The Right to Work

One would normally expect that by moving from being a cash background performer to an Actra Apprentice, would represent a progressive move in the acting hierarchy.

On the surface, it does. The pay increases from $8.50 per hour to $19. There are the additional benefits of overtime, meal penalties and better food, all of which would appear to be recognition of an Apprentice's desire to move onward and upward in the movie business.

In a brochure entitled "How to Become an ACTRA member", issued by ACTRA, the following quotation appears:

" Except for the right to vote in ACTRA elections and to hold elected positions at ACTRA, apprentice members have the same rights as full members."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If Apprentices are considered the equals of full members, then the first 25 people on set should be split between both groups. Even if one were to acknowledge that full members have obtained all their required credits for membership, and should receive a higher percentage of the first 25 spots, Apprentices should not be excluded from the first 25 positions.

They are, after all, if one is to believe the brochure, on an equal footing with full members…..except for voting rights.

Once the first 25 spots have been filled by full Actra members, the remaining background requirements are allocated to cash extras. Apprentices are being cut out of the casting process, not because they are not suitable but because of the implementation of a "preference of engagement" rule in the IPA. (C 301 iv).

This section indicates quite clearly that despite our having been told that Actra Apprentices have the same rights as full members, they do not. Apprentices fill spots in the first 25 only if there are insufficient full members. If full members fill the 25 spots, then Apprentices tend to be excluded from that day's shoot - the spots over the first 25 being filled by cash extras.

Here is the" Preference of Engagement" clause from the IPA

C301: Preference of Engagement

(ii) offer engagement to members of ACTRA who are suitable for the engagement and who indicate that they are prepared to accept such engagement.

(iv) Where members of ACTRA are unavailable, the Producer shall first offer engagement to ACTRA Apprentice members who are suitable for the engagement and who indicate that they are prepared to accept such engagement, and only then to non-members.

This is quite clearly the main bone of contention with Apprentices, as our opportunity to work is based entirely on whether or not the agents can fill the first 25 background spots with full ACTRA members. If 25 positions are filled, then there is no chance for any Apprentices to obtain work on that movie on that day

With any background positions above 25 then being offered to cash background (non-members), Apprentices are effectively excluded from being able to work, unless there are so many productions taking place that agents cannot fill the 25 spots with full members.

In effect, that is stating that Apprentices can work, not because they want to, not because they need to but only if there is a shortage of full members on any one day. That is far too tenuous a situation by which to earn a living.

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