We feel that although the idea of an Apprentice programme was initiated in good conscience, changes to the industry, the IPA and the implementation of the "preference of engagement" clause, have had an adverse effect on all Apprentices and their ability to be offered employment.
Rather than being perceived as a forward move in one's career, many Apprentices feel that being an Apprentice has severely hindered their career and their means to earn an income in the movie industry.
The so-called "equalization" aspect of deductions from cheques only helps full members, ACTRA and Production. There are no tangible benefits for Apprentices in any way.
From our discussions it was evident that radical changes would have to be made if any sort of Apprentice programme was going to survive. Disenchanted Apprentices, of whom there are potentially a couple of thousand, would, if they resigned from ACTRA en masse, provide a very sizeable pool of experienced talent for non-union films and commercials.
In coming to our conclusions we tried to view how changes would help or hinder Apprentices, full members, Production and ACTRA. We feel that ACTRA has actually created a lot of the problems by implementing changes to the IPA that directly affect an Apprentice's ability to work. We also feel that there are now too many categories, and in themselves add to the problems that we now face.
Here are suggestions that we believe warrant discussion.
There are too many. Full Actra member; Apprentice Actra member; Yellow vouchers; ACTRA cash background; General cash background.
There needs to be an acknowledgement of those extras who have obtained credits, so they would still be referred to as Actra Apprentices, they could still have pink sign-in sheets, but the rate they would be paid would be the same as regular cash extras.
It might be reasonable for Actra Apprentices to continue to receive the better meals on shoots.
This would enable Apprentices to exercise their own "preference of engagement" clause, but would not prove an additional expense for producers, other than the better substantial and main meal.
On the positive side for producers, they would have experienced extras who know the ropes, have shown their dedication to the business by building up credits, and would provide a better level of professionalism and experience.
Other items up for discussion would be meal penalties and overtime. It is important that Actra Apprentices should be able to perceive themselves as being different, and proud of the credits that they have obtained. If this is not recognized financially, then it should be done through pink forms and preferential treatment when it comes to work.
ACTRA CASH BACKGROUND:
This designation was implemented to eliminate opposition from another union which would have fragmented the cash background pool of talent. This level of background would be the starting point for ALL new talent wishing to work as extras in the industry, but there would be conditions.
The above ensures that full members and Apprentices have every opportunity to work, and receive preference over other background extras.
NON-ACTRA CASH BACKGROUND:
This category could stay, and may be populated by extras who do not want to take the mandatory course, but ideally the category should not be policed by ACTRA.
ACTRA is trying to control whatever it can related to the movie industry. However, we should all be aware that the Teamsters are trying to move into this industry with a view to taking control.
This would prevent excuses about having left the card behind, allowing non Actra cash to work on the sets.
At present one can take the Actraworks Course, now mandatory for new Apprentices, do two S.O.C's and, if you are a minority group, attain full membership and have no practical acting experience.
Perhaps some of the credits should be obtained by practical work, whether it is a good speaking part in a community theatre show that runs for a minimum of 5 shows, or a speaking part in front of the camera on a low budget or student movie. Experience like that teaches the student far more about acting than an S.O.C. and would turn them into a more experienced member when full Actra member status is reached.
What we, as committee members, have done, is try to isolate the areas that cause concern and consider solutions that do two things.
With reference to section 1, we feel that as the cost to production of using Apprentices is comparable to using cash background, then additional expense is not an issue. If Apprentices still get the better food, then there may be a slight cost increase, but on the positive side, production will have a greater percentage of competent extras working for them. If scenes can be shot faster because we don't waste time, that will save production costs.
Regarding section 2, Apprentices may be reluctant to give up $19 and hour for $8.50 per hour. However, if $8.50 per hour means that they are out there working, probably more often, have their own preference of engagement clause, still get certain benefits and don't lose any credits they have obtained, that must be viewed as some compensation.
For those who have three credits, they move up to temporary full membership where there is an incentive to obtain the additional credits. Being full members may also make it easier to find work as they will then have preference of engagement over Apprentices. It is absolutely essential that this does not open another "preference of engagement" clause whereby "full" Actra members get preference over "temporary full members".
Those who, because they have only 2 credits or less, have been relegated to $8.50 per hour, will also have an incentive to work on getting credits so that they can get back to $19 per hour once they are full members, but in the meantime their work opportunities will have increased..
There may well be a faction who won't want to give up their hard-earned rate of $19 per hour as Actra Apprentice members, but if they are not out there working, the hourly rate they are not getting is immaterial. They are perfectly at liberty to wait for opportunities to work at the higher rate if they so choose.
By allowing a grace period of 6- 12 months before a transition takes place, you can be sure that many Apprentices with just one or two credits now will make a supreme effort to obtain that third credit which will propel them to full member status!
There is no doubt that literature issued by ACTRA, and various sections of the IPA are heavily weighted against Apprentice members. There are various clauses which, through cross reference, indicate that Apprentices should be considered as full members under certain circumstances, but in other clauses Apprentices are not considered as full members.
Apprentice members are being discriminated against, so the sooner changes can be made, the better for all concerned. Elimination of the current Apprentice Membership category and replacement by the category suggested in this proposal would eliminate most of the problems that are confronting us.