ACTRA produces brochures which expound the benefits of the Apprenticeship programme and detail the various ways that one can graduate to being an Apprentice. The impression is that becoming an Apprentice is a move forward and is something to be attained.
There are hundreds of Apprentices out there who will tell you that far from moving their movie career forward, becoming an Apprentice has turned out to be a retrograde step - particularly where obtaining work is concerned.
Let us review some of the clauses in the IPA (Aug 1999 - Dec 2001 edition).
If the IPA deems that Apprentices are "members of ACTRA" then we want to be treated as such.
The Apprentice Class was created a few years ago and, on the face of it seemed "a good idea at the time". However, it has become evident that as changes were made to the IPA here and there, Apprentices became marginalized and were put into a very difficult position.
Since the inception of the Actra Apprentice Caucus in January 2002 we have worked hard at (a) getting Actra to acknowledge that the leaflets issued by Actra promise more than they can deliver and (b) that radical changes needed to be made or the problems would never go away.
It has taken time, but I am pleased to say that Actra councillors have appreciated the extent of the problem, and the necessity to make radical changes.
There is a new Membership Committee in place which is reviewing the whole structure of Actra Membership and the various classes. Your Caucus Chair is sitting on that committee and over the next few months we shall be looking at a major re-vamp.
At this stage there is every likelihood that the Apprentice Class will vanish altogether, and along with it the problems that we are now facing. This suggestion was put forward by your Executive as the best way to eliminate the problems we have faced with "preference of engagement", not getting work because we can't get into the first 25 background players on set, not being able to vote on issues which directly affect us, etc.
Granted I shall be doing myself out of a job as your Chair, but if this improves our work opportunities and eliminates some of the injustices we face, then the sacrifice is worth while.
Whilst on the subject of the IPA I would like to let you know that I was the representative for Apprentice Background actors in the recent IPA negotiations with the Producers. Anyone who says that Actra does not work for its membership has no idea just how brutal these negotiations are. The Actra negotiators worked long hard hours to make the gains that they did, and the next agreement, which starts January 1st 2004, will run for three years.