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ATA disagreement; Fun and funding at yard sales

LETTER FROM L.A.: ATA disagreement; fun and funding at yard sales
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier

            How 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  - fast many of the most vocal opponents of the ATA proposal - Richard Dreyfuss, Jason Alexander, Kent McCord, 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.

F***ing hypocrites. 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?

F***ing bullshit. 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 normally.

Yes, and bought a lot of junk. But junk’s not a problem. Because you can always sell it. At your next yard sale.