Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Manifesto for Theatre

The wheels are turning, slowly but surely. A BECTU member has recently taken their "employers" to court for flouting NMW guidelines and won.
Equity are starting to make the right noises too. See and look at the ideas that have come from talking to members.
Talking about these issues, whatever you think of them is the only way we're going to get progress for everyone.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Still fighting

Sorry it's been a little while since the last post.
Rest assured that there are lots of people still working hard for change.
I've become a committee member on the Equity Midlands Area Committee and will use my influence to lobby on this issue whenever I get a chance. (Thanks to those that voted me in on the strength of this issue and what I intend to do about it).
I know a lot more people who are thinking twice about working for nothing which is great. Education is the key. Raise this issue whenever you can- in the pub, at rehearsals...
To those that think that I am trying to curtail their personal freedom, then I say, feel free to do what you like. If it's your belief that you should be able to work for nothing and to hell with other people- just rememeber that whatever you do in life has repercussions on everyone else. Think hard about how that portrays you as a person and professional and whether that's who you really want to be.
Me? I'm leading by example. And that doesn't just mean not taking unpaid jobs. I've set up a not-for-profit film initiative that has, at it's core, an ethic that all participants are paid for their time.
As an experiment, we've already shot one short film and are proud to say that everyone has been paid at least (and sometimes more) than NMW. We're busy raising funds and you'll all know about it in due course. Hopefully some of you will work for me in the future! (though I've got first refusal on the 30-something female roles!)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Another letter, perhaps?

Hi all,

If you're mad about this article too them e-mail The Stage at:

Ask them if they are going to do a similar article from the actors' point of view. It is a paper that champions the actor, is not? The same paper that doesn't go out to review any show now that has a run of three weeks or less?

I don't want to close down all fringe venues overnight. It won't happen. Creativity springs from these places. Sometimes the braver choices don't get the funding. There wouldn't be time to go after every group that wants to break out and do something different and that's a good thing.
What I don't want to see if the Fringe Theatre brand de-valued by producers jumping in with no budget, no plan and no direction.
The venue must be paid. Do you see any theatre manangers saying "oh go on then, it's such a groundbreaking piece- you can have the venue for free".
Being creative is our JOB. We shouldn't be afraid of that. What we don't want is to go back to a time when only the rich could afford to be in this profession.
E-mail them now!


Whilst you're still fuming!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Whose side is The Stage really on?

The Stage this week printed this:

They are scaremongering just to get a headline. Equity plan to go after the funded companies.

The NMW guidlelines are a vital lifeline to bring back the "jobbing actor" in this country. The Stage are trying to suggest that you will get "seen" in a Fringe show. We all know it doesn't happen. Actors have been propping up the finances for producers who are simply failing at their jobs.

To the fringe venues- if you're funded- we're on your case. If you're unfunded and worry that Fringe as we know it will cease- stop asking actors to bankrole your productions. Take the time to get funding and churn out less quantity and more quality.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Equity are moving things forward...

The ARC at Blackpool was a great success, by all accounts. The motion forwarded by Tracey Briggs and seconded by myself at the Midlands Branch was passed unanimously. Read an extract printed by The Stage:

Change is coming folks...
Just keep up the pressure on those that seek to exploit us.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

New laws and new powers for the actor

New legislation is now in place which will impose a fine of up to £5000 on any employer not paying the National Minimum Wage.
This applies to actors to, don't forget. We are classed as "workers" when we take on an engagement, as we still pay National Insurance Contributions. Just because we are self-employed doesn't mean that we waive all rights.
This can be backdated, so anyone that feels agrieved at a precious engagement they have done in the last three months can go here:

And those of us who see any job posted on a casting website that flouts the National Minimum Wage can go here:

We need to inundate HMRC with the many, many examples of non-paid work that we see every day. We all know the type: "An opportunity to work with a professional crew" which really means "The crew get paid, you don't".

Of course, there are some companies out there that are purely collaborative and are not paying anyone because they have no funding. I would exercise disgression if you think that this is the case. In most cases, I feel that those type of projects don't advertise for cast anyway as they are normally shows or films put together by a group of people that already know eachother. If you put yourself up for this type of project be very sure that they are being fully honest with you as regards to being a true "no budget" production.

At least you have some form of attack now if you find out later that they have been less than honest with you!

If you have any queries on what rates you should be paid, contact Equity.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Tim's the man

Calling all Equity members:
Tim Gale at Equity is the person to contact if you have a question about employment law affecting actors. He will take on any company or Film School reported to him and fight your corner.

He has had many successes from companies that claim not to have a budget for actors. This budget miraculously appears once he applies some pressure!

You CAN make a stand. The balance is slowly tipping in our favour. But at the moment, the government is rather slow at taking this issue seriously.

Here's something that you can do right now to get things moving:

If you see a job advertised that isn't paying either the National Minimum Wage or the correct Equity rate, then report it to Tim. This applies to TV, Film and Theatre.
Tim needs as many reports of National Wage Law abuse as possible to build up a case to take to the HMRC to get them to look at this in more detail. They need to see how bad this is and a whole stack of examples will do the case huge favours. If Equity can get the weight of government behind them then they will be impossible to ignore.

Lastly, if you have been ripped off recently by a company and you feel that you want to take it further, Tim would be happy to advise you on taking them to an Employment tribunal. Not many people are taking this route at the moment and Tim would like to see more.

Know your rights and make some noise!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Know your worth

Every Equity member should know the industry rates:

And when it comes to low budget film or student films remember that it is illegal to work for less than the National Minimum wage.
Contact Equity if you are unclear on what your rights are or if you believe that a company or institution is employing you illegally.

If you see a job advertised anywhere that is flouting these laws then report it to Equity. Write to the company in question if you wish. Let them know that you are intending to report them and why. If enough of us do that, then they will soon get the message!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Mission Statement

The followers of this site would like to bring to the attention of the industry in general the fact that ever more of us are refusing to be exploited and work for nothing / expenses on projects that have designated budgets. These actors will possibly not work this year because of it, despite being highly trained and/or experienced.

The old excuse that 'experience' is a substitute for payment - will no longer wash. It is illegal to expect an individual to work for nothing.

We want to put a stop to certain companies, mainly in the fields of film and television, putting the actor at the bottom of the food chain and creating an image of the actor that is desperate, unskilled and ten-a-penny. This is damaging to every actor, whatever their skill or experience and putting up a brick wall between other employers and the newer / undiscovered talent, labelling them a risk. No one can benefit in a climate like that.

We are campaigning for a level playing field whenever there is a budget available to a production. In collaboration with Equity, we are working towards making it a condition of funding that every contributor is paid in line with the budget.

Collaborative projects that do not receive any funding can continue to thrive as long as everyone is putting in their time for free.

Plus, we would like to bring to the attention of many Universities / Media Institutions that although we are happy to help students, we should not be expected to work for nothing here either. Other professions are paid for their time; life models, fashion models etc. We remind these institutions that we will expect at least National Minimum Wage and it is unfair to expect students to pay for this; it should be factored into their course fee. More importantly, these institutions must set an example by teaching their students that actors require payment for their services.

Companies or institutions that flout these guidelines will find it increasingly difficult to find professional actors for their projects and should get into the habit now of paying actors a fair wage. The minimum wage laws will be vigorously pursued by Equity as more and more actors find that the union is fighting their corner.

Friday, 6 March 2009

A new voice for actors

Welcome to AACE, actors against creative exploitation.

What will appear here in the next week will be a mission statement from a growing collective of actors who have said enough is enough.

Add this blog to your bookmarks and more information will appear here very soon.