LETTER FROM L.A.: ATA disagreement; fun and
funding at yard sales
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
did New York union members react to the recent defeat of the ATA proposal by
SAG members? Certainly the issue’s been red-hot out here. Should the union
accept an agreement that many feels make actors vulnerable to their agents and
the production companies the latter want to invest in, or should it risk seeing
agents simply walk away from their franchises?
When the vote was in, it turned out many
members were willing to take the risk. Several ‘middle-class’ actors – that is,
those who actually eke out a living on-camera, however precarious – had
supported the agreement, and there’s good evidence that one of them posted the
following anonymous response on the Web:
You all make me want to hurl - ...how fast many of the most
vocal opponents of the ATA proposal - Richard Dreyfuss, Jason Alexander, Kent
McCord, etc...how fast [will] they step up to the plate on Monday morning and
fire their now non-franchised agents. Because if they don't, they're in violation
of SAG Rule 16a...and dickwad McCord has been screaming like a f***ing harpie
about how we've got to enforce 16a now.
They won't fire their agents. And what about you people here? How many of you
gonna stand by your union or die by walking away from your agents?
Watch the sh** hit the fan now you goddamned f**ing idiots.
Hm. Just a little anger there.
Bearing in mind that this highlights
another dichotomy: between the huge percentage of SAG members who simply don’t
work, and so approach these issues from a necessarily theoretical stance, and
that small group whose livelihood depends on these decisions. The latter have
already resigned themselves to scale + 10 for most jobs (no more negotiating
up) and many were resigning themselves to working for production companies
owned by their agents.
Agree or disagree with the
quasi-anonymous poster here, I think we have to sympathize with the real
anguish that underlies this outcry. Because such people have been getting
squeezed for years now.
My theater company’s latest funding
effort was very L.A.: we held a yard sale.
In Upstate New York, I was used to
these. But of course it’s harder to hold them in Manhattan. The fact that
they’re such an integral part of L.A. life highlights how different a ‘city’
L.A. is. Because, compared to New York or Boston, it’s really a conglomeration
of suburbs, and so has lots of lawns and garages. As well as a lot of turnover.
People come out to ‘try’ L.A., give up
after a year or two, and head back to where there’s more weather and less
actors. As a result, newcomers can generally furnish their digs with near-new
furniture sold by those leaving.
It helps too that the skies are almost
always sunny. So ‘doing’ the yard sales is a popular week-end activity. It’s
free (if you can resist spending) and a good way to meet people (directors and
producers have yard sales too.) For newcomers, it’s also a fun way to get to
know L.A. I’ve found streets I never knew existed, just following those ‘Yard
Sale Today!’ signs. And strolled into houses I’d barely dare to glance at
Yes, and bought a lot of junk. But
junk’s not a problem. Because you can always sell it. At your next yard sale.