angeles and finally be able to say I'm in a union! But this was not to be the case.

After I finalized the points of my deal and alerted IMDB to add the credit (because let’s face it, if it's not happening online it's not happening), I gave SAG a jingle to talk about when I should come on down to the office and join up. That was when I was informed that in order to join I had 3 options:
1) I could pay my $2335 initiation dues in full by credit card or money order.
2) I could work as an "Ok 30" which permits me to work for 30 days after production alerts SAG that I have been hired without having to join at all. However at the end of the 30 days if I book another SAG job my initiation would be due in full with no option for a payment plan.
3) I could start a payment plan with $935 down, and $467 a month for the next 3 months.

I'd like to meet this actor who is just joining SAG who happens to have a spare $935 lying around, let alone $2335, and then a spare $467 every month as well. I'm not going to go into what I am being paid for my work on "Priest," but I will say that it is an excellent salary and it's a little shy of that down payment. If this were a commercial it would be a different story, but this is a feature and unfortunately SAG does not have payment plans in place that are appropriate for the salary tiers that they have regulated.

When I let out the slightest intimation of my frustration with their "payment plan,” the woman on the phone very kindly informed me that until this year SAG didn't even have a payment plan. Looking at the roster of SAG's Hollywood Board of Directors (Maybe I should write Scott Bakula or Nancy Sinatra and ask them if they could spot me the money to join), one can only assume there must be a vast disconnect between the lives of these people and the reality of the struggling actor and that they have no concept of what a "payment plan" is supposed to be for. It's meant to make things more affordable, and if that's not the reason then what's the point?

So in the end I have decided to take my chances with "Ok 30" status. I know there will be a next job, but hopefully it will cover the dues. I really do want to join SAG, I can't deny what they have done to guarantee work conditions and pay, and it does say a lot about you professionally, but I'm not going into debt to do it. It's gotta be worth it, there has to be a point!