Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The message is getting across...

The Arts Council have suspended unpaid work advertisements and are reviewing how they advertise these posts in the future.
Together with high profile news stories about unpaid work throughout the creative industries we're making a difference.
The rogue employers better start worrying. Small collaborative projects still have little to fear, as long as you are working with like minded people that are purely in it for the creative gain. I still think that you're better off finding a budget before you embark on such projects but I know it's not always possible. (Been there, done that, written the book, got the t-shirt...literally...)
As I've said before, I intend to keep lobbying Equity Council to set up a working party to see how they can protect the Fringe from the NMW legislation. To be honest, I think that the Fringe will carry on regardless, below the radar. What I and many others want to see is a strengthening of Equity's position on NMW so that, ultimately, Equity is a force to be reckoned with again. It's already happening. Let's keep it up.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Thanks for all your support

Well, it nearly happened.
I got nearly 1000 votes and with a couple of hundred more I would have got on Council.
Ah well. Equity has a ruling faction called the Representative Group who will always vote for eachother. They will deny this, saying that they are just banding together to work for the greater good within the Union and continue to think for themselves.
So why have factions?
Isn't that what we're all doing- thinking independantly and working for the greater good? Why do we need these silly groupings? Block voting doesn't do anything apart from keep certain members elected. Once any party or faction starts to think about purely getting elected, it's not doing its job properly.
I really don't want this to turn into some sour grapes type of rant. I truly hope that the new Council act in all our best interests. The Rep Group have decided that they need some new blood and have elected some of the new Young People's Committee onto Council. It's a step forward- I voted for them too.
Now that the Rep Group are more "out in the open" thanks to the Equity forum I think that there will be many more members watching with interest how things pan out. If the Rep Group want my vote next time then they had better be sure that they work for it. I'm sure that no-one would want members to look at the Rep Group and associate it with the old, stuffy outdated image of Equity and avoid ticking a Rep Group box.

There's still much I can do within the Midlands Area Committee and, with the arrival of the new No/Low Pay leaflet, there's a lot of publicity we need to embark upon. The new leaflet has a much better tone and I think it's a step towards the modern professional image that Equity should adopt.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

It's only taken a year....

Fantastic article in the Stage this week which has decided to report on this issue in a grown-up manner, instead of scraremongering.

Really important changes are on the cards, with some great resolutions passed unamimously at the ARC, which highlight Equity's new attitude to the issue. If the general secretary has recognised that there is a problem then it's a start. It's only taken a year to progress from "members can do what they like" to "problems arise when members do what they like" but it's a big step in the right direction, even if it's a subtle change in stance.
A union protecting the professional interests of its members has to carry on with this way of thinking. Why else would you join a union if not to improve your pay and conditions??
Thankyou Christine Payne and rest assured I will keep watching...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Things are looking up- so what now?

There's definately change coming. What form it'll take, and how long is a matter for discussion, but finally it seems that Equity are taking notice. They are not trying to ignore the issue, as many are speaking up now. Resolutions are being passed, top level meetings are taking place and people high up in the Council are talking about it.
I can keep up the pressure if you vote me onto Council this summer.
As well as practical measures, such as introducing the Fringe Theatre contract for all Fringe theatre and increased pressure on film schools there is a shift in mindset which needs nurturing here. That is equally important as a concrete strategy.
With an empowered membership, who value their place in the profession we can do so much ourselves.
How would you enforce a Fringe Contract? This is where a changed mindset comes in. Actors, if educated on the benefits of such a contract, even when unpaid, will start to ask for them. A contract will give members the power to ask for accounts so that they can see where the money (if any)went.
Eventually this could lead to a clear distinction of what is professional and what is not. Shows or films that have a contract could have a reference number that would go on actor's CVs. This type of "Fringe" credit would then be the only acceptable professional standard to gain entry to Spotlight and Equity, if no other higher paid jobs are evident.
We could look into some sort of co-operative model so that if a project is truly collaborative, it means that no-one can put on plays or make a film with unpaid actors and make a living out of it. All would benefit and it would truly be a profit share, instead of the expectation that profit share means no pay. This model may well be a way for the National Minimum Wage legislation to bypass collaborative projects, something which worries some members working on the Fringe.
Small changes at first. Let's change the culture of cheap labour in this profession bit by bit.
Vote for me and I will make it my mission to put all this in motion.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Standing for Equity Council

Well, if you want a job doing...
I have officically put myself forward as a candidate in the Equity Council Elections later this year.
The Council decide on the direction that the Union goes in and I want to help steer it the right way. Several more actors who feel the same way have joined me in standing. Here's to a fair fight!
Plus, take a look at Tim Davenport's blog- he's singing from the same hymnsheet. He's got lots of useful links to recent debates:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Government are stepping up too...

