Wednesday, July 27, 2011

OPEN QUESTION: Actor's Unions Worldwide

Hopefully I'll get a chance to respond to the money/quality questions that Gus raised, but the article that brought my attention to it also responded to my post laying blame on actors in dangerous conditions on Actors' Equity's refusal to update the showcase code.

Chris Wilkinson responds by saying:
So maybe it's fortunate that the UK version of Equity manages to find a much saner balance.
Which leads me to my question: does the UK version of Equity manage a saner balance?

That's not rhetorical, that's a real question: how do other unions work in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc. -- specifically in reference to independent theater (which at least here in NY we define as working in theaters under 100 seats, with budgets around $10-20,000 per show)?

What restrictions do these unions put on independent theaters? Do most independent theaters work under contracts with those unions, or do most operate using non-unionized actors?

I'd love to learn from some global readers.

5 comments:

Flloyd Kennedy said...

Here in OZ we have a Union contract similar to the US "Showcase" production one. It requires us to work under union conditions for hours, safety etc, with full WorkCover insurance. That means a valid insurance policy that guarantees compensation for any injury sustained while working on the production, from 1st rehearsal to bump out. It's called a Cooperative agreement, allows for people to work for nothing, or the sharing of any profit either equally, or at an agreed pro-rata proportion, and everyone in the company must sign it.

CultureFuture said...

Interesting. A lot of that is similar to the Showcase Code contract. The stuff you listed is all stuff most people would agree with.

Here's the stuff that our Showcase code adds:
- You have to pay transportation for the actors
- No person on the production can earn more than the actors
- You're not allowed to videotape rehearsals or the production for ANY reason (emphasis theirs)
- You can't charge more than $18 for tickets
- Budget can't be more than $35,000
- People can't work for free for more than 10 performances, and can't do more than 16 total
- You must give complimentary tickets to any equity actor
- You can't start rehearsing with Equity actors until (I think the number is six weeks before a production -- I could be wrong)

They vary between completely understandable and completely impossible to work with. Do any of those restrictions ring true with the Cooperative Agreement?

(p.s. I'm glad I know that "bump out" is Australian for what we call "strike." Learning more and more!)

Sky Arts Management said...

In addition to their Standard Canadian Theatre Agreement used with all PACT Theatres, (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) and the Independent Theatre Agreement for commercial and non-PACT theatres of an accepted size and scale, Canadian Actors Equity has multiple formats available for other smaller indie producers. There is the Small Scale Theatre Addendum, which pays on a per performance basis and which includes a set number of rehearsal hours. Additional hours can be purchased at an escalating hourly rate. Performers have the right of first refusal for a role in the event of a remount. There is also a Festival Policy that is used for Fringe Theatre and some other profit-sharing festivals. A new pilot project, call the Tangerine Project, has been initiated in the last year for new works in development which have a process which intentionally deviates from the standard Equity workday. Finally, there is a Guest Artist policy which allows Equity members to perform in non-Equity productions. Working conditions are addressed, and Equity members are covered by insurance as long as they are under contract.
CAEA posts the terms of all their agreements on-line, so for the nitty gritty details (of which there are many), you can wallow in the specifics here: http://www.caea.com/EquityWeb/Agreements/Default.aspx

CultureFuture said...

Thanks! I'd be interested to hear whether these agreements work for independent producers and for artists who want to work with them, but on the face if it I'm struck by how many different contracts people in my category of theater production could work with.

Haven't had time to go through the specifics, but it looks as though we're often looking for something like the Guest Artist Policy, whereas our Showcase Code (which in NY is the only code that could apply) looks more like the Festival Policy.

Even just looking at the descriptive text of SSTA makes it seem as though CAEA acknowledges the existence of independent theater in a way that AEA doesn't.

Anonymous said...

In 2009, British Equity held an interesting debate over the "profitshare" system in UK fringe theatre:

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/24897/equity-minimum-wage-proposal-will-destroy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2009/jul/03/minimum-wage-fringe-theatre?intcmp=239

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2009/jul/08/fringe-equity-actors-theatre