Tuesday, April 28, 2015
What’s the point of having a union if it goes against the overwhelming wishes of its members? That’s exactly what happened last week when Los Angeles Actors Equity members voted over 2-1 to keep things status quo in the small theater (99 seats or fewer) LA scene; to not demand they be paid minimum wage per hour for all performances and rehearsals – and the New York board completely dismissed their vote and implemented it anyway.
This is unconscionable!
What I don’t understand is why the LA Equity members aren’t revolting. Hopefully they will.
Your national board just told you members to go fuck yourselves. The message is clear: They don’t give a shit what you think. And we’re only talking about your careers.
My hope is that the LA branch breaks off from Actors Equity. Or files such a blizzard of lawsuits against the union that it completely strangles its ability to govern.
Here’s the issue: Small theaters make no money. For the most part they lose money. Everyone concerned does it for the love of theater. No one really gets paid – not actors, playwrights, directors, crews. The Whitefire Theatre in Studio City will be doing a one act play in June my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote. I’m also directing it. We’re making nothing. Not $9.00 an hour. Not $.09 an hour. But we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to see our work performed. We’re also employing eight actors. That means eight actors get to work on their craft, have a nice showcase, and perhaps get discovered.
And the evening will feature three one acts. Both the others also have casts of about eight. So do the math. Twenty-four actors, all the hours of rehearsal and performances – even at $9.00 an hour that adds up pretty quickly. Especially for a production where we have to buy our own props. If this ruling had already been in effect we simply would not do the production.
And this is what’s going to happen all over town. Producers will stop staging shows, small theaters will close, actors won’t work, and everybody loses (but Actors Equity).
LA actors understand this. They make their living in TV or films or commercials. And again, they voted 2-1 to not implement new restrictions. That's a mandate, folks.
But your union clearly doesn’t care. So what if they destroy the LA theater scene? As long as they maintain their control.
At your expense.
And by the way, I’m very pro-union. I’m a proud member of the WGA, DGA, AFTRA-SAG. I totally understand that without unions the studios and networks would pay us all less than a janitor makes in Cuba while raking in billions on the wings of our work. But no one is making money in small theaters.
So now it’s time for actors to take action. Your union is supposed to represent YOU. Actors Equity most definitely does NOT. Are you going to stand for that? Are you going to let a board with its own agenda dictate your career path? Send the message. Your vote COUNTS.
It’s bad enough actors face rejection every day, but to be rejected by its own union is, to me, intolerable.
And so I ask you, even though I can’t pay you $9.00 an hour to do it, to perform one of the great acting scenes in film history. It’s from Howard Beale in NETWORK. I think you know it.
I want you to get mad!
I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
You've gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell...
"I'm as mad as hell,
and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
You may not win an Oscar, but you might get your theaters back.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM