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Topics - hbelden

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The Hardline / work hours report
« on: Aug 17, 2009, 09:35 pm »
I haven't had to do this before.  My current theatre is telling me that they have to send in a report to AEA on each actor's work hours per week, so I have to tally up the hours and e-mail the totals to the admin asst each week.  Where did this need come from? When did AEA start asking for this, and why is it my job to figure it out?  Shouldn't the theatre track it from the Daily Calls that I send out every day?

It's not really a problem for me to do, I just am resistant to taking on any busywork, and it seems to me that unless we go into overtime, the time I take to do that is time that I could be doing something more useful.

I'm working on a workshop production.  The only performer is also one of the musicians/lyricists creating the show.  I haven't worked with anybody involved with the show before, though they have all worked together. I'm just sort of following the lead they set, not really paying attention to break times, etc.  I'm protecting the PA but otherwise just playing along.

Has anyone else been in this situation?  Anything I should watch out for?


The Hardline / AEA Health Weeks
« on: Jul 14, 2009, 05:59 pm »
What's more important for the union to fight for, having a theatre pay health contributions for fewer contracts, or awarding the theatre more contracts without paying health contributions?

Some individual actors say that they don't get 20 health weeks anyway but want to be onstage if they can.  My response to that statement is that it won't make the health fund any stronger to let theatres avoid contributing. 

Also, why be a union member at all, if that's the case?  If there's no real difference in small-theatre contracts between being an AEA member and not, why would actors getting cast in small theatres choose to join AEA with its initiation fee and yearly dues?

The Hardline / LORT Ratification
« on: Jun 25, 2009, 12:13 pm »
I of course voted "yes" to ratify the new LORT contract.  I've read both the summary of changes that came with my ballot, and the committee's report from the producers as well.  Overall, I'm very happy with the changes - I didn't really expect any wage increase, and I'm pleased that AEA held the line on health costs - but I did run across a couple of unclear rules.

I don't have the summary in front of me, so I can't quote exactly.  Could someone explain the 401(k) contributions with regards to the use of reproductions?  If the producer has to contribute to my 401(k), does that mean that I have to set one up?  Do I have to do a weekly contribution myself in order to maintain one?  Or is it like the health fund - if I don't have one set up, LORT has to put in to the 401(k) anyway and that helps out everyone else who does take part?

And does the 401(k) kick in every time there's a recording of a rehearsal or show?  The wonderful new allowances for use by stage management, choreographers, sign interpreters and the like - if we do those but only those, does the producer still have to contribute?

Separate questions about the practicality of the videotaping - It seems like each recording must be tagged for a separate use - I can't record a rehearsal and use it to clean up my blocking, then send that recording to the dance captain to drill moves, then send the same recording to the lighting designer in lieu of a rehearsal hall run-through, then keep the same recording on hand for the sign language interpreter to review.  The way I read the rule, that's four different recordings that can't be copied and must be destroyed or surrendered to AEA after their use.  Are we going to have three or four cameras going during the first run-through?  Relatedly, is there a reasoning behind whether the recording is destroyed or surrendered in each case?

For the actors - we now must announce the recording of a performance the day before, AND at half-hour.  Does this now mean that we can't post a "hidden" announcement for the benefit of actors who don't want to know which performance is videotaped?  (It's been my practice to post an "If you want to know the date of the videotaping, please lift this flap" signs on the callboard.)

And finally, a confirmation - the first few rules about producer's use of material include specifications about which rehearsals can be recorded and for how long.  I understand all those.  Then, in the section about production use (tapes for SMs, Choreogs, Designers, etc.) it says "there are no time limitations" for those recordings.  So I'm understanding that to mean that recordings for our purposes are unlimited and could be concurrent with production recordings - if I wanted to, I could set up a webcam that recorded all of every rehearsal to a hard drive so I could review any tricky sections of rehearsal after it was over.  Am I mistaken about that?

Thanks for your thoughts.

The Hardline / IATSE house
« on: Dec 16, 2008, 07:53 pm »
The LORT contract allows actors out of character to set or strike things when they enter or exit a scene.  Our director doesn't want to see stagehands onstage.  However, in an IA house, that would be taking a job away from a props crewmember, right?  Not kosher?

The PSM is going to bring this up with the shop steward in a day or two, but I wondered what you all thought.

I went to the SF meeting last night and woke up at 3:00am thinking about it.  My personal thoughts about the meeting are below.  But first I want to say that, like many union members, I have had only the vaguest idea of how our union actually represents us. 

Anyway, there's a ton of resentment, concern, and even rage in SF about the closing of our satellite office, which has been in place since the '70s.  I felt sorry for Ms. Westerfield, who had more than an earful from all the passionate, articulate speeches about the high-handed manner in which this critical decision was communicated to SF membership.  As the face of AEA for the rank-and-file, she probably felt that a lot of this anger was directed at her personally; and from what I heard, it seemed like many members thought the staff of AEA was responsible for the decision.  I hadn't thought about it, but that's probably what I would have guessed.  One actor in particular had a real desire for John Connolly to personally come out and defend the office closing.  Now that I've read the AEA website, I know it's actually our representatives on the council that made this decision, and they're the ones who owe us an explanation, who need to make the case for closing the office in a way that we can support.

A motion was made, seconded, and passed at our membership meeting, calling on the national office to re-open the San Francisco branch, and to respond to our call in a substantive manner.  (I'm paraphrasing there.)  47 ayes, 3 nays, 3 abstentions.  I voted nay, because I think that AEA's current staffing plan has a much better chance of success than the San Francisco office has had in the last ten years.  However, I fully support the call for more transparency and accountability in the council's actions.

I know how to be a member - file my contracts, pay my dues, obey the agreements - but I didn't know in what manner I was represented by the union.  I've dealt with Business Reps in terms of understanding agreements; as many of you know, I'm often misunderstand the sticky stuff.  Somehow, I never understood the difference between AEA staff positions and council positions.  It's like the staff is separating members from councillors.

The council structure of AEA makes the laws, negotiates agreements, and amends our constitution, with advice from the staff positions; the staff structure executes the day-to-day operations of the union, lobbies with our country's government on our behalf, and deals with press and public.  The council positions are elected and volunteer (i.e., un-paid); the staff positions are hired by the council and are paid.  My question is, how much does the council rely on the staff for information and recommendations?  How much power does staff, in a practical manner, wield in terms of governance? 

I've always been pretty blah about voting in AEA elections, because I never know any of the people who are running (except VSM, through these boards) and I didn't understand what their responsibilities were.  The bios and personal statements in EQUITY NEWS have always been missing something - voting records.  We don't have party affiliations (Republican/Democrat), which are really a shorthand for voting records.  Are my councillors representing my interests?  They may very well be; I'm sure they are; but is there any way I can check?  I can't go to the meetings, I'm in San Francisco.  I always thought that SF-BAAC had a handle on that, but they clearly weren't part of the deliberations about closing our office.  So maybe I should know who's representing me and how to contact them and get a response.

One thing this night has taught me is the desperate need for each union member to become educated about our union and to get involved in the workings of the union.  Like I say to many complaining actors, "It's your union--fix it!"  Now that I have found myself in the position of complaining, I'm going to take my own advice; I'll start sitting in on BAAC meetings and I'll look into committee work.

The Hardline / ASMs as understudies
« on: Aug 09, 2008, 12:56 pm »
The LORT rulebook says that in LORT-A theatres, the First Assistant may not act.  Does that also mean that the ASM (if there is only one) may not understudy?

Employment / in between work...
« on: Jul 10, 2008, 09:39 pm »
The '07-'08 season just ended for me, and I've lined up a great '08-'09 season; but it doesn't start for another six weeks.

I have put in for unemployment (naturally) but a six-week gap is longer than I've had before, and I feel like I should try and pick up some work.  However, all of my experience is in not-for-profit theatre, and I don't know how to look for work in other areas.  How do you get work with industrials, conventions, etc.?  I'd do a bar mitzvah at this point...

In the meantime, I plan on writing introduction letters to various LORT theatres, saying please keep me in mind when you begin planning the '09-'10 season.  Do you have other methods of creating work for yourselves?

The Hardline / LORT levels
« on: Apr 13, 2008, 06:52 pm »
There are over ninety theatres that use the LORT contract with Equity.  That list is pretty easy to find. 

