Author Topic: AEA or IA?  (Read 6987 times)

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scoot

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AEA or IA?
« on: Apr 07, 2005, 11:39 am »
This topic comes up once or twice a year amongst colleagues of mine:

Are SMs better off in AEA or would we be better served in IA?  Discuss.

(I know IA has it's own issues with having "management" in our union, but I also know there have been overtures on the micro level in the past)....

Just wondering what people think.

centaura

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curious
« Reply #1 on: Apr 07, 2005, 03:35 pm »
I'm not union, but I've always been told that SMs are in Equity 'cause they're representing the actors, and dealing as a liason with Eq for the actors.  How would that change if SMs were IA?

I'd be curious as to what it would do for finding jobs.  Are there a lot of cases where a house has one union, but not the other?  Would it be okay for a house to have Eq actors, but a non-union stage manager? (hypothetically, if SMs were IA and the house in question was non-IA)

Has there ever been serious interest in moving them from one to the other, or is it a hypothetical question that just pops up every once in a while?

-Centaura

SM_Art

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more than that...
« Reply #2 on: Apr 07, 2005, 04:25 pm »
If you're in a 'union house' and you have to call a stagehand to move things, would that improve if SMs were IA?

Yes, there are houses with AEA actors and non IA crews... and houses with IA crews and non AEA shows.  there are probably plusses and minuses to both sides of the argument, but in my opinion there is more crossover between actors and SMs than between crew and SMs, and we're fine where we are... especially if the big acting unions ever get their acts together and merge into one (as British Equity covers stage, tv and film) for then we'd have much more clout as a union.

We're about the production, and you can have a production without stage settings and lights... but not without performers.

VSM

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« Reply #3 on: Apr 08, 2005, 12:48 pm »
I think Stage Managers are better served as members of Actors Equity.
The SM and the Actors are there for a single purpose - to put on the very best show that they can. The relationship that a Stage Manager can build with his/her cast from day-one of rehearsals is invaluable and will reap rewards in the end that I'm not sure would be available were we members of IA ( we might simply be called into the process during tech...)

Actors Equity is made up of it's members, Actors and Stage Managers alike. The Union is run very strongly by the Committee process and every member, Actor and Stage Manager alike, is welcome and encouraged to join a committee and make a real difference. This ensures that one faction of the membership is not treated better or worse than another. Granted, there are always more Actors in a production than Stage Managers so the greater number of members affected are indeed Actors. This is a consequence and not an intended action (also not the case in every instance).

I urge every Union member to join a committee and make a difference.
A very real, personal difference. Without the hands-on knowledge of the actual working environment, AEA cannot know what it is like out in the field. They rely on every one of us, to speak up and let our voice be heard.
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centaura

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would they have more clout?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 09, 2005, 10:09 am »
Quote
especially if the big acting unions ever get their acts together and merge into one (as British Equity covers stage, tv and film) for then we'd have much more clout as a union.


Would there be more clout?  When I lived in England, I was told by the locals that British Eq was a very weak organization.  I wonder now if that was simply the opinions of those I talked to, a cultural thing (americans are much more interested in changing things on a regular basis than the british seemed) or maybe from thier combination?  I never worked with anything that was related to British Eq, so I don't have any first hand comparrison.

In my opinion, I think I agree with sms staying in equity.  I sudder to think what might change if we went into IA.  One person mentioned not being brought into the production until the last minute, which I could see a producer doing to save money.  The current theatre I work for doesn't understand what stage managers do, and they do that.  On the mainstage they bring them in right before tech, like they were just a crew person, and then wonder why their shows are never very organized.

-Centaura

isha

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AEA or IA?
« Reply #5 on: Apr 09, 2005, 06:55 pm »
^ EEK! Just before Tech!!!! are you serious!!!! that's horrid!
That doesn't even..ahhh...thats horrible/awful/nasty.....
I can see now why unions are important..they stop producers from doing that to us. Are any of you guys NOT in a union?
~isha

loebtmc

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« Reply #6 on: Apr 10, 2005, 06:46 pm »
isha - that happens with some frequency in local 99-seat code theater - producers bring in the SM a little before tech week and we cram the show from there....

