Author Topic: violation  (Read 5353 times)

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hbelden

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violation
« on: Aug 21, 2007, 11:55 am »
Some advice, please... (please, I'm trying to keep this situation as anonymous as possible until I decide what to do)

I just finished a show with a non-profit company that I have a long history with and a very solid, positive, trusting relationship.  This was a very popular show, and I had a great time doing it.  Now, however, I'm in a dilemma. 

The final week of the run, the theatre was getting a lot of feedback that this production should try for a commercial run.  They got some potential backers in to see the show the final weekend, and those people were fairly excited about the project.  The two AEA actors are interested in the prospects, as am I. 

When we got to the final performance, the artistic director of the theatre said that they were doing an "archive" video of the performance to show to more investors.  We Equity members were leery, but we also wanted to support the chance for a commercial run, so the deputy basically said, "I don't know anything about it."

I wasn't going to stop them from doing it, because the deputy gave his tacit permission. However, I was even more disturbed when I saw during the run that it wasn't a fixed-camera one-shot recording, but there were multiple cameras moving around.  My conscience has been bothering me ever since.

I don't want to be the person that puts a heavy fine on this company, that I feel a strong part of.  I also don't want to hurt the chances of the production getting a second life.  But I need to do my duty as the union stage manager, and make sure we have union protection for how the video is used.

What do I do?  Would AEA give a post-facto approval of the videotape?  Should I anonymously tip off AEA, as if I were an audience member at that performance?  Should I have a private conversation with the theatre company about how uncomfortable I am with the situation?

Thanks,
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Heath Belden

"I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right." - Sondheim
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Mac Calder

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Re: violation
« Reply #1 on: Aug 21, 2007, 04:27 pm »
If anything, I would be more worried about license violations on the script than AEA. Even if it was a fist run production, with a new script, all filming has to be agreed to by the copywrite holder.

That said, talk to the cast and crew - if ALL (not just the union members) are okay with the recording being done as it was, then I would turn a blind eye. If there were some worries about the method or how it is going to be used, then talk to the artistic director to make sure that these worries are known, and to gain some assurance. It's a rock/hard place sort of situation. No one wants to 'blow the whistle', as it may destroy opportunities for other collegues, so any action you do take should be taken with support from your cast and crew.

stagegal1

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Re: violation
« Reply #2 on: Aug 21, 2007, 10:25 pm »
I have seen this happen before.  And when the producers were able to get backers, the AEA members did NOT get offered the jobs.  I think you should call your union rep.  There were 3 union members, ask your rep to keep you anonymous.  The producers will never know which one of you it was.

They will not grant permission, by the way.  The only "free" videotaping ever allowed is archival, which is never allowed to leave the theatre. 

I don't believe a producer who would do this is very trustworthy.  If they want to get investors, they can always arrange, through AEA, backer's auditions.

Always follow your gut!

DeeCap

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Re: violation
« Reply #3 on: Aug 22, 2007, 01:27 pm »
It's a sticky situation that you're in. I was in a similar situation. Two days before the production closed, the producer comes to me and the actors saying that he was going to tape it for "backers". I expressed my disapproval for it, but the deputy and the other actors wanted it done, so it was done.

Do you plan on working with the theatre again? If so, maybe say that you were uncomfortable with the whole taping situation, and then leave it at that. There isn't much you can do about it now. Rest assured that this happens a lot, and that the deputy was okay with it as well. How were you to know that it was going to be multiple cameras?

I hope that it does have a future, and that you are included in it.

Scott

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Re: violation
« Reply #4 on: Aug 22, 2007, 04:39 pm »
It's a sticky situation that you're in. I was in a similar situation. Two days before the production closed, the producer comes to me and the actors saying that he was going to tape it for "backers". I expressed my disapproval for it, but the deputy and the other actors wanted it done, so it was done.

Just because the deputy gives it a nod doesn't make it legal!

Taping for backers is not cool -- it is a huge problem for our unions and our membership.  I have had a union rep seize media that were being taped by producers illegally (said producers trying to do it around my back since they knew I didn't approve) and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Solidarity is far more important than any one employer!

« Last Edit: Aug 22, 2007, 06:18 pm by Scott »

VSM

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Re: violation
« Reply #5 on: Aug 23, 2007, 01:31 am »
Heath ~

I, too, recommend calling the Business Rep.
We do far more damage by turning a blind eye.
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DeeCap

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Re: violation
« Reply #6 on: Aug 23, 2007, 03:08 pm »
It's a sticky situation that you're in. I was in a similar situation. Two days before the production closed, the producer comes to me and the actors saying that he was going to tape it for "backers". I expressed my disapproval for it, but the deputy and the other actors wanted it done, so it was done.

Just because the deputy gives it a nod doesn't make it legal!

Taping for backers is not cool -- it is a huge problem for our unions and our membership.  I have had a union rep seize media that were being taped by producers illegally (said producers trying to do it around my back since they knew I didn't approve) and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Solidarity is far more important than any one employer!