Is there a list of the level of LORT that each theatre is?  How many are LORT B, which ones area LORT C, what's the closest LORT D theatre?  Do these levels change often?


The Hardline / Overtime, Student Matinee, and the BAT
« on: Apr 04, 2008, 12:57 am »
Every employer I've ever had before has said "no overtime, ever", so I've never had to pay much attention to the rules before.  I need to talk through the situation to understand what we should be getting for this student matinee. 

I'm working under the BAT contract and we had a student matinee today.  That gives us overtime for three reasons:  It's a ninth performance, the rest period (night before) was only 11.5 hours, not 12.0, and the span of day (today) was 13 hours, not 10.5. 

Here's our situation: Curtain down on Wednesday was 11:08pm.  Half-hour call for the Student Matinee was 10:30am.  Curtain down on Thursday was 11:10pm.

I know that since it's after opening, all overtime is time-and-a-half, not straight-time.  I understand the ninth performance, "shall be paid for at the rate of 3/16ths of weekly contractural salary."  That's perfectly clear.  It also seems like this amount is in addition to whatever overtime we get for the other two violations.

However, the rule about the other two violations is confusing. p. 36, Rule 38.C.2.b - "overtime must be paid if the overnight rest period is invaded, or the span of day is exceeded."  The first confusion is fairly simple - if both of these events occur because of the same call, is OT paid only once, not twice?  Or do we get overtime for 10:30am-11:00am (invading the rest period) plus for 10:30am-1pm (exceeded span of day)?  Actually, now that I look at it, the exceeded span of day is probably 9:00pm-11:30pm in this case, which would mean two separate OT calls?  Anyway, how many hours of overtime do we get?

After reading the Overtime rule five times (50.D.3.b) I finally understood that the OT rate is calculated using the weekly rehearsal hours before opening - no matter at what point in the process OT is incurred.  Even though it's after opening now, they still divide our weekly salary by the allowed workweek hours prior to opening.  Confusing!

But my question is still - in addition to the 3/16ths of weekly salary we get for the ninth performance - is our overtime 0.5 hours, 2.5 hours, or the combination of 3.0 hours?

Talking this through, I think I've answered my own question.  What do you think? 

Is there any reason a stage manager should have to deal with an actor's agent or manager?  

I'm starting to work with relatively famous people occasionally, who obviously don't give out their personal contact information.  I usually get a voice mail number for the actor (I think) and their agent's and manager's numbers; I would always call the voice mail number, right?  The producer/company manager deals with agents and managers, right?

I'm a bit unclear on what it is the agent/manager does for an actor on contract, as opposed to getting them auditions.


The Hardline / Fittings on a Straight-Six day
« on: Dec 31, 2007, 12:18 am »
If we have a straight-six rehearsal block, I can schedule fittings during the six hours but not before the rehearsal starts.  Am I correct in this?

"the six-hour block shall constitute the entire work schedule for the day" - WCLO contract


The Hardline / 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?


I read in the NY Times today that an actor was severely injured in the leg during a matinee of "Lord of the Rings".  I hope that the actor, Adam Salter, will be able to return to the stage.  The producers closed the show for two days and may change the machinery.

Does anyone have more information about the accident, or how it's being addressed?

Has anyone been part of a show where a severe accident like this occurred?

I ask these questions because the news story struck my sympathy; and out of fear that it could happen on one of my shows.  I don't mean to belittle the accident or poke fun at it in any way.

The Hardline / more-than-minimum vs. tech bump
« on: Jan 16, 2007, 10:45 am »
Here's a question I'm happy to have.

Most AEA contracts include an extra 1/6th weekly salary for the stage manager during Tech Week.  So, for an easy-math hypothetical situation, a contract with a minimum salary of $360 a week pays the stage manager ($360 + $60 =) $420 for Tech Week.

What if you've been hired for more than minimum salary?  What if the company is paying you $420 a week already?  Do you still get the additional 1/6th for Tech ($420 + $70 =) $490?  Or is the producer fulfilling their responsibility to AEA by paying you 1/6th more than minimum at $420, and no longer needs to pay a tech week bump?

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