Back to the topic - Granted, I've worked w a handful of old-time actors who disagree, but along with the majority of my casts, I believe we  belong in AEA. And not just because of the rare and decreasing role of ASM-u/s. This gets reinforced every time I work w a SM who comes from the production side or struggle to get things done with an IA crew.

I laugh every time I remember my first experience with professional NY stage managers, whose T-shirts after opening read "God", "Asst to God" etc. But it's the truth - we have so much responsiblity. We all know that part of our job is to protect the show and the actors, to keep an eye on the safe and sanitary, and to keep the peace. We are the pin not just between the artistic and technical components, nor just between actors and the producers. If we were with IA, given the time requirements and the overtime they take for granted, we would never get our work done - or be owed even more OT than we are now. The flexibility we take for granted in AEA doesn't exist. And it seems obvious to me that because producers have the money, the power and the ability to hire and fire, if we were on their team there would be no safeguards or safeties for the rest. As SMs, we need to be able to deal with the reality of the each situation, cast and show. We need to be able to walk down the middle, to find the creative, fair and impartial options, to see past the issues of money and temperament.

Perhaps the fit with AEA isn't perfect - but it is much better than with IA or producers.  It's what makes us one team, all equals working together for a common goal - which is very different than in TV or film where every group is their own separate camp and rarely considered equal partners. I love that we are all on the same side as our actors -  jointly aiming for the best possible result while dealing humanely and humanistically with each other as fellow artists.

For those who don't know we are part of AEA, I delight in waking them up. And, BTW, my union - at least in the western region - greatly respects our input as SMs and makes sure we weigh in wherever possible, even issues that are not SM-specific. Committees ARE valuable, things DO get done - and our opinions are greatly valued because we look at the whole rather than the pieces. I personally have seen things I've suggested go into the rule books, become part of our union's mode of operation or be considered in a given producer's current and future contracts.  Each of us makes a difference just by getting involved. After years of complaints and thinking nothing of blaming AEA for things, I got involved in my union when I was both deputy for and ASMing a high-maintenance-star's project, and I learned how much difference each one of us can make by sharing our experience and suggesting solutions. Really. Join a committee and find out!

isha

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« Reply #7 on: Apr 11, 2005, 12:09 am »
Quote from: "loebtmc"
isha - that happens with some frequency in local 99-seat code theater - producers bring in the SM a little before tech week and we cram the show from there....

sorry, I know it's off topic..but what do you mean by that? whats a 99-seat code theatre? is that non-equity theatre? And I'm assuming you are talking about LA.
..Somehow it seems like ^that (a little bit before tech) would be against some rules somewhere....
~isha

loebtmc

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« Reply #8 on: Apr 11, 2005, 01:52 pm »
isha - yes, in LA we have a subgroup of theaters that are 99-seat or smaller (or are only allowed to sell up to 99-seats when larger). A Code has been developed to allow producers to use union perfomers and stage managers without a contract for many reasons, including because the venue is too small to realize a profit. It has a mixed rep, as many actors who want to be seen by TV/Film casting directors work in this world (which is nicknamed 99-cent theater), but I also have worked shows that wouldn't be done under other circumstances - such as large casts, originals going through growing pains, experimental/abstract theater - and "other" categories such as sign language productions. The SMs often end up doing much more and without an assistant, often running at least one of the boards, shopping for props, etc - but the actors and directors appreciate a good SM. On the flip, rehearsals go on for weeks, far past expectation, and there aren't as many safeguards and protections in place. So I ask for more money. But it can be rewarding, fun and lead to good things - reallyl.

smejs

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« Reply #9 on: Apr 11, 2005, 01:54 pm »
I haven't responded yet on this topic, because I'm not really sure how I feel.  I joined Equity to protect me from certain things I had to do as an intern, etc....but there are times when the union does feel so weak, especially in regards to stage managers.  I have tried to take an active role  - I'm currently on a liaison committee to Equity (but am one of the most active in the committee and still feel we do nothing...and I haven't lived here all that long and feel I can't immerse myself in the community to know enough to help, but I try by being the best secretary for it I can!).  I also try to be quite involved in SMA, providing Operation Observations when I can, trying to network with others if they come through town, and trying to talk to a lot of stage managers, both more and less experienced than myself.  And yes, I do fill out those "do you have any suggestions" forms that Equity provides.  