People are listening.
Things are happening.
Good times!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

BECTU taking the lead

Follow this link:
This is the fantastic debate that went on on 18th March. Sadly, I couldn't make it but BECTU are really tackling this subject and having open debates on what is such an important issue.
Equity could learn a lot. And I think they are starting to see the depth of feeling in this issue, from the debate that sparked off at the recent Manifesto for Theatre meeting at the Lyric, dominating the final discussion.
Many more ARC motions are being tabled for this year to add to the three last year on this topic.
I think they are getting the message!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

More on the Shooting People Debate

Hi all,

I'd like to share this fantastic response that has come from Andrew Ward who has kindly let me reproduce his letter here:

"Firstly it must be made very clear by Shooting People that results from this survey are not representative of the industry (pastime or hobby if we go down the no-pay route) because shooting people was initially set up to assist the exchange of services and talent within the lo-no budget sphere so unsurprisingly those responding are mostly people who sympathise with free work. This survey would have very different results if carried out by Equity, BAFTA etc whose members are professionals deriving a living from various areas of the media industries.

Secondly there are circumstances where free work is acceptable however there must be very strict guidelines around projects that may allow free work and those that can't. This way a grass roots learning sector in film can exist alongside an industry where paid professionals turn out world class films and creative work.

Thirdly many people say it is there individual right to decide to work for free. A person’s decision to work for free has a massive effect on other people’s ability to make a living from their skills or talent. In other sectors of the economy those who decide to break a picket line and work for worse conditions, lower pay or even for free are called "scabs” a highly derogatory term... These workers actions effect other workers in that sectors ability to make a living. It should NOT be an individuals right to work for free as there actions effect everybody else's ability to make a living in the industry in a negative way.

Without overstating things it is like drugs in sport, if some athletes decide to use drugs it effects all other athletes because you may not want to use drugs but you are forced to use them in order to have any chance of winning, this is one reason amongst many why athletes are NOT given the individual choice to use drugs or not. Your free choice to work for free compromises my free choice to ask for proper remuneration for my skills, talent time etc.

Fourthly and this is from personal experience when I have decided to work for free I have often but not always been treated with minimal respect. when I have been paid my time experience and work are treated with some respect, when I have been paid generously I have been treated with the most respect....something to think about for all those that always give away their talent and skills for free or without any meaningful exchange taking place....

Lastly what are you working towards if nobody in the industry is paid?

You have nothing but a hobby most likely producing lower grade work which is not world class because most of your day is spent working at Tescos stacking shelves not perfecting and refining your skills knowledge and talent in a rewarding career in a world class British Film Industry.

Thank you for giving my points your careful consideration, if your a person with influence I hope you keep them in mind when setting out future policy. Don't hesitate in writing to me directly to discuss this and related issues further."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Shooting People debate

Fot those of you who are subscribed to Shooting People (a website dedicated to filmmakers and other related industries) you'll know all about the poll that they're conducting over whether Shooting People should continue letting people advertise for unpaid staff, both in front of and behind the camera.
It's throwing up the argument from filmmkers that filmmaking will only be accessible to the people that can afford it, if the National Minimum Wage is enforced. Anyone from a non priviledged background will be unable to make films, they claim.
Have they ever stopped to think about the actors that they are requesting to work for free? How it is changing the demographic of those in the industry?
Actors are professionals. A lot of us are not rich. We need to be paid or we cannot afford to be an actor any more. How is that any more acceptable?

To those on no budget, then carry on making your films, beg borrow or steal what equipment you can, blag your best and enjoy what you do. Just get used to the idea that you cannot use professionals any more than you can afford to shoot on 35mm. A fact of life if you have no money. Find drama students or enthusiastic amateurs and you won't fall foul of the law.

To those with higher aspirations, shooting on 35mm and not having any money left for cast- what is the point of a good looking film if the people delivering it cannot live up to the high production values? Without actors you don't have a drama. Remember who is delivering your ideas onto the screen; who is speaking your words. If that's not important to you, then you might want to take a long hard look at why you're in this industry.

Lastly, there is the argument that some no pay jobs are fine and some (like jobs on a funded film) are not. Trying to separate the charlatans from the honest collaborations is like trying to separate water. It's not going to work. My conclusion is, if you don't have the money for your film, then turn some of that inventiveness into ways of raising a bit of cash. Think of ideas that you can do on a shoestring and keep things simple. Do you need ten crew when three will do? Keep the grand ideas for when you can afford them. If your ideas are sound and your voice distinctive, you'll grow.