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Old August 26th, 2009, 04:53 PM   #1
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SAG (and ACTRA) for non-profit organisation?

I have volunteered to produce a short documentary for a local cultural center that's moving into a theater that was built in 1929, as a fund-raising tool to pay for extensive renovations. The organisation is non-profit and community-oriented, so I'm not charging them a thing and neither are the actors who will be interviewed to give their testimonial about the theater's history.

I'm pretty much hitting a brick wall with the local actor's union however (the Union des Artistes), which doesn't seem to understand the meaning of "non-profit" as they insist that we (i.e., me, the producer) physically pay the actors full scale, then have them "give back" the cheque as a donation. Not only does this mean unnecessary paperwork (tax credit, for instance) but I still have to pay out of my own pocket every last administrative fee and contribution because, for all of their posturing about supporting the arts, the union won't go so far as to renounce their cut.

I'm about to completely give up on UdA artists and go exclusively with ACTRA, but I'm wondering if they dig their claws as deeply into organisations that use scratchy toilet paper so they can afford to give the community affordable theater, music and arts?

Also, there's a possibility we might get William Shatner to give us an interview, since he grew up in the area and probably attended the theater as a teenager. Is the situation with SAG similar?

This whole situation might make or break this entire project, and frankly I'm just about sick of all the bureaucratic bullsh*t. I've done nothing but pull out my hair since I've been dealing with actors unions.


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Old August 26th, 2009, 05:03 PM   #2
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SAG will grant full waivers, i.e. the actor can work for free. I don't recall the requirements, but SAG will tell you. Note, however, that there may be jurisdiction problems if you have a mixed cast.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 05:13 PM   #3
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Thanks Paul. I figured SAG might be more amenable. I'll of course get the full details from them, but it gives me new hope.

I've only been dealing with the local actors union for about 6 months, but I already hate, hate, hate working with them! They don't just want their cut on what I'm paying the actors, they want a percentage of what I'm also NOT paying them! They're even charging me a percentage for using their contracts (which, naturally, they're FORCING me to use). I kid you not!


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Old August 26th, 2009, 09:22 PM   #4
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Jacques.

I don't know if you would have better luck with ACTRA. When I finally got the final credit I needed to be a full member, they called me and forced me to join immediately, and also forced me to drop out of a charity fundraiser at the Centaur cause they said I couldn't work for free. I'm still livid about it, and it was 10 years ago.

I was able to hire ACTRA members at one point to act in a student film I directed. I didn't have to pay them, but I had to give ACTRA part ownership of the film, if you can believe it. They wanted me to fill out all kinds of useless paperwork as well. You know, details about my non-existent budget and stuff like that. I finally got away with pretty basic contracts, but it was a hassle.

Man, I feel your pain. It's supposedly my union and I hate dealing with them. But anyway, it's only a phone call to find out.

EQUITY seems much more relaxed about pro bono stuff. Any chance that could be a way out?

Best of luck,
Vito
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Old August 26th, 2009, 10:41 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Vito DeFilippo View Post
EQUITY seems much more relaxed about pro bono stuff. Any chance that could be a way out?
I'm looking at all sorts of alternatives, but I am being forced to also consider outright lying and cheating - not because I don't want to hire union actors, but because they're trying to make me pay a percentage on wages that don't exist!

It's sad because it's the actors who want to get involved in a non-profit organisation who are being penalized, not to mention the organisation itself.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 10:48 PM   #6
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not because I don't want to hire union actors, but because they're trying to make me pay a percentage on wages that don't exist!
Could you go non union? Or does that remove all the actors you are interested in?
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Old August 26th, 2009, 10:54 PM   #7
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Could you go non union? Or does that remove all the actors you are interested in?
It would. I mean Shatner for one, but there are a lot of local well-known actors we could interview. But it seems impossible in the UdA or ACTRA jurisdiction - unless I make a longer version of the documentary for TV so the sale defrays the cost of the actors' salaries, but then the project becomes for-profit and many actors wouldn't want to get involved anymore.

Recognizable faces backing the project is the reason we're making this doc in the first place.


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Old August 26th, 2009, 11:02 PM   #8
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I suppose it's worth giving Actra a shot. You never know. Maybe for your kind of project they are not as nit picky as UdA.

Hope it all works out.
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