I agree.
However, sometimes it's really hard to do what's right when you have bills to pay, health weeks to obtain, possibilty for the production to move forward, etc.
I didn't feel the solidarity, I felt alone. 
It is my hopes that SM's read this thread and understand that they ARE NOT alone if they are ever in this situation.

sievep

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Re: violation
« Reply #7 on: Aug 24, 2007, 01:41 am »
I don't think this is as clear cut as some posters make this out to be.  I've tipped off Equity before about violations and the Business Rep flat out told my employer it was me, and I lost my job.  It's not a great situation to be in.  As much as I'd love to believe Equity always has the best interests of it's members in mind, it is in Equity's best interest to have as many theaters open, hiring union members, as can possibly be, because they are collecting your membership fees and dues.

Unless you have clear cut proof (i.e. the taped performance in your hand), I wouldn't say anything.  Your employer can always deny they taped the performance, your name can get leaked (or assumptions can be made), and then you are screwed . . .and unless Equity has proof, they aren't going to do anything.  That was my experience.  I wish our unions were stronger and truly held management responsible, but the Business Reps at Equity are overworked and underpaid (especially the developing theaters Reps, which sounds like the ones you'd be dealing with).
"This lovely light, it lights not me" - Orson Welles

loebtmc

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Re: violation
« Reply #8 on: Aug 25, 2007, 11:03 pm »
I don't know where you are, but I have never had an AEA rep use my name any time I have reported violations or even just had questions. And unfortunately, I have dealt with this kind of situation - taping abuse - with some frequency. In a couple of cases, I have informed the rep knowing that there was nothing anyone could do other than, after the fact, producer (or cast) education or as leverage w a concession request. However, I question sievep's response. On more than one occasion, AEA has gone to the wall for me and my shows. It is important to bear in mind that we, the members, are AEA - not only does our union does have our collective best interests at heart, the staff is charged to do what we ask of them. In fact, taping is a huge issue generating a lot of discussion that is widely different between NYC and the rest of the country. So bringing this situation and your concerns to your reps' attention allows more input into what we hope will be a more united outcome. (Please don't read anything into this; I am trying to be very careful not to share my personal views and have heard valid arguments on both sides.)

YES talk to your business rep, and do ask to remain anonymous (or, ask about a "hypothetical" situation). Your producer needs to understand the ramifications of his actions, and the actors need to know their rights. After all, there is a reason taping requests requires a unanimous and anonymous ballot. Cuz if any ONE person says "no" that's the answer and the producer MUST honor that. 




sievep

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Re: violation
« Reply #9 on: Aug 26, 2007, 12:56 am »
loebtmc - no offense taken . . .I was just relating my story, which admittedly is based on one incident. 

However, I don't believe that the staff of Equity, or Equity as an entity, is charged with doing whatever it's members request.  I do say that as a respectful disagreement to a very common view. 

On an organizational level, I think it's interesting to note that the Business Reps are unionized separately from Equity (I know this because I interviewed and was offered a Business Rep position).  If the Business Reps need their own union to protect them from AEA, I have to question the organization as a whole.  It's all we've got, and I fully admit that without AEA we, as artists, would be trampled on and there would be no safety guidelines, healthcare (and so on), but I do think that AEA is seriously flawed.  At the end of the day, who is actually watching out for YOU?  My mistrust of AEA, in spite of my support in the lack of something better, leads me to to believe that I am the only person truly watching out for my own best interests, and if I were presented with the situation hbelden writes about, my own experience would cause me to ask myself if I was willing to possibly ruin any chance of a future with that company in order to report a tape which may or may not be improperly used.  If they were selling it as a DVD in the lobby, then I'd have a problem with it.  If they are preserving the production for future remount, or even to gain possible future financial backing for that particular remount, I personally would not put my relationship with the producer on the line for that.  If it was a safety issue, an issue where the producer was under reporting actors salaries to the union (some producers do this to save on pension and welfare fees), or a producer was not following hourly overtime payment guidelines, breaks, etc, I would absolutely report it.  In this case of intellectual property, I personally would not, especially if I had a good relationship with the producer and expected future employment.
"This lovely light, it lights not me" - Orson Welles

Scott

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Re: violation
« Reply #10 on: Aug 27, 2007, 11:28 pm »
Sieve,

I am also curious as to your location.

Also, are you currently Equity and were you when the incident that has caused you to mistrust Equity occured?  Or conversely, have you since resigned your membership or are you still afilliated?

malewen

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Re: violation
« Reply #11 on: Sep 12, 2007, 01:06 am »
I have to reply to a couple of items in sievep's post.  The reason that the Equity staff is represented by another union is simple - in the USA Equity represents actors and stage managers engaged to work on live theatrical presentations.  We do not represent office workers, which is the kind of work that most of the staff does.  There are several unions that specifically represent office workers (at the Chicago office the staff is part of SEIU but I'm not sure about the other offices).  Through organizations like the AFL-CIO unions try to work cooperatively with each other and not encroach on each others jurisdictions.  In fact Equity might get in trouble at the AFL-CIO if we got into the business of moving into covering office staff.  You might be interested to know that there is an upper level of Equity staff who are not members of the staff union - they are considered management.  Further, the Equity staff mission to to carry out the policy of the union and the rules its' contracts as approved by the Council (the voting members of Council are all Equity members).  Admittedly, the staff isn't always able to 'watch out' for everybody all across the country all the time.  sievep is correct that every individual needs to watch out for their own interests.  I am sorry that the business rep's actions cost sievep his job - that shouldn't happen.  It is easy to see why he mistrusts the union but I would say that the staff (and Council) does care and they work hard to serve the interests of the membership. 

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