LETTER FROM L.A.: Oh
Canada… Ah SAG…
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
there is a big bad bogey-country here in Hollywood, it is our otherwise mild
neighbor to the North. Much as LA itself siphons off so much water from a lake
far to the north that ‘crater’ may soon more accurately describe the latter,
Canada is said to suck away what once was the vigorous lifeblood of local
industry. Canada is the symbolic source of all our runaway woes. THAT’s where
all the work has gone, so they say. And Canadians can only be happy about that,
come they keep coming down here?
saw ‘The IT Factor’ last year, apparently two of the ‘New York’ actors profiled
were Canadian. And I certainly meet enough who’ve come to try their chances
here. Often with no green cards and a lot of hope. One Montreal actress I met
recently said the work back home is limited to a small, very closed circle. But
of course you’ll hear the same thing about Hollywood often enough. I fear this
is one more case of the ‘casting is always greener’ on the other side.
it appears that Australia is the new hot ‘alternative’ location, and is already
ahead of our nearby neighbor in this regard. So, they’re happy and hoppin’ like
the ‘roos about this, right? Uh, not quite.
According to Screendaily.com (7/18/02), the Australian Film Commission
is concerned not only that local capacity might not be able to service all the
newcomers, but that the local film industry (long a lively force in independent
film) might suffer. Jonathan Bruce, living in Canada, confirms that this should
be a concern: “In Canada English language film
almost turned to zero for about 10 years because of the easier US Bucks. It’s
just now starting to get back on track... mostly because of the production
folks all standing around doing nothing.... now trying to keep their houses.”
Australia? Well, Twentieth Century Fox has started to produce films in
Bollywood. In Hindi, for now. But once they’ve got some facilities going there,
a SAG member a SAG member is a SAG member? As long as they pay their dues and
whether or not they work? That question is apparently off the table again, at
least officially. More specifically any idea of limiting voting to those
currently working under the contract involved is no longer being considered.
Officially. But the debate goes on. A number of actors out here would still
like to see members of the board held to a working in the trade requirement,
which some define as having at least one SAG job in three years. Other working
actors however say they would rather have good business people in charge
and damn their acting credits.
of this is complicated by the fact that a large majority of SAG’s membership is
effectively unemployed. Exactly how large is hard to say, since these
statistics are surprisingly hard to find on their Web site. But my own opinion
is that SAG should be addressing why that’s the case. Yes, a lot of people who
were working aren’t. But it’s also true that a lot of people are pushed to join
before they really should (since you effectively don’t have access to much SAG
work until you are a SAG member.) While this may make for more dues for the
union, it also makes for a much weaker union. The union should be looking for
ways to encourage people to build up a body of SAG work before they join as
full members. Instead, three SAG jobs and you’re a must join. Even if you don’t
work another SAG job for years.
form of interim status that allows full access to SAG work without requiring
membership until a mix of union and non-union work has allowed an actor to
build a career would ultimately make the union leaner, meaner and stronger. But
of course, with the Thirties-era labor union mentality that rules SAG, this
ain’t ever really gonna happen.