What You Don’t Know About The Business Side Of The Entertainment Industry

In a recent article I wrote about the effects of actors going Financial Core, or Fi-Core. That article received a huge response, both from people in favor and against Fi-Core. I wanted to address some of the concerns that were brought up in response to that article…

There are many things that the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) needs to improve upon. Part of the reason why it’s been difficult for SAG to make the changes it needs is because, much like in politics, union members are divided into two major competing factions.

One of the biggest issues I found that SAG needs to focus on is the topic of exclusivity. It has always been difficult to get into the union, and they’ve recently made it even more difficult by no longer allowing the most common way that actors were gaining eligibility: the Taft-Hartley waiver on low-budget projects. (The Taft-Hartley waiver is the form that waives non-union actors into union projects.) They are also making it extremely difficult for Fi-Core actors to re-enter. While I understand SAG’s viewpoint, I have to urge SAG to let them back in; maybe do a one-time forgiveness policy. SAG is only weakening itself by denying actors entry into the union.

SAG has top-notch healthcare, but a common problem I see is the difficulty in qualifying for it. The minimum earnings per year required to qualify for SAG healthcare are very high and seem to keep getting higher, despite the pay decrease in union jobs. As a result, only about 15% of SAG actors are able to qualify. There is also a premium once you sign up, where there didn’t used to be one at all.

And, yes, there are the issues of SAG needing updated contracts and policies. There are also complaints of SAG being behind on paperwork. Again, they are aware of these issues and are working to fix them. More information can be found here

However, going Fi-Core will not fix anything. It is estimated over 3,000 actors have chosen to go Fi-Core within the last couple of years. Imagine what could have been accomplished if those 3,000 actors had united and protested instead. How many commercials could have been flipped, had they just made the effort? Where was the courage? Going Fi-Core only promotes negative changes, which I spoke about in my last article and the only changes that I’m interested in are positive ones.

I cited “corporate greed” in my last article as the main reason for the decrease in pay. There was quite a backlash from that statement, but I stand by it, as corporations put up the money. This raises a moral question: Are individuals at corporations, namely people in the ad departments, getting awarded bonuses for saving money on productions? Are they putting more money in their pockets by going non-union and producing a lower-quality product, while the faces of their products are struggling to pay bills?

It is also no longer a secret that some corporations are now incentivising agents to send them non-union or Fi-Core actors for acting work by offering to pay them the same rate that the actor is getting, along with commission on the actor’s pay. Meaning, if you are a Fi-Core actor and your agent negotiates a $5,000 buyout, your agent may also be accepting $5,000 from the corporation as a reward (bribe?), and also commissioning you on your paycheck, when they should only be getting commission- otherwise known as double-dipping. This transaction may be legal, but it’s a moral travesty. I highly commend and thank the agents who stand up to this. I’m stating the facts because it’s staggering how many actors are unaware of what’s happening.

My main point is this: know your worth. The fact is that consumers watch film and TV for the actors, yet we are constantly working for free or deferred pay. I find it puzzling why we are asked to make this sacrifice. Crew workers may sometimes agree to work for less, but rarely for free. Are the producers going home with the money they saved from not hiring union actors?

Going Fi-Core is telling these corporations that you’re ok with them paying you unfairly. I understand that you’re trying to make a living; so, I know this may hurt, but shelve your pride and get a day job. And speak up! If we can unite and create a stir within the union, then corporations will listen. We need to stop letting them take advantage of us, and demand to be paid what we deserve. I urge pro-union actors in support of this to do what you can to spread the word of the good fight. Together, we can beat this!

#unionstrong #unionworking #adsgounion

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

2 COMMENTS

  1. I just said this in the comments of the “What You Should Know About The Downfall Of The Actors Union” article but it bears repeating here…

    If you don’t want SAG/AFTRA members to become Fi-Core then do two things: Don’t make the barrier to entry/remain so high and have contracts that pay a living wage, something we can feed our families with.

    First, the unions who support the below the line crew like the cinematographers, audio technicians, make up artists and the rest – IATSE, IBEW and there is another but I forget at the moment – don’t force their members to work only on union projects. They can work on union and non union projects back and forth as much as they want. The one proviso is that if there is an action against a production company, studio, network, etc then members shall not cross the picket line or there will be hell to pay.

    Contrast that to SAG/AFTRA who punish their members for working on non union projects and shame you for electing to go Fi-core. No one, not even a union should force you, under normal working conditions, to choose one side or the other but not both. No one has the right to tell you that you are not allowed to earn enough money to put food on the table if doing so means working both sides. Furthermore, union casting directors cast for both union and non union productions. And agents represent both union and non union actors. They work both sides of the fence yet for some reason, only actors are supposed to choose only one side or the other and stay there, like they are applying to the mafia or something.

    Then there is the other issue – pay. Show me the professional, actor or otherwise who can live on a measly $125 per day. That rate for 8 hours is $15.63 per hour which is what many states and cities have mandated as their MINIMUM WAGE. So those expensive headshots and expensive acting classes and expensive wardrobe that you need to get work and do your job earns you as much as the burger flipper at the local McDonald’s. It has been a while since I last worked a fast food job but when I did you didn’t need all these expensive things just to get a job. Not to mention giving up 10% of that measly pay to the person who sent you to that job interview. And in the minimum wage fast food job you didn’t work only one or two days then start the job hunting process all over again, unless of course you were a complete incompetent moron. If they want actors to stay a standard member and not elect to become Fi-core then they could raise the ULB and short film rates to where the MLB rates are now and adjust the MLB and LB rates accordingly. Oh, and NO MORE ludicrous “deferred pay” jobs, unless it is a student film. Student films are a different animal because they are making the film in order to pass a class. Members are supposed to pay $3,000 just to join the union and then be subjected to working on a deferred pay jobs on a feature film, pilot or other production? I say not!

    If the union doesn’t get out of their fat, drunken stupor – which by the way is no way to go through life – they won’t even exist in five years time. Trump and his cohorts are working precipitously to eliminate unions all together in this country. So if SAG/AFTRA wants larger membership roles and to remain relevant they had better stop being so penurious with their rules to join/remain in the union and force the companies/studios/networks to pay the actors enough to keep a roof over our heads.

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