ACTRA’s Secret Agenda and General Cluelessness

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Alas, one director can only do so much…

Turns out that I won’t be making a film for ACTRA Toronto’s Co-Op Challenge this year, and truth be told, I’m really not all that busted up about it. Fact is I’ve been just too busy, and there’s no way I’ll be able to make the December 15th deadline. But I’ll also go on record with my suspicions that this campaign has a hidden, self-serving agenda behind it.

On the surface it seems like a noble cause, a call to action for local actors to speak out against the dwindling Canadian content on our big and small screens. But if you read past the first paragraph you’ll get a link to a bunch of information about the union’s co-op agreement, which made me wonder… Is this whole campaign merely a cover to harvest the names of members who are making shorts without ACTRA “participation”? Maybe I’m just a paranoid conspiracist, but if nothing else my theory would explain why an ACTRA rep was skulking around in the shadows at Darryl Gold’s last short film fest.

ACTRA’s likely hurting as much as anyone else in this age of digital piracy, but they’re sure not making any new friends with their lack of foresight in how to deal with it. At the last local members’ conference my girlfriend spoke up with what many in the room thought was a brilliant idea—having a centralized library of locally-shot video that members could borrow, enabling them to extract clips for their reels without having to pester producers on set. Unfortunately the idea was immediately dismissed by the head of our local chapter. And we pay dues to these people why?

Another sign that Canada’s acting union is way behind the times came with a comment from an old high-school chum, who also happens to work for the national ACTRA office in Ottawa. He was proud to tell me that ACTRA is trying to flex its muscle in the video game market, trying to make big game studios like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft pay ACTRA rates for their voice talent.

Yeah, right.

These people can voice their games in-house for free, so why on earth would they want to pay more for a professional actor that isn’t an internationally-recognizable star?

The more I think about this, the more I think ACTRA really needs to step back and rethink how to better help its members, rather than continue to hurt them.

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2 Responses to “ACTRA’s Secret Agenda and General Cluelessness”

  1. Ian says:

    A-men brother. As a recently inducted ACTRA appprentice, I attended the mandatory ACTRA meeting to go over the union rules and regulations. When I inquired as to why apprentice members were completely barred from taking part in non-union shorts, simply to add to one’s reel or to get valuable experience playing weightier parts not readily available to beginning performers, the entire room practically jumped down my throat. “Well of course you can’t do non-union work… because… it’s against the rules”. when I approached the ACTRA rep after the meeting to pursue the matter further, she freely admitte that there was no good reason why I could not accept the leading part I had recently been offered. So thanks loads ACTRA; I’ll keep going out for all those SOC hot dog commercials while you rake in 20-40% of any money I’m fortunate enough for you to allow me to earn.

  2. Ed Miller says:

    AC:

    Any casting we’ve done for an ongoing project this year has started off with “Are you now or have you ever been a member or apprentice of ACTRA?” just becaue I can’t afford, even in my current micro-budget phase, to piss off the union when I start getting bigger budgets for things. My fellow Ryerson film students and other videohead types all avoid ACTRA people for the same reason.

    I understand the need for the union to protect its members and I respect them for that, but this policy would encourage new actors to avoid joining until they’d reached the stage where they get a lot of work (which in Canada is what, 50-100 people?). ACTRA’s forcing a lot of people not to join, I think, which would mean less money for their coffers.

    Of course, the biggest loss is the fact that no- or low-budget producers can’t use talented actors and talented actors end up fighting for extra parts. Now that the former Canadian Tire guy is looking for work, good luck getting the hotdog commercials….

    Ed Miller