LA actors don't want more than minimum wage.

Their union wants to raise the minimum wage, but they're opposed to it, because this could decrease demand for their services. I'm a free-market person, so I agree with it. But my problem in not paying my actors is that I don't want to take advantage of anyone, and my other concern is that, if they work for free, they may have a claim - known as an equitable claim - on my franchise.

For what it's worth, I've seen the perils of so-called bosses who enjoy their power more than their work. They like giving orders, but they don't want to shell out money, so they find ways to get cheap or free labor. In the long run, that's counterproductive. And this is one of the many reasons why I've been waiting so long, because I don't have the money yet.
 
I'll also add to Mara's comment.

The union is proposing raising the wage for one particular type of agreement.

Currently, Actors Equity has regional agreements around the country with theaters that aren't big enough to support paying the full Equity wage. So Equity negotiates special contracts based on the size of the theaters, etc.

In Los Angeles, for years Equity has had what is called the 99-Seat plan. Under this plan, a venue that has 99 seats or less can sign a contract to use union actors for a limited run production and they only have to pay the actors a small stipend per performance.

This has been acceptable to actors because it lets them perform and gives them a showcase to maybe get reviews, invite agents or managers, etc. It helps the union because it provides a way to keep their membership performing AND in the union. Without these opportunities, eventually many people would probably just simply end up resigning their membership.

However, part of the idea of this plan, and other regional plans, was that some of these companies would eventually grow and therefore move out of the 99 Seat arena and become signatories to a different level of union contract. But what the union has realized is that with tight economics and a continually diminishing theater audience, many companies have stayed at this level for years.

So Equity decided they wanted to boost this pay up a bit, because they felt like some of these companies, which are now pretty established, were taking advantage of this arrangement.

Many companies, when faced with this move have basically said, "Well, we can't afford that and so we'll either fold or we'll just go to hiring non-union actors." This has, understandably preturbed many union actors who like having this outlet. It has been a pretty interesting fight back and forth and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

To put it in film terms people would understand, it would kind of be like SAG suddenly deciding that Ultra Low rates need to go up from $125 a day to $400 a day. Many ultra low producers and many SAG actors might find this troubling.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
An excellent description of what's happening here in Los Angeles,
Art.

I have been involved in several dozen 99-seat Equity production;
from director to producer to crew. Many of the companies owning
and producing in houses of 99 seats are actor driven companies.
They want a showcase in a town that is very “non-theater” (if
that's a word) and they want to practice their craft. Some wonderful
new and innovative shows have been produced under this contract.
Shows that have gone on to larger houses under the full Equity rates.

It isn't (as AM states) actors not wanting more than minimum wage;
it's much more complex than that. There is the very real concern
that eliminating this contract will diminish L.A. Theater and cause
Equity members to either drop out or work outside of the contract.

You are very correct, Art, in that many companies are quite established,
have a healthy number of season subscribers, charge a healthy ticket
price and still pay the very minimum. Some 99 seat theaters in town
pay actors above the minimum, however. Gary Marshall's Falcon and
Tim Robbin's Actors Gang are notable. So it's quite complex. Most
theaters in L.A. barely make ends meet. Plays are produced here out
of the love of theater and most producer lose money as it is.

I'm in the process of putting together a production as I write this. A
wonderful original musical. We'll be using a 99 seat house and are
running the numbers now. We may have to go entirely non-union. I
would LOVE to pay the proposed wages. We'll see...
 
In Los Angeles, for years Equity has had what is called the 99-Seat plan. Under this plan, a venue that has 99 seats or less can sign a contract to use union actors for a limited run production and they only have to pay the actors a small stipend per performance.
Thanks, AH. How much is that small stipend?


This has been acceptable to actors because it lets them perform and gives them a showcase to maybe get reviews, invite agents or managers, etc. It helps the union because it provides a way to keep their membership performing AND in the union. Without these opportunities, eventually many people would probably just simply end up resigning their membership.
Fair enough. But what about grips and other below-the-line people?

Obviously, the more I can cut costs, the more scenes I can do. The purpose of this first-generation shooting is to give me experience. Then I'll reboot, and, if all goes well, do more elaborate productions. The thing is, as I've been saying, I don't want to take advantage of people.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Thanks, AH. How much is that small stipend?
That number is in the article you linked to.
Fair enough. But what about grips and other below-the-line people?

Obviously, the more I can cut costs, the more scenes I can do. The purpose of this first-generation shooting is to give me experience. Then I'll reboot, and, if all goes well, do more elaborate productions. The thing is, as I've been saying, I don't want to take advantage of people.
The contract being discussed is the 99-seat Equity contract. It doesn't
include grips and other below-the-line people. It only affects members
of Actors Equity.

Nothing in the Equity contract affects you when making a movie or
shooting scenes for experience. If you choose to use the SAG-AFTRA
agreement for actors you will need to follow their agreement. They
have an experimental and a low budget agreement. Grips and other
below-the-line people are represented by IATSE and this change in the
Equity 99 seat contract doesn't effect them or an aspiring mogul.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
As I was writing I got a call from my producing partner who was leaving the
vote.

I have mixed feelings about this. Glad to pay actors. Worried about small
theaters going under. A little sad that choice has been taken away. Equity
members will not longer have the option to act in small productions.

We will be producing our show before June of 2016. But I'd still like to pay
$9/hr. Lot's of work to do...
 
That number is in the article you linked to.
Thanks, Rik. From that article,

The $9 minimum would apply to rehearsals as well as performances. It would replace a system that pays $7 to $15 for each performance, depending on the ticket price and seating capacity, and nothing for rehearsals that can consume scores of hours.
So is the current stipend a flat $7-15 total? Or $7-15 per hour when they are performing in front of the audience? And why would they be paid something here, but nothing when they're on film? Is it because film has the potential of going viral and giving them instant fame and fortune?




The contract being discussed is the 99-seat Equity contract. It doesn't
include grips and other below-the-line people. It only affects members
of Actors Equity.

Nothing in the Equity contract affects you when making a movie or
shooting scenes for experience. If you choose to use the SAG-AFTRA
agreement for actors you will need to follow their agreement. They
have an experimental and a low budget agreement. Grips and other
below-the-line people are represented by IATSE and this change in the
Equity 99 seat contract doesn't effect them or an aspiring mogul.
So how much would I pay those below the line?
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
So is the current stipend a flat $7-15 total? Or $7-15 per hour when they are performing in front of the audience? And why would they be paid something here, but nothing when they're on film? Is it because film has the potential of going viral and giving them instant fame and fortune?
The stipend is per performance "It would replace a system that pays $7
to $15 for each performance" as it says in the article AND the
sentence you quoted. "for each performance" is not "per hour" nor
is it a flat total.

Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA are two different unions representing
different actors going different jobs. If an aspiring mogul were to
produce a stage play that mogul could enter an agreement with
AEA, the union that represents live theatrical performers. An
aspiring mogul making a movie could enter into an agreement
with SAG-AFTRA the union that represents film and television actors.
An aspiring mogul could shoot scenes for experience using actors
not represented by any union or guild and pay them any wage or
stipend that is agreed upon.

This change in the AEA 99 seat contract applies ONLY to the 99 seat
contract in Los Angeles as it pertains to members of Actors Equity
Association signatories. This contract has no effect at all on web series
or TV or movies or even scenes an aspiring mogul wants to shoot for
experience. This contract ONLY pertains to theaters in Los Angeles that
have 99 seats or less and are using actors who are members of AEA.
 
But my problem in not paying my actors is that I don't want to take advantage of anyone, and my other concern is that, if they work for free, they may have a claim - known as an equitable claim - on my franchise.
In the US, how do I have equitable claim against you, for services offered as "work for hire" for say $1, paid in full?

It's a different system in Canada, but as far as I remember, "work for hire" solves all claim issues in the US.
 
Both US and Canada use the English common-law system, except for Quebec and Louisiana. The issue of equitable claim is not easy to explain, especially in the abstract, but suffice to say, that is a possibility.
 
Both US and Canada use the English common-law system, except for Quebec and Louisiana. The issue of equitable claim is not easy to explain, especially in the abstract, but suffice to say, that is a possibility.
I'm not a lawyer, and you are, so I'm sure you're right :). All I remember is that when I made a film in the US, I took out contracts from a book I had bought. In Canada, for the film I just made, I hired a lawyer, who gave me a set of contracts that was only different very slightly, in the work made for hire area, because the concept of "work made for hire" does not exist in Canadian law (per websites I've read).

But it's definitely interesting. Even after payments are made, people might still have rights to the product? I just hope it's not injunctive rights.
Cheers.
 
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