One of my biggest complaints with Equity right now, as far as rules, regards the use of assistants.  I was amazed to find out that it is a requirement in the SPT contract to have an assistant...but for LORT C, even with a cast of 35 on a fairly complex show, if it's not musical, I'm not required to have an assistant.  And that's just insane.  I managed at that point to have convinced my boss of the usefulness, but now she and I both are no longer at that theatre.  SPTs often can't do very big shows, either cast or scenic, and yet they've figured out the needs of an assistant (granted, this person often is your entire run crew as well, but at least they've been there for rehearsals too).  

Perhaps if enough of us keep putting in stage management concerns and getting our thoughts out there, something may come to our advantage in Equity, but it certainly feels to me like we're small fish in a very big pond.  But don't know that IA or our own union would be of any help...we're probably in the best situation under the circumstances.  And with the state of health insurance these days, even Equity admits that's their main concern with negotiations (I'm thinking Production and LORT recent talks) and try not to put any many other demands on producers besides that for now.

Hopefully we'll see a rise in theatre again after this current slump.  Try to stay active and be heard, I agree.  We'll all get through this.

Erin

loebtmc

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« Reply #10 on: Apr 11, 2005, 01:59 pm »
FWIW, I know we fight for assistants - whether ASMs or PAs assigned to the SM - at every turn. It's the producers we have to convince - because AEA members already know -

loebtmc

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« Reply #11 on: Apr 14, 2005, 02:32 pm »
scoot - First off, were we IA, I have no doubt that coming in at or just before tech would be regular practice. That's when the regular IA crew comes on - tech. The produceres can't afford them sooner. The only other viable option for SMs is to be hired out independently, unattached to a union and its protections (like our LDs, SDs etc), and flat fee'd for the run of a show. And again, here, I don't see them bringing in an SM sooner than absolutely necessary due to cost.  WE know the difference when a good SM is part of the rehearsal process, but so many producers don't.

In terms of the value of being members of IA, I also completely disagree. I have been in and out of IA houses on tour and work with a semi-regular crew for a monthly event here in LA - and the experience is so varied from house to house it's scary. When I walk into an IA house, I am stuck w who is assigned - that person isn't there for the artistry, the show or to think (let alone critical and independent thinking). That person is there for the paycheck. Period. Sometimes that person is good and knows what they're doing, and sometimes they aren't. But there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.

Mind you, I have the occasional lovely and wonderful crew, and have a couple of IA folks I treasure (including two on my regular crew here), but I have also had troubles. I have had to deal w IA crew members on drugs, not taking vital initiative in potentially dangerous situations, not knowing how to set and clear props, walking under moving flies etc. In one case, the SR Carp didn't want to be there and managed (on the 5th nite) to get himself hit in the head w an incoming pipe. Were we able to trade him before this for someone who knew what he was doing? No. Did IA have an arrangement to cover while he sat with an ice pack on his head or when he left to go home? No. I did his shifts. Because it had to be done, and there was no one else to do it, and my union allows me to do what I have to so the show can go on. I've seen bored IA crew members pull pranks and that disrupted performers on stage let alone SMs backstage. DId I have recourse? No. On one tour, the crews hated the PSM; he was calling from the deck, and in three of the houses the carps managed to run over his feet with every wagon shift. (FWIW when I called the show, no toes were endangered.) I had a local sound crew, someone I otherwise respect, get pissed because of one (granted stupid) woman's attitude and simply "forget" to set up her stuff correctly so her performance was sabotaged.  We don't/won't do that.

Not counting that using IA costs more ot the producers.

As an SM, I consider myself part of the artistic team, being what someone once said is called "the fifth actor." What I/we do takes skill, training, and artistry. I need to know how to breathe with my actors to call cues, to direct (both keeping the show in line and training the u/s), how to tell my various teams what problems to fix and be able to talk someone thru them on the fly if we are mid-show when a personnel or costume or light or set emergency comes up (or at least know how to talk someone thru options). The show must go on. That isn't possible w IA.

Yes there are things to be fixed. That's why I got active in AEA - to take responsiblity for and control over my career. But I also know from experience that my union supports and protects me, and I can instigate change as needed by speaking up. Again, this isn't so in IA. There is too much more to change in IA than in AEA to have it be a good fit.

VSM

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Re: for us or against us...
« Reply #12 on: Apr 15, 2005, 02:22 pm »
Quote from: "scoot"
I'd much rather see our own union be a more powerful one before we jump ship.
I agree completely. And WE ARE THE UNION. Every member can take a very active role and make a difference.

There are many of us that do just that and I welcome and encourage all members to take a more active stance and let your voice and opinion be heard!
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nook

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« Reply #13 on: Apr 15, 2005, 03:01 pm »
so, as someone that is sort of on the verge or breaking into the workforce, I was wondering what the general concensus was on a couple of AEA related issues.  I have been a part of a union before in my first job.  It was actually a requirement to be hired to sign up for the union that was an in house type thing.  I'm all for a unionized workforce and understand the benifits of collective bargaining and fully support it.  What troubles me, was that in the union I was in, I could quit my job and get rehired even if I stopped paying my dues and it was something encouraged at the beginning, not discouraged.

The initial step of joining AEA seems like a big one, and it's seems like it's almost a bad thing to do initially.  This sort of strikes me as odd, due to the fact that the more people we have, the more power we have.  I'm not fully versed in AEA lore or history (I'd like to be so if someone has a good primer please point me to it), but I can't get over the fact that I'm going to probably try to hold off joining the union until I absolutely have to to start making a living.  It seems contrary to my personal gain to join right now.  I don't know how to address that issue structurally, but I think it needs attention.

I've heard stories of recent graduates of college being offered AEA contracts by producers in the "poof you're Equity" manner, just so they wouldn't work again because they pissed off the producer.  That's scary, not comforting.  I'm not lambasting the union in any way, and when I eventually join, I hope to have these discussions and become active in finding solutions, but the point still seems valid to me that it's against the interest of the union to keep it's membership as low as possible by discouraging potentially qualified applicants by having them price themselves out.

Within LORT contracts, it seems to me that something could be worked out where a union house pays a certain scale and that house is not allowed to operate without hiring X number of union members, yet members could still work X amount of time outside of union work without penalty.  Or have penalties built into membership (rise in dues, etc. for outside work), but have that be something that allows people to work outside if they wish.  The penalty could even be high enough to make it economically unsound for that work to be done, but if the SM or actor chooses, they can do it without punishment of being kicked out for life.

I'm sure there are plenty of issues with what I've said, and I'll admit that it's not thought through entirely, but those are discussions are probably something important.  And discussions that should be taking place if they aren't.  Or at least something that AEA or IA will be forced to reconcile soon, especially if we continue to have the number of opportunities even within LORT and other contracts diminish due to economic closures, etc.  The current political climate isn't union friendly, and the unions we have must respond to that in order to stay lively.

Those are my incoherent ramblings for this week/month.  Hope people can see my point and respond to it...

jon

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all good points...
« Reply #14 on: Apr 15, 2005, 05:38 pm »
Let's face it, the points raised are all valid, and the answer is pretty obvious... we just catagorically don't fit anywhere.  We're not actors (for the moment, I'm not addressing those who do many things, but referring to us as Stage Managers) or stagehands, so neither union fits us perfectly.  I think the actors, for the most part, understand what we do much better than the stagehands, and so for that reason I believe we're fine where we are.
The producers are the ones we must negotiate with as far as the hiring numbers go, and they know, as do we, that no union, be it stagehands or actors, would go on strike for such a small percentage of their membership being unhappy, so they tend to try to throw out the ASM whenever cutting costs.  Would it be different in IA?  I think not.  We do the best we can, and we keep trying to educate our own members how we serve them, and how it's to their advantage to have us on board.  Eventually, we'll get the ASM requirement in all contracts....

Do we truly want to face being in a separate union?  Without the numbers of actors in AEA, would we have clout at all?  No.  We need them, too....  And SMA, to get back to an early comment in this forum, was not started as a means to get out of AEA or to form a new union, but for SM's to have a chnace to get together and talk about issues amongst themselves, and finding out that many had similar concerns, similar problems to surmount, etc. gave birth to the new association.  I wasn't at those first meetings, so I don't know if all present were also in AEA, but I do know that the intent was not to form a new union at all, but to diescuss common issues.  Indeed, it was from SMA meetings that the idea of SM seats on council grew, and that strengthens our union and our visibility within.

Art

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