LETTER FROM L.A.: Paris
actors on unions and age; the true meaning of reality (TV)
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
now confess: the last two columns you (hopefully) read were written some weeks
back to fill the space left empty by my trip to... Paris! (And other places).
would have it, I know several actors over there and found myself at a party
with several more. This allowed me to
compare notes on a few issues, not least of all SAG's Global Rule One. This, as
I read it, requires foreign actors living in Los Angeles and belonging to SAG to
work under SAG contracts even when they do films in their home countries (I
have tried to get clarification on this issue from other members, but the
bottom line seems to be that, while this may not be its primary intent, it
would indeed be one result.) I'm afraid our discussions on this point were
pretty brief - they dismissed the idea out of hand.
doesn't help that some, at least, view American unions as one more corporate
entity, essentially defending the interests of a small group and not particularly
advancing the interests of the larger base. The fact that only about 5% of
SAG's members live fully off acting (as I remember) didn't help convince them
the subject of Global Rule One wasn't very fruitful, it did lead to one I found
more interesting: how French actors' unions operate. I never had a chance to
get the official versions of all this, but based on my conversations, at least
one thing is true: in France, the fact that you are a union member in no way
limits the work you can do. Union members can work on non-union projects (to
the degree that the distinction has any sense there.)
obvious question then for an American actor is what assures that French actors
will get a decent minimal rate for their work, not to mention residuals? The
answer seems to be that payment over there is handled by a system more like
what we use for musicians over here (with ASCAP and BMI). The organization
responsible is called ADAMI (which must stand for something, but they don’t
tell you what - the English version of their Web page is at: http://www.adami.org/english/intro.html).
As long as you are signed up with the ADAMI, you will get your residuals, just
as a songwriter gets theirs if they are a member of ASCAP or BMI.
next question is, if French unions don't ensure that actors get decent pay,
what DO they do? The answer seems to be that they act as a form of lobby for
actors, which is one reason, for instance, that French actors have a very
special (and generous) unemployment status. It's important to bear in mind too
that France has a fairly generous social support system overall, not to mention
a bit more governmental respect for culture overall. Unlike a country where the
NEA's very existence is regularly threatened.
say, I was on vacation and busy doing other research. So I'm sure there's still
more to be said on this subject. If anyone knows more about how this works in
France or other countries, I'd be interested to hear about it (c/o of firstname.lastname@example.org).
issue that came up was that of age. One of my French half-brothers has been a
screenwriter for decades, and continues, well past 50, to get work. He told me
that in fact there was a period when anyone over 40 was in trouble, but not so
much anymore. An actress who happily told me she was 37 (already a rarity in
Los Angeles) said she'd been getting more rather than less work as she got
older and seemed shocked it would be a consideration.
friend Nathalie Mann, on the other hand, did consider it an issue - even as
she's handily overcome it. She recently did a téléfilm (kind of a movie of the
week) about a difficult subject: a transsexual goes back to Paris ten years
after the operation to see the children whose father she had been. This was
Nathalie's first leading role, and she said plainly in one interview that she
especially appreciated getting it when she was past 30 (and the mother of two
little boys.) I don't know how often such films get widely reviewed in France,
but in this case she got rave reviews across a broad spectrum of press. Which
only made the whole experience that much more delightful, for her and for her
there's the issue of reality TV. The big hit in this area in France has been
"Loft Story". A Nous Paris,
a free paper in the Metro, had an article on the casting for "Loft
II" and other shows called "Casting Madness" ("La Folie des
Castings"). The article concluded: "And so one becomes a candidate
for notoriety to escape an ordinary working life, now considered worthless. The
consumer himself becomes a consumable product, for television to squeeze dry.
Result: the current lack of social visibility is compensated by an excess of
yeah. What